The Yahtzee Blog
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The original source of the game now known as Yahtzee is hard to pin down with certainty, but its various origin stories are fantastic. It was either invented by a wealthy couple on a worldwide yacht trip, dreamt-up by the board game executive who created the game Bingo, or has been played for thousands of years in central Asia. But despite the murkiness surrounding the mother game, it has spawned an array of derivatives whose histories can be clearly traced.
Standard Yahtzee was first mass-produced in 1956 and quickly went on to become the best-selling dice game in history. As a result of this commercial success, the game’s modern corporate overlords sought ways to expand Yahtzee’s reach even further. Rapid advancements in computer technology allowed the game to move into the digital era where it proliferated on gaming consoles, personal computers, and smartphones. Online Yahtzee is one of the greatest successes stories of a tabletop game making the digital jump. But even before the electronic revolution made it possible to put Yahtzee in everyone’s pocket, the game had been branching out in new ways.
The arrival of summer and the easing of lockdown restrictions are setting the stage for what is expected to be a record-setting year of in-person Yahtzee games. After the surge in electronic and online Yahtzee brought on by social distancing measures during 2020, the pendulum is swinging back to physical tabletop gaming. But game hosts risk disaster if their Yahtzee set has been sitting unused for an extended time.
If you are making plans to host a sanctioned Yahtzee tournament or even an informal game, remember to check the status of your Yahtzee set beforehand. Nothing will nosedive an otherwise perfect day of festivities than a missing die or lack of scorecards. While your guests will no doubt appreciate your barbecue and lemonade, they will be truly impressed if your Yahtzee equipment is in ship-shape condition.
But beyond winning the plaudits of your fellow Yahtzeeists, proper maintenance of your Yahtzee equipment is the best step you can take to ensure a level playing field for all participants. Perfectly equal conditions simply lead to more fun. Tampering with the official equipment is one of the most common ways to cheat at Yahtzee but even well-intentioned Yahtzee lovers can indirectly damage their sets through neglect and disuse. Prior to play, give your set a five-point checkup:
Yahtzee may conjure up images of huddling around a card table in grandma’s sitting room but the game has reliably changed with the times. Riding the wave of technological advancement since its original release, the popularity of online Yahtzee has surged. The last decade has seen an explosive growth in electronic Yahtzee as more and more games are being played on a computer or smartphone than ever before.
Playing Yahtzee online is becoming the preferred way to play for many gamers. Old-timers and purists may scoff at the idea, but the advantages offered by an electronic game are hard to ignore. A common problem for hardcore Yahtzee addicts is the difficulty in finding suitable playing partners. Playing online eliminates this issue by offering up a virtual smorgasbord of remote opponents that are available day and night. And a player can connect with a distant friend or relative to roll a game in cyberspace instead of over a table. An online Yahtzee game provides a level of sheer convenience that was unimaginable in the past.
The enormous success of online Yahtzee could not have happened without the invention of the smartphone but its origins can be traced back further, to a time even before the internet itself. To uncover the source of the sheer convenience that today’s online Yahtzee supplies requires a look back at the long history of electronic Yahtzee.
There are plenty of reasons to love Yahtzee, but for many people it is the game’s predictable orderliness that keeps them coming back for more. You always know what to expect - five dice, thirteen turns, 36 rolls per game, and doing math when it’s all over.
But like many competitive endeavors, the structured format of Yahtzee can invite dishonest manipulators to ply their devious trade. Despite it’s wholesome reputation, Yahtzee is not immune to bad actors who try to gain an advantage by breaking the rules.
It is a part of human nature to deceive so Yahtzee cheats should come as no surprise to tournament organizers, league regulators, or even players at the dining room table game. But dice-rollers of all levels are well advised to maintain a vigilant guard against cheating, lest the integrity of the game itself becomes sullied. In order to safeguard against attempted deception, it is important to be aware of the various methods used to cheat at Yahtzee and how to identify your own personal blindspots.
Don't Be Like Mike
It is a challenge to protect the sanctity of the Yahtzee rules when even some of the world’s greatest competitors turn to illicit tactics all for the sake of winning. Basketball icon Michael Jordan is noted for a win-at-all-costs attitude that helped power his team to six NBA championships. But his competitive nature was not confined to the court. Jordan was recently outed as a rabid Yahtzee enthusiast, and a cheater.
During his short-lived stint in professional baseball, His Airness was seduced by the dice when he observed his teammates engaged in a rousing game. Jordan was playing minor league ball with the Birmingham Barons when, according to then-manager Terry Francona, Mike seemed oddly unfamiliar with Yahtzee. Francona correctly gave him the only possible response: “Fuck, man, weren’t you ever a kid? We’re playing Yahtzee.”
In hindsight, Jordan’s professed ignorance may be the first clue of his true intentions. His well-known fondness for gambling suggests that he would be quite familiar with all variety of dice games. Rather, it is a strong possibility that Jordan was using a feigned inexperience with the game to gain the trust and confidence of his opponents. The Yahtzee hustle was underway.
Francona’s account indicates that MJ was instantly hooked and all future bus rides to away games involved marathon Yahtzee sessions. His teammates and coaches were thrilled to have been able to introduce the game to their new star player. Yahtzee featured prominently throughout the rest of the season as a relaxation and team-building tool.
But Air Jordan’s love of Yahtzee came with a dark side, as Francona was soon to learn. He went on to implicate Jordan in some rather unsportsmanlike behavior:
"We'd play Yahtzee on every road trip on the bus. He's the richest man in America, the best basketball player ever, and I'm making $29,000 a year. And he's cheating at Yahtzee to take my money because he just can't bear to lose.''
The titillating revelation that Michael Jordan had a penchant for cheating at Yahtzee shook him to his core.
Say it ain't so, Mike! But this begs the question, just how exactly did Michael Jordan cheat at Yahtzee? And what can you do to protect yourself?
How to Cheat at Yahtzee
Terry Francona has never publicly disclosed the actual methods that Jordan used to cheat at Yahtzee. But from the multitude of underhanded options at this disposal, Jordan may have employed one or more of the following Yahtzee cheats:
Con Job: As he hustled his way into the game posing as a no-nothing bumpkin, Jordan put his opponents off their guard. A simpleminded demeanor and friendly countenance can lull players into a false sense of security. In fact, the Yahtzee predator is preparing to pounce. The con artist uses this ruse to gain a psychological advantage before the first dice are ever rolled, resulting in a relaxed atmosphere where additional cheats stand a greater chance of success.
What's That?: One of the most basic cheating methods is the time-tested attempt at getting your opponent to look away from the gaming table so you can tamper with the game state or equipment. This is typically deployed with a sudden exclamation to the effect of, "Holy cow, what's that behind you!?" While your opponent's back is turned, a cheater could alter the outcome of their roll or even swap in substitute dice to misalign their balance. While it may not seem reasonable that Jordan would resort to such childish behavior, a cheating mind is liable to plumb such depths in their desperation.
Dice Manipulation: The ideal set of dice exist in a state of equilibrium where each face has a perfectly equal chance of coming up on any given roll. But outside of a casino or a professional Yahtzee tournament, such a high level of craftsmanship is rare. The standard Yahtzee set from the local toy store includes a lower quality dice where the balance is not exact. This surely works against the notion of random number generation but its effects tend to equal out as all players use the same dice for every turn.
A cheater who is skilled in the art of distraction is able to insert and remove crooked dice from play at will. This so-called “dice mechanic” can slip in a loaded die to guarantee the six they need for their next Yahtzee but then extract it before the next player rolls. Techniques such as the “Mouth Switch”, where a player uses a pretend cough or sneeze to mask a die swap, or the “Casino Thumb Palm Dice Switch”, an adept illustration of sleight of hand, have been perfected by craps players in casinos worldwide. These routines, therefore, are at the ready for a would-be Yahtzee fraudster.
For Michael Jordan, switching out the dice with a set of loaded dice would require clear premeditation and advanced planning; a strategy perhaps not well suited while on the road away from home. Alternatively, MJ has been likened to a magician due to his skills on the basketball court so sleight of hand cannot be discounted.
Fake Roll: The fake roll is a discreet illusion, carefully play-acted by the roller to portray the appearance of randomized dice while they remain in a fixed position of their predetermined choosing. These types of trick rolls are often described by their perpetrators as “honest cheating”, in the sense that they require a high level of skill to pull off. But to even associate these techniques with the concept of honesty only accentuates the depths of their depravity.
Rhythm rolling is a popular concept amongst Yahtzee cheaters, but its reliability remains highly dubious. The technique involves the player taking advantage of precise, repeatable movements to control the movement of the rolled dice. In such a setup, the player ensures that the dice remain in a particular formation, whether in the hand or cup. Followed by a well-trained rolling movement, the idea is to exert absolute control over the dice’s trajectory and alignment to reliably convert the desired face.
Due to the lure of financial windfall that accompanies the perfection of dice manipulation, a booming cottage industry has sprouted up around educating the next generation of dice cheaters. Millions of dollars are made teaching the skills but the results are questionable. The success of a fake roller is oftentimes only in their own heads.
Extra Roll: It is not uncommon for a Yahtzee player’s focus to drift during an opponent’s turn. Perhaps they begin to add up their score, plan their strategy for their remaining rolls, or chat with the other players. Not only is this poor etiquette, it opens the door for a cheater to exploit their distraction. If their counterparts’ attention is wandering, a dishonest player can attempt to roll the dice for a fourth time during a single turn. More often than not, the subterfuge will pass unnoticed.
This tactic becomes even more likely to succeed if the players are under the influence of alcohol or other mind-altering substances, a common occurrence in casual games. If questioned, a drunken “Hey that was only my second roll, right?” can provide cover as an innocent mistake, or serve to legitimize the illicit fourth roll.
Math is Hard: One of the simplest ways to cheat at Yahtzee was most likely Jordan's modus operandi: creative addition when tallying his final score. Players who do not relish the task of calculating their total scores at the end of the game are typically not willing to do even more math to check an opponent’s tally. This lack of oversight leaves a wide latitude for Yahtzee cheaters to doctor their official scorecard. A player may choose to score Large Straights as 45 points, for example, as a way to pad his total. But if they truly believe no one is watching, the cheating may be even more egregious.
Safeguard Your Game
In professional Yahtzee tournaments where money is on the line, safeguards must be put in place to deter cheating. But for the casual player, cheating at Yahtzee may be a non-issue or even part of the fun. Of course, sometimes honest errors do occur and even well-intentioned players will mistakenly break the rules from time to time. The following prevention strategies can help players at all levels to maintain a clean game.
The simplest way to avoid cheating is to know who you are playing with. Friends, family, and reputable acquaintances bring familiarity to the table - you will have a good idea who is trustworthy and who to keep an eye on. Maintain a heightened sense of stranger danger to keep riff-raff and ne'er-do-wells away from your table. Even the most charming new player could well be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Adhere to a strict interpretation of a legal dice roll. The standard Yahtzee set comes with a dice shaker for a good reason - it is the most effective way to guarantee that the dice are rolled fairly. Rolling without the cup or “finger play Yahtzee”, while considerate to nearby nappers, makes it easier to execute fake rolls. Likewise, use a backstop, such as the Yahtzee box itself, to roll the dice against whenever possible. Dice that carom off of another object are not nearly as susceptible to dirty rolling techniques.
Be proactive when it comes to math cheats and enforce the use of an electronic calculator to tabulate the final scores. For another layer of protection, assign a player to act as official scorekeeper who will add the total scores for all players. Like the banker in Monopoly, this player is tasked with an additional duty to preserve the flow and fairness of gameplay.
Above all, remain alert and focused on the game at hand. Be aware of your surroundings and monitor your fellow players as they roll the dice. Observe any patterns or quirks in their technique that could be acting to mask illegal play. If the honor system proves to be insufficient, include an independent arbiter to ensure fair play.
Cheaters Never Win
It is believed that Yahtzee’s ancient precursors were often used in a ritualistic fashion to spread ideas of equality and inclusivity throughout a society. The faces of the dice could be different but they were all still dice, united in a common purpose. The notion of cheating, therefore, is incompatible with the fundamental character of the game.
We may never know what motivated Michael Jordan to cheat. But even the casual player can be seduced into cheating their way to the top. Jordan’s legacy may not be too badly tarnished by the revelation of his Yahtzee misbehavior, but his story should serve as a warning to beginning players to always remain alert to deception at the Yahtzee table. Alas, even our heroes can turn villian.
Playing Yahtzee online is one of humankind’s greatest technological achievements. It is quick and efficient, offering up games on demand, and enables remote play from across the globe. But while electronic Yahtzee facilitates playing from the privacy of your own home in your underwear when the agoraphobia is acting up, you will be missing out on one of the great joys of Yahtzee that only an in-person game can provide: the House Rules.
House Rules are any sort of regulation or variation to the standard game that serve as the de facto guide to gameplay for a particular venue. Going above and beyond the official instruction booklet, Yahtzee House Rules are a way for hosts to offer games with a unique flavor. These rules oftentimes alter the standard Yahtzee odds and probability, presenting new challenges and opportunities for players of all skill levels.
House Rules Rules
House Rules are determined by the game host and, while there are commonalities, can differ dramatically in both their frequency and intensity from one location to another. This is the beauty of House Rules, and also their danger. There are two general mandates that govern House Rules in all their derivative formations across all localities:
1. The Yahtzee host of a given venue has sole control over implementation and is the final arbiter of all House Rules. A game held in neutral territory will adhere to standard Yahtzee rules, unless a variation is unanimously agreed upon by all players.
2. House Rules must be openly and clearly declared to all players prior to a game’s first roll.
Researchers at the World Yahtzee Institute recommend a maximum of two House Rules per venue so as not to dilute the game mechanics out of recognition. And because some veteran players may balk at a ludicrously overpowered variation, consent from game participants is heartily encouraged before House Rules implementation. But as with every other conceivable aspect of their character, all House Rules are dependent on the whims of the host.
Common Yahtzee House Rules
House Rules are certainly not required and many puritanical players maintain a strict originalist interpretation for any game played under their roof. But as variety is the spice of life, true Yahtzee devotees will learn from their unique experiences with the House Rules of foreign tables and incorporate new tactical strategy into their own games.
Mulligan or 4th Roll: The most common of all Yahtzee House Rules. Once per game, on a turn of the player’s choosing, she may roll one or more dice for a fourth time. This rule is typically applied to a turn that ends in narrowly missing a Yahtzee after the third roll. It is also useful when going for other high-value categories like the Large Straight.
The Mulligan often tempts a player on a cold streak into believing they can actually roll one single three to wrap up the Upstairs Section bonus after having been blanked on the previous nine rolls. Good luck with that!
Chance-Chance: This rule is a more focused version of the Mulligan and can only be invoked when a player chooses to score their Chance. Instead of recording the total after the third roll of a turn, the player may elect to re-roll for a fourth and final time. The player is required to roll all five dice and the resulting roll can only be scored as Chance.
The Chance-Chance is used as a last-ditch attempt to avoid a very low Chance score after the third roll. But nothing is guaranteed. Many players are stymied and end up with an even lower total. When rolling five dice, their sum averages to 17.5 points so most players only make use of the Chance-Chance when they have something less than 17 or 18 showing.
The Chance-Chance is denoted with a “c” or “cc” next to the numerical score in Standard Yahtzee Notation.
Bottom's Up: A rule that stipulates the player(s) must take a drink of an alcoholic beverage following the occurrence of a defined game event. For example, take a swig whenever someone rolls a Full House. Although not a favored variation for players who prefer to imbibe on their own terms, drinking mandates allow for a player to get quickly liquored. Some official tournaments, like the long-running New England classic organized by Yahtzee Nation, incorporate an intricate set of drinking rules into the competition. Because a game is most successful when all players are able to remain conscious until the end, alcohol and other mind-altering substances should be used with discretion.
Mega-Yahtzee: For one turn of the player’s choosing, she may add a sixth die to the shaker. This will juice the Yahtzee odds to assist with rolling a hard-to-score combination. In the extraordinary event that she rolls a Six-of-a-Kind, it is treated as a regular Yahtzee but includes a Mega-Yahtz Bonus of up to 1000 points.
Fool House: The player must score the Full House if it is rolled. This rule forces the player’s hand into accepting the Full House, even if it appears on the first roll of the game. Will it be a help or a hindrance? It can vary from one game to the next.
The Fool House rule makes it impossible to calculate a player’s Full House Dis Quotient (FHDQ), a powerful statistic used to evaluate Yahtzee strategy. The equation measures the number of times a player rolls a Full House in a game, before, after, and if they have scored it. The resulting figure offers insight into a how much a player focuses on the Full House as compared to other combinations. But under Fool House rules, no choice is available. House Rules can often cause unintended ripples downstream in the Yahtzee data cycle.
Battle Cry of Yahtzee: It is a common occurrence for players to shout out “Yahtzee!” in a fit of excitement after rolling the namesake. This behavior was popularized by TV commercials from the 1970s and 80s and rarely needs to be prompted as it is a natural expression of joy. But some hosts invoke their right to mandate the Battle Cry of Yahtzee, often with strict punishments for failure to comply. The Royal Dutch Yahtzee Federation, for example, has implemented a rule for all league competitions where the Yahtzee must be scored as a zero if the player refuses to shout out with glee after rolling a five-of-a-kind.
Implementing House Rules
A game host may wrestle with the question of which, if any, House Rules to use at their home Yahtzee table. It is not a decision to be taken lightly as any alteration to the game’s core mechanics risks warping it into a board game abomination. Yahtzee’s modern founders, after all, spent considerable time and effort in crafting a beautifully balanced game. It would be an insult to their legacy to mangle the gameplay with the insertion of unwieldy House Rules.
The best advice is to keep it simple. Don’t go overboard by trying to overhaul any of the game’s systems. Selecting one or two of the popular examples above is a good place start. From there, experiment with the styles that work for best for your strategic tendencies and experiment with adding or removing variants. Play to your strengths, as one of the main benefits of House Rules is to confer a home-table advantage for the host and her cohorts.
The ideal House Rule will do more with less. It is an element that adds a new dimension or fun twist without sacrificing the dignity of the original game. Consider using different House Rules for official tournaments at your venue than when playing casual games. And remember that it is considered proper Yahtzee etiquette to respect the preferences of your usual gaming compatriots if you regularly play with the same people. In the end, the implementation of House Rules is all about enhancing the Yahtzee experience. Keep this simple concept in mind when creating a new rule or regulation to make your Yahtzee table the talk of the neighborhood.
A surfing goat is making waves across California. When Dana McGregor taught his pet goat, Goatee, to surf she instantly became a hit with fellow surfers and tourists alike. McGregor has since incorporated Goatee and her bearded brethren into a wide array of beach adventures including the Beautifully Abled Surf Camp, which teaches the sport to special-needs children. With so many people around the world still isolated at home due to the pandemic, there is an opportunity to expand other favorite pastimes to our four-legged friends in socially-distanced ways. Naturally, Yahtzee with pets is at the top of our list.
Naysayers may contend that it is impossible to teach animals to play Yahtzee since they cannot count, do simple addition, or possess the dexterity needed to roll a cup of dice. But if you're willing to be creative and lend a helping hand when needed, you can most certainly enjoy a game of Yahtzee with your pet.
It may be useful when attempting to teach your pet to play Yahtzee to keep in mind that humans are animals. There is a tendency in modern society to think of humans as separate and distinct from other animals and "nature" in general but of course we all evolved together on planet Earth. Blindness to this obvious fact of life is a slippery slope to speciesism, whereas basic Yahtzee principles teach us that no creature is intrinsically superior to another.
The basic skills required to play Yahtzee are not unique to homo sapiens but are shared amongst thousands of species. Research has proven that a wide variety of non-human animals can count and perform other simple mathematical calculations. Some of the most studied cases include bees, crows, and even oriental fire-bellied toads. Neurobiologist Andreas Nieder has concluded that “numerical competence is present on almost every branch on the animal tree of life."
An up-close demonstration of animal addition will soon be evident to many North Americans as hordes of cicadas emerge from their underground 17-year slumber. These insects possess the remarkable ability to count the freeze-and-thaw cycles of the changing seasons, all while in a hibernation state no less. Why do they adhere to such a specific cycle? Perhaps it is related to the statistical average of a Chance score - also 17.
Both human and non-human individuals possess different skill-sets and levels of ability. While it would surely take a very talented non-human to tally the final score on a Yahtzee scorecard, many humans also struggle with addition tasks. Even some top-level players on the Yahtzee Pro Circuit utilize a calculator for assistance, or opt for an auto-adding spreadsheet scorecard. And the ability to physically roll a Yahtzee dice shaker is definitely not a prerequisite for playing the game. Electronic versions can be enjoyed with a few mouse clicks and a wide variety of other tools can be implemented for differently abled people and animals.
Humans can share the joys of Yahtzee with all sorts of animal friends by granting some these basic accommodations. One popular method is to play “Hand and Brain” Yahtzee. Inspired by a similar variant in the game of chess, this style consists of a two-player team working in tandem. The non-human player acts as the hand and rolls the dice each turn - or clicks the mouse or whichever type of system is being used to accommodate the animal partner. The human player serves as the brain who makes the tactical decisions of which dice to keep and what Yahtzee strategy to employ.
Yahtzee enthusiasts should feel free to experiment with an array of different species. The game is, after all, based on a foundation of inclusion. Online Yahtzee simplifies the physical challenges of the game but even our non-primate animal cousins, with the proper support, can experience the joys of rolling dice. Goats and cicadas are prime candidates for Yahtzee fun but it is perhaps best to start with the family dog.
Editor’s note: The editors of The Yahtzee Blog allot a semi-regular column, “Loaded Dice”, to a junior intern at the World Yahtzee Institute writing under the pen name "Y". Like a growing number of people around the world, Y subscribes to a mind-boggling array of alternative facts and conspiracy theories. But in the interest of equal time their thoughts are presented below. The following commentary does not represent the views or opinions of the World Yahtzee Institute or its subsidiaries.
Greetings dear readers and welcome to Loaded Dice! We’ve been booted off of many social media platforms for reporting the truths that the lamestream Yahtzee media doesn’t dare to touch so hopefully this will be our new home going forward.
It’s been over four months since last November’s rigged election. All of our righteous court cases and appeals have been thrown out by cowardly “judges”. Public protests to stop this usurpation of power have been thwarted. People remain on edge, bewildered by this dastardly plot to undermine our beloved candidate. And yet we continue to live under a regime of illegitimate representation. The despicable decision to deny Yahtzee its rightful place in the National Toy Hall of Fame will be remembered as the most treasonous act in human history.
Yahtzee made the list of seven finalists from over 3,000 nominations but was ultimately not selected to the National Toy Hall of Fame in last year’s voting. Instead, the 2020 winners consisted of “Crazy” Baby Nancy, “Liddle” Jenga, and “Low Energy” sidewalk chalk. The voting regulations that have been in place since 1998 were shamefully ignored under the cover of coronavirus concerns. Hidden away in the totally existent basement of a pizza restaurant, the all-powerful chalk lobby concocted their plan to compromise the election. But true patriots will no longer tolerate chalk’s death grip on American culture. Therefore and forthwith I hereby declare that each and every state legislature in our great nation must immediately enact laws to secure and protect our sacred right of voting in toys to the National Toy Hall of Fame.
Ask yourself a simple question - what is a toy? If any old plaything that provides hours of entertainment to children can be classified as a toy then our nation is already lost. How, I ask, is chalk even considered a toy? It is first and foremost a writing implement and its only proper place is on a blackboard. Chalk belongs in the hands of teachers, not our children. And Baby Nancy is a doll, not a toy. If it was a toy, then why do we call her a doll? Let her start a Doll Hall of Fame and I’ll be the first to vote her in, but she has no place among actual toys. Jenga is also complicit in the conspiracy as it was created by a British game designer. If it wasn’t even born in this country then how could it be elected to the NATIONAL Toy Hall of Fame? I demand to see its long-form birth certificate. Dice, on the other hand, are one of the oldest toys in the world. There is no logical reason to expand the definition of a toy just to pander to big-money chalk corporations. We must maintain an originalist interpretation of toys in order to safeguard our future elections. A toy is as and has always been dice-based! To claim otherwise is to diminish the sacred sanctity of toyhood.
If we enact these protections immediately and remove all illegitimate “toys” from the ballot then Yahtzee stands a fighting chance in this year’s contest. Otherwise, Yahtzee will be forced to compete on equal terms in a free and fair toy election. I shudder at the very thought. But in either case, I urge all patriots to nominate Yahtzee for the 2021 class of the National Toy Hall of Fame. And don’t wait - nominations must be submitted by July 31, 2021 to be considered. Let’s protect our children from the scourge of illegitimate toys while striking a blow against the cancel-culture mentality of chalk-lovers everywhere by electing the most popular dice game in history!
The Full House is the Greenland of the Yahtzee scorecard. They have both been misrepresented for centuries, resulting in a myriad of misconceptions and overinflations of their importance. Don’t get us wrong, Greenland is a wonderful place with a unique landscape and a proud people. But early attempts at European colonization saddled the land with a massive case of false advertising that survives to this day. The name “Greenland” isn’t a fair representation of the land as it is mostly covered by the second-largest ice sheet in the world. Rather, it was a marketing ploy designed to lure Viking settlers. The discrepancy between the verdant name and its large swaths of frozen tundra surely became immediately clear to those first enterprising settlers. But Greenland has long been distorted in another, more subtle way that isn’t obvious to most people.
In 1569 the gold-standard of world maps was created. The so-called Mercator projection displayed the entire globe as a flat surface with perfectly straight latitude and longitude lines. Its simplicity proved to be a boon for nautical cartography and it is still used as the template for almost all navigational maps. It also found success in educational maps and can be found on classroom walls the world over. The major problem with the Mercator projection is that it necessarily distorts regions of the globe, particularly the polar areas, in order to represent the spherical Earth as a flat surface. Alaska, for example, appears to be the same size as Australia although in reality it is 4.5 times smaller. China looks like it is twice as big as the contiguous United States, when they are in fact about the same size. And Greenland appears to be the same size as the whole of Africa when Africa is actually a whopping 14 times larger. While it is true that Greenland is the world’s largest island, its super-sized appearance on world maps has misled generations of schoolchildren into geographical delinquency.
Now Princeton astrophysicists are righting the wrongs of the Mercator projection and have come up with the most accurate flat map ever made. Its creators first invented a system to quantify the six different types of distortions that flat maps can produce and then graded existing map types to determine how they could be improved. Their final product is a two-sided flat map that effectively eliminates all spatial distortions that can be introduced when flattening a sphere. It has the added benefit of centering each side of the map on the Earth’s poles which removes mapmaking’s political aspect of arbitrarily placing a given country or region at the center. And Greenland appears on the new map just as it should, not as a bloated monstrosity.
While a two-sided map may not be ideal for a classroom wall, it seems that all is well in the world of cartography as the menace of the Mercator projection has finally been subdued. Which brings us back to the Yahtzee scorecard. In the same way that old world maps misrepresent the true shape of landmasses and distances between them, the layout of a Yahtzee scorecard contains inherent biases that can mislead a player. The Yahtzee itself, for example, is the highest scoring category on the scoresheet but is traditionally located near the very bottom of the card. Because the player’s eye is naturally drawn to the uppermost categories first, this placement serves to undermine the importance of the Yahtzee. The Full House, meanwhile, is often considered to be the easiest category in the Lower Section aside from Chance. The popular mantra “Let the Full House come to you” serves as a reminder that a player is likely to roll many of them during a game and that it therefore needn’t become the center of attention. Yet it continues to occupy prime real estate on the Yahtzee scorecard at the upper reaches of the Lower Section. Inexperienced players who don’t know any better may be unwittingly drawn to the Full House due to its arbitrary location on the scoresheet. Much like Greenland, it has been granted an outsized importance as a result of an underlying bias in design.
Taking inspiration from the new two-sided world map, researchers at the World Yahtzee Institute have created a scoresheet that realigns the scoring categories in a more logical manner. Biases and arbitrary misrepresentations have been removed to the extent that is possible to create a more fair and just Yahtzee scorecard. Like its cartographical cousin, the scorecard is two-sided. This confers a sense of equality to the Upper and Lower Sections, which keep their conventional names but can be thought of as the “front” and “back” sections. Scoring categories have been reordered according to their statistical importance. And the Full House takes its rightful place at the bottom of the Lower Section where it belongs.
Dear Yahtzee Manifesto,
I recently came across an Instagram post from Geraldine Kemper, a Dutch TV personality, who claimed she had spent the whole weekend playing Yahtzee in the bathtub. Have you ever heard of such a thing?
Jaap Lips - Leeuwarden, the Netherlands
I personally think that sounds like a great way to spend the weekend and playing Yahtzee around the water is certainly not without precedent. The modern iteration of the game was developed on a yacht at sea so the addition of water to a game of Yahtzee has a long history. Sanctioned tournaments have been held on a multitude of other watercraft over the years, including paddleboats, canoes, cruiseliners, and inflatable pool floats.
However, bathtime Yahtzee does pose some unique challenges, such as the need for a level playing surface upon which to roll the dice. It appears that Ms. Kemper has found an ideal solution by fitting a portable table right over the sides of the tub. Because the danger of rolling a die into the bath is quite high with this type of setup, players should set rules prior to the start of the game on how to deal with errant throws into the water hazard. Another area of concern is the scorecard situation when playing near water. Kemper’s own scoresheet is at risk of smudged ink or even disintegration as it sits perilously close to the water’s edge. Using a laminated Yahtzee scoresheet is a great solution to this problem. If you don't have access to a laminator, simply insert the scorecard into a waterproof bag or add a layer of plastic wrap for extra protection.
And it should go without saying that adding machines or other electronic devices should not be used in this scenario due to the risk of electrocution. The last thing anyone wants is a repeat of the Great Yahtzee Disaster of 1987. A more common bane of long soaks in the tub is the ever-present danger of developing prune fingers. Combined with slick hands from water and suds, this could easily interfere with a player's rolling technique. If the other players are outside of the bathtub during gameplay then a handicap may be considered to address pruniness concerns of the waterlogged participant.
The Yahtzee Manifesto
Yahtzee is oftentimes a game of tough decisions with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, each whispering sweet temptations directly into your cerebral cortex. In this post we will examine one of the most well-known dilemmas in Yahtzee strategy, the Joker's Gambit.
Consider the following situation and decide for yourself. Only two turns are left in your game, with the Yahtzee and Fives boxes still open. The 35-point Upper Section bonus appears to be out of reach as you would need to roll five Fives* to surpass the 63-point threshold. Things aren't looking too great but being a serious Yahtzeeist you never give up hope. On your penultimate turn you roll a couple of Fives, then a couple more - and, yes, it's a Yahtzee in Fives! Welcome to the Joker's Gambit.
Instinctively, your pencil is drawn to the Lower Section of your Yahtzee scorecard to mark 50 big ones in the empty Yahtzee box. But after a moment's reflection you realize that scoring 25 points for your Fives, thereby securing the 35-point bonus, will result in a total of 60 points for the turn and a 10-point advantage over the Yahtzee. The math indeed adds up, but does it ever make sense to dis the game's namesake?
The decision over whether or not to lock up the Upper Section bonus boils down to your level of risk tolerance. The safe money says to play the odds and take the 25 points for your Fives, pat yourself on the back, and then try to roll the elusive Yahtzee on your final turn. But if you're more of a high flying daredevil looking to maximize your total score, the best move would be to take the Yahtzee downstairs and set yourself up to finish the game with back-to-back Yahtzees. In this dream scenario, of course, the 100-point Yahtzee Bonus will more than make up for the missed Upper Section bonus should you not roll the second Yahtzee in Fives.
The Joker's Gambit, named for the wild card Joker awarded with a second Yahtzee, is a fascinating study in a Yahtzee player's willingness to forgo guaranteed extra points in the hopes of achieving a spectacular finish to the game. Only the most audacious dice roller can pull off such an inspired feat.
* The Joker's Gambit also applies when Fours or Sixes are the empty Upper Section box. Threes will break even at 50 points assuming a second Yahtzee is not rolled.
Hi Rollers, Rick here. I’m riding a Yahtzee high right now that has me giddy with enthusiasm. I just got back from participating in “Yahtzee the 16th”, an annual Yahtzee tournament held this year in the bustling town of Wilmington, Delaware. Since all proceeds go to a worthy charity, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend.
When I entered the conference space the gaiety was palpable. There was definitely something special in the air. Very special indeed, as people from as far away as Nevada fly in for this yearly celebration of all things awesome, which obviously has Yahtzee at its heart. Tony, the man behind the scenes, has put a drinking spin on this timeless classic. And if you are a lover of Yahtzee and imbibing the great gift of beer, then you might want to check out the Yahtzee Nation to get the skinny on how he has masterfully interwoven the two.
A scotch and water man myself, it took me awhile to adjust to the free flowing pale ale (sadly it was perhaps a bit too “free flowing”, as my poor performance at the table will attest). Like the ever-popular electronic game “Dice with Buddies” (look me up, I would love to roll!), Tony institutes the “Mulligan Rule” in which you get to take one extra roll during the course of your game in order to improve upon what would be a subpar turn. Now, I’m getting up there in years, getting a little long in the tooth if you will, and changes in Yahtzee rules have a tendency to throw me off a bit. Case in point: I used my mulligan to try to procure my “Fool’s House” – need I say more?
Other than committing one of my worst decision making errors since going through a mesh tank-top phase back in the ‘70s, I had a grand time at the tournament. In the end a lot of money was made for a great cause, using one of the best vehicles I can think of in which to raise greenbacks – the smooth-riding yet spirited coupe de Yahtzee (Pronounced: Yaht-zay!). The victor was a wonderful young lass – the ladies really know how to roll. And a joyous time was had by all, including yours truly.
Until next year Delaware, you gorgeous blue hen, until next year.
Big news in the board game community as Monopoly officially changes its lineup of playing tokens with a kitty cat replacing the iron. The removal of the iron token, long considered a symbol of female subordination, has been hailed as a step in the right direction.
This is not the first, and will certainly not be the last, time that that a board game has shuffled its playing piece selection. Clue, for example, has updated its repertoire of weapon pieces over the years. Generally, such moves are gimmicky marketing ploys to drive game sales. With interest temporarily fixated on a new playing piece, public attention is pulled away from the fact that these games are simply base representations of greed and murder. But in this day and age, when board games are controlled by international conglomerates, profit is the sole driving force in the decision-making process.
Rest assured, fellow Yahtzeeists, Yahtzee will never mix up its playing pieces. While its current corporate overlords would undoubtedly love to churn out new editions every month, the game’s simplicity keeps it grounded. All you need are five dice and a pencil!
Dear Yahtzee Manifesto,
I’ve been a life-long Yahtzee fan and I read The Yahtzee Manifesto with great interest. It was so refreshing to discover that Yahtzee embodies many of the same principles that are important to me. Each Thanksgiving, my partner and I stage a Yahtzee tournament with family and friends. As part of the tradition, we always watch the president pardon a turkey on TV! As a vegan, I like the message that this sends to families across the country – that there is an alternative to eating animals. Given that Yahtzee celebrates non-violence and the inter-connectivity of all life, I’m curious to know your opinion on this tradition.
PS – I apologize for this question being slightly off-topic!
Brenda Wallace - Boise, Idaho
It’s very difficult to find a topic that doesn’t relate to Yahtzee, as it is so intertwined with day-to-day life. The Yahtzee Manifesto mailbag receives many letters that aren’t specifically related to the game – so no worries!
I think it’s great that you’ve incorporated Yahtzee into your Thanksgiving tradition. And you’re right, this is a holiday steeped in slaughter – not only of turkeys, but in the legacy of betrayal and genocide. However, I don’t agree that the pardoning of a turkey is a symbol of peace or mercy. Rather, it seems to me that this misguided custom is simply a way to make light of capital punishment by injecting a sense of whimsy into a living being’s execution. I see it as another form of indoctrination, as the public is fed the idea that there is such a thing as legitimate murder.
As we saw in this election season, politicians spewed hogwash about “legitimate” forms of violence, most notably rape. The turkey pardon is simply a subtler example of this. And many more of these notions glide along just under the surface of public consciousness. Legitimate terrorism committed by our heroes as acts of war. Legitimate theft of your property as taxes to be spent against your own interests. That’s not to mention the legitimate brainwashing of our rape-loving God under the guise of religion.
So on this Thanksgiving, let’s try to see through the propaganda that any form of violence is legitimate. Because as M.C. Hammer, a man who knows a thing or two about legitimacy, said in the seminal “Too Legit to Quit”, “The dreams that I have in store in my mind, and I know; That I’m makin it, I gotta get mine and nobody’s takin’ it away.”
As many of you may know, the World Yahtzee Institute is well-known for its longstanding practice of granting each of its employees a 30 day sabbatical every calendar year. The WYI encourages that the time be used in retreat from the modern world, allowing a state of seclusion to stimulate your Yahtzee unconscious. In June, I began my 2012 sabbatical in the lowlands of Ecuador. Years ago I made a promise to a shaman that I would celebrate my birthday with him and his tribe, and this was the year.
My hosts took every effort to make sure that my birthday was wonderful. It turns out my spirit animal is an armadillo. But a few days after the festivities I began to develop sores on my arms and legs. I didn’t think much of it at first, but they soon became excruciating. I was forced to leave the tribal village and my friends. Their healing waters were good, but I needed access to more modern forms of medicine. The diagnosis by a doctor in Quito – Hansen’s disease, better known as leprosy.
I was very fortunate to have caught it early and I was able to return home to London two weeks later with no permanent harm done. While I was laid up in hospital The Yahtzee Manifesto celebrated its one year anniversary. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it back in time for the gala but a number of well-wishers greeted me upon my arrival at the airport. I’m continuing to rest as I slowly regain my strength. The doctor prescribed a daily dose of Yahtzee and it’s reinvigorating me! I’m excited to be into the Manifesto’s second year, and we still have so much more to accomplish. Thank you, comrades, for your continued support!
One of the world’s most enduring mysteries has taken a major step closer to being resolved. Amelia Earhart disappeared 75 years ago in an attempt to fly around the globe at its equator, never to be heard from again. Now, researchers believe they’ve discovered artifacts that belonged to the famous aviator on a far-flung island in the Pacific Ocean, suggesting that Airhart was able to land her plane on the deserted isle.
Serendipitously, a team of scientists from the World Yahtzee Institute had been conducting a study on the Yahtzee habits of Pacific Islanders when the artifacts were unearthed on Nikumaroro Island. The team was more than willing to lend a hand at the dig site. Their assistance helped lead to the major discovery of the expedition – a jar that presumably contained a freckle-remover cream favored by Earhart.
But Steve Janson, the WYI team’s lead researcher, believes that the jar has been misidentified.
“Clearly this was no jar of freckle cream. As an expert in the area of Yahtzee cups and shakers, I’m quite certain that the only thing this jar ever contained was five dice.”
Janson’s claim is receiving more and more serious attention as new facts concerning the “freckle cream jar” come to light. The cream is claimed to be “Dr. C. H. Berry’s Freckle Ointment”, a popular cosmetic product of the 1930′s. However, Dr. Berry’s cream was sold in opaque jars – the jar discovered on Nikumaroro is perfectly clear.
“It’s a well-known fact that Amelia Earhart preferred clear Yahtzee shakers – she never liked to be kept in the dark,” according to Mr. Janson. “And the wear and tear that you can observe around the mouth of the jar bear the tell-tale signs of dice action. There is no way a cream could have caused these markings.”
** Reporting live from Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival **
Day 3 at Coachella is officially a wrap, and the star of the show has been dead for 15 years! Tupac Shakur appeared onstage as an Obi-Wan-esque glowing hologram from beyond the grave. The unanticipated set made waves as the holographic rapper performed alongside Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg to a rapt audience. The spectacle caused such a commotion that the World Yahtzee Institute was forced to postpone its popular workshop, “The Hidden Harmonics of Yahtzee”.
Apologies to our readers who were expecting a write-up of the workshop results in tonight’s blog post. It seems like Tupac has released a new album each year since his death – it was just a matter of time until he got on stage again. We’re just sorry that the timing has wreaked havoc on our full schedule of programming at Coachella this year. The workshop will be held at the same location next Friday, April 20th at 9:00.
It’s the second week of April – Spring is in the air, birds are chirping, and electronic metal arms are raising their clenched fists into the air. That’s right, this is National Robotics Week!
Yahtzee has long been intimately intertwined with cutting-edge technology. From Henry Ford’s custom-made “Yahtzee Stimulator” of the 1920′s to today’s electronic handhelds and computer versions, Yahtzeeists of all stripes love to incorporate technological wonders into the simple old-fashionedness of the game. But a new marvel has outdone them all. A fully-functional Yahtzee-playing robot is making its debut this weekend at the Robotics Challenge 2012 in Las Vegas.
The cleverly named “Yahtzee-Bot” is a humanoid robot from the waist up with super-dexterous hands that are equipped with double opposable thumbs. The extra thumbs allow the machine to generate extremely high levels of dice action, resulting in magnificently precise rolls. The robot has been undergoing intense testing for the past five months – rolling thousands of games a day. While none of these testing scores have been released to the public, researchers with the project can report that Yahtzee-Bot already has a favorite set of dice – a set of hot pink, nickel-core beauties. Using these particular dice, Yahtzee Bot’s total scores are, on average, nearly 2% higher than when playing with other dice. It may not sound like much, but it is a significant difference when stretched over the nearly 100,000 total games the bot has played.
If you’re in the desert, check out Yahtzee-Bot in action at this year’s Robotics Challenge! And spend some time using different dice than you normally do – the world’s first Yahtzee robotic player is already advancing the bounds of Yahtzee strategy!
The World Yahtzee Institute has received stacks of letters in the past few months with inquiries into the findings from the Nepalese archaeological dig. The dig, located in the Himalayan foothills, had produced what appeared to be a very early Yahtzee set – perhaps the oldest Yahtzee gaming equipment yet unearthed. It has been exceptionally difficult to keep a lid on the turn of events that occurred upon my team’s arrival to the site, given the high profile of such a find. The last thing I’d ever want to do is to withhold information from my fellow Yahtzeeists but the powers-that-be imposed a gag-rule until all of the facts surrounding the matter had been brought to light. I’ve been given permission to speak openly about the matter as of this afternoon.
My team and I arrived in Nepal last October and began our investigation. Our initial tests of the artifacts – which consisted of two fully intact dice, a shard of a broken die, and a yak bone shaker cup – seemed to indicate the authenticity of the equipment. However in order to be absolutely sure, I made arrangements with the Nepalese government to have the relics transported to the main WYI laboratory in Prague. From there, we could perform additional testing to put the matter to rest. After having spent only two full days in Nepal, we were on a plane heading back to Europe. We arrived the next day, but the trunk of Yahtzee artifacts never did – they’ve been missing since we left Nepal.
As I’m sure you can imagine, an international uproar ensued. Blame for the missing relics was passed around generously but the trail was cold. The despair and disappointment of having lost such important artifacts gradually began to fade over the following weeks and eventually the mood at the World Yahtzee Institute was back to near-normalcy. That all changed late last week when the Institute received a ransom note from a group who claims to have stolen the Yahtzee treasures.
They call themselves the “Empty House”, in what I can only assume is a poorly constructed play on the Yahtzee scoring category, the Full House. More details about this shadowy group will be released to the public in the coming days – but rest assured that the manhunt is already underway. It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone could possibly want to suppress a discovery of this magnitude, but I suppose everyone doesn’t share our peaceful, compassionate worldview. If you have any information about the disappearance of the missing Yahtzee relics or of the Empty House, please contact your local branch of the World Yahtzee Institute immediately.
Hi Rollers, Rick here. These cold dark nights and short brisk days got me thinkin’ ’bout the health of my fellow Yahtzee comrades. You see, we’re in the midst of the dark doldrums of winter and it can be hard on a fella’s or lady’s outlook on life. Of course the prescription for this ailment is sitting right in your chest of drawers or wherever you may keep your sacred Yahtzee game. If you find yourself feeling a little blue, allow a little red cup to lift your spirits. The best way to do this is with a good ol’ Yahtzee cleanse.
Of course, cleanses have been used to maintain well-being and bring balance back to one’s life for as long as there has been Yahtzee itself. Perhaps even longer. Cleanses generally have a spiritual bent and a Yahtzee cleanse is no different. A Yahtz’ cleanse is the perfect way to bring harmony and balance back into your life and into your rolls, aligning mind, body, spirit, and the perfect Yahtzee game.
Some traditions take the cleanse a step further and require a fast altogether, only taking in vital nutrients in the form of liquids. Others simply require you to stick to a mono-diet of healthful, nourishing foods that support your body as you eliminate nasty toxins from your body.
A Yahtzee cleanse adheres to the principles of the latter of the two methods. Only instead of a mono-diet, one is encouraged to participate in a mono-sensory experience of pure Yahtzee bliss. Now that we have covered the theory of a Yahtzee cleanse lets get into the practice, or the play if you will.
A Yahtzee cleanse can take on many forms and of course we here at the World Yahtzee Institute encourage free thought and creative expression so please create an experience that best suits you.
A particular way I like to participate in my annual cleanse starts by blocking off a full weekend devoted to nothing but Yahtzee. I like to round up as many friends as possible to partake in the experience with me. Since I’m fortunate enough to have friends that recognize and respect the power of such a cleanse, I can usually round up 3 or 4 players. If at all possible I try arrange for the guests to spend the night so we can really delve deep into the rejuvenating powers of the game.
Now it may come to a surprise to you when I recommend people bring whatever snacks they are used to enjoying during a normal game of exhilarating Yahtzee action. But I feel its important to enliven all of your love and adoration for the game so if that means indulging in a sack of Funions then by all means, make your breath as nasty as possible and bring on the high scores! Or if you have a ritual of sticking Bugles on the end of your fingers and acting like the wicked witch of the west, then ride your broom towards the Upper Section bonus! My personal fave is Cheetos. Of course I take the utmost of care not to get imitation processed cheese powder on any of the playing equipment. It can make for a thrilling roll when I clutch the cup with my palm while having 5 orange fingertips playfully swaying in the breeze!
I try to play as many games as possible, making the atmosphere conducive to a long night of 3 of a Kinds and Yahtzees. One way I do this is to always have some of my favorite band’s music on hand (typically Genesis). Proper lighting is also a top consideration. Florescent lighting has no place around my Yahtzee table. Only the finest soft white incandescent for me and my Yahtzee loving friends. Of course if a few tired souls can’t make it for the long haul of the wee hour’s games, then proper bedding is provided and the game is altered as to accommodate our sleepy sultan of sling. The Yahtzee Manifesto, being the complete work of Yahtzee that it is, has numerous game alteration strategies listed.
Morning starts with a hearty breakfast while recapping the previous night’s highlights and strategies. As always, a healthy, respectful debate over tactics is enjoyed. Gameplay resumes and continues throughout the day until the newly rejuvenated players must depart. After such a weekend I feel lighter as my spirits are lifted and the challenges that lie ahead seem all the more achievable. I’m more centered and my demeanor is as carefree as an ad for depends.
So my dear rollers. If you find yourself feeling a little low this winter, pick yourself up with a nourishing Yahtzee cleanse. Bye now.
This week’s mailbag is the first of 2012 and comes hot off the press!
Dear Yahtzee Manifesto,
My husband and I always stage a Yahtzee tournament with friends on New Year’s Eve. We believe that playing Yahtzee at the stroke of midnight brings good luck for the year ahead. Last night we encountered a situation unlike anything we’ve seen before.
I always like to throw the dice with some force and let smash them into a backstop for extra dice action. During a roll in the middle of a game on New Year’s Eve, the corner of one the dice broke off and shattered into many tiny pieces. I guess I don’t know my own strength! My husband, who I’ll call Steve, insisted that we stop the game immediately until we could fetch a replacement die. He contended that the deformity would influence the roll of the die and lead to unfair results. We couldn't find anything that covered this in the instruction booklet and the rest of us were perfectly happy to carry on with the game. I understand Steve’s logic, but I believe he was over-reacting.
My question for you is this: was Steve right in demanding that we stop the game? I should also mention that this tournament has money on the line – the winner took home £400. Many thanks and have a happy new year!
Janet Cross - Swansea, Wales
Happy new year to you too! We were quite disturbed to hear of your dice misfortune, especially as it befell you on the brink of the new year. Unfortunately, the scene you describe is becoming more and more common and is likely to only get worse.
In the old days, the dice and other Yahtzee gaming equipment were crafted with great care by a delicate hand. They were made with quality in mind and built to last a lifetime. With the advent of capitalism, the quest for profit has led to a state of affairs where giant corporations can leverage their size and wealth to mass-produce loads of second-rate gaming equipment. Artisan workmanship has essentially been stamped out under the boot of big business. So while we were crestfallen to hear of your incident last night, we certainly aren’t surprised.
But on to your question. Steve is correct to state that your damaged die will significantly change the odds of rolling certain numbers. The missing corner has slightly altered the mass of the cube and put its center of gravity out of its natural position. Of course, all players will be affected equally by this deformity as the games progresses. But had you noticed the damage before the start of the game, you could have continued play assured that each player really would face identical conditions. Since the accident occurred in the middle of game, the odds will invariably be stacked for or against a given player. For example, let’s say that the dice damage has decreased the odds of rolling a Six by 15%. If you have not yet scored your Sixes by the time of the die malfunction, you will be at a disadvantage vis-à-vis an opponent who had already scored a strong total for Sixes. So the remainder of your game after the die became damaged was not played under entirely fair circumstances. Steve was indeed correct to insist that a new die be found before play could continue.
Thanks for your email Janet and we hope that you soon find a replacement die. We suggest seeking out a higher-quality dice set that matches your own tastes and rolling style. Good luck, comrade!
The Christmas season has always been the busiest time of year for any Yahtzee comrade. The gathering of friends and loved ones, coupled with the frightful weather outside, combines to create a perfect atmosphere for indoor Yahtzee fun. A rousing game enjoyed in front of the fireplace with visions of sugarplums and Large Straights dancing in your head is hard to beat. And once you factor in the allure of mistletoe and eggnog, Christmas Yahtzee becomes inevitable. But in order to uncover the true origins of the intimate connection between Yahtzee and Christmastime it is necessary to examine the genesis of the holiday itself.
Every good Christian knows that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Many don’t know, however, that Mr. High-and-Mighty was probably not actually born on December 25th. Most likely, he was born sometime in the spring, like the Easter Bunny. Early Christian missionaries, seeking an easy way to convert the heathen European hordes, struck upon the brilliant concept of slapping their own religious doctrines right on top of existing religious holidays, replacing the so-called false gods with Jesus. They did this with a pagan Roman holiday, Saturnalia, which was celebrated around the winter solstice in late December. Jesus was given a new birthday and the foundations of Christmas had been laid.
Saturnalia was a celebration in the honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture, and quickly became the most popular holiday in ancient Rome. It was described by the contemporary historian Lucian in 150 CE thusly:
“…the serious is barred; no business allowed. Drinking and being drunk, noise and games and dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping of tremulous hands, an occasional dunking of corked faces in icy water,–such are the functions over which I preside.”
When Lucian mentions “games and dice” as principle elements of the Saturnalia festivities, he is referring to a form of proto-Yahtzee that was imported from the Roman colonies in north Africa and popularized amongst Rome’s lower classes. Dice and other small gifts were exchanged and a sort of societal role-reversal was played out. Slaves and servants were permitted to play Yahtzee and gamble, while wearing colorful clothes and the hat of a freeman. Their masters would play the subordinate and serve food to their slaves, further adding to the hilarity. The slaves’ thumbing their noses, if only for a week, at the corrupt hierarchical power structures that kept them in chains parallels the core Yahtzee principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Not to mention the Yahtzee core principles of debauchery, tomfoolery, and drunken orgies. Symbiotically, Yahtzee and Saturnalia grew more popular throughout the empire and that’s when Jesus took notice.
Many experts today believe that there is a lost book of the Bible written by an unknown author, possibly Mary Magdalene, which portrayed Jesus, early in his career, as a dice-maker rather than a carpenter. With this side of Jesus in mind, it is not far-fetched to picture the prophet tossing around five knuckle-bone dice with his disciples. But until the pope declares the notion of a Yahtzee-loving, hippy Jesus as an infallible dogmatic definition, we at the World Yahtzee Institute cannot in good faith advance such a prospect. But if you’re ever tempted with taking a Full House on the first roll of a game, it’s OK to ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?”
Yahtzee skills aside, Jesus Christ was successfully transplanted onto Saturn and the end of December holiday morphed into the Christmas that we all now know and love. So when you round up the gang this Christmas season for a night of Yahtzee and heathen ritual, just remember that Saturn is the original reason for the season.
Hi rollers, Rick here. I just had to share with you what happened the other night when Lou and I and a few other friends were throwing a game. I also just got done watching an episode of True Blood and a scene from it made me think of what had happened. It was the episode where Godric kills himself and right before he does he says to Sookie, “I’ve lived over 2000 years and I can still be surprised.”
Well I certainly haven’t lived over 2000 years but I have seen my share of Yahtzee games. And while playing over at Lou’s place I repeatedly “Dissed the Fully” in order to give myself a chance at obtaining loftier goals. Time and time again I found myself rolling a pair and a three of a kind and time and time again I would politely decline the 25 points it offered me. I knew full well that the Yahtzee odds favored me rolling many more Fullys. By now the excitement was really building up, as my fellow rollers were flabbergasted by my style of play yet they couldn’t deny that I had obtained the game’s namesake-Yahtzee.
On my first roll of my last turn, with only my Full House open, I rolled a couple of twos along with a mish-mash of other numbers. I naturally kept the twos and rolled the other three dice. What would appear but three threes, giving myself yet another Full House and securing the 25 points to end a more than fine overall score. Well, think again my friends, because I did what some think of as unthinkable, too incomprehensible to even be able to ponder such a tactic. In a move of what some consider immense bravado, I picked up the two twos and “went for broke”, trying for a Yahtzee Bonus! Lo and behold what would come tumbling out of the can but two three’s!
I proudly put a check mark in the Yahtzee Bonus section denoting 100 points as well as scoring 25 points for my Full House, using my Yahtzee Bonus as a Joker for that category. All this was done amidst cries of “unbelievable!” and “I’ve never seen anything like it in all my days!”
I must admit, neither have I and I quite possibly may never live to see it again.
Happy Thanksgiving from the World Yahtzee Institute!
The tradition, as all American children learn in school, celebrates a historical feast of brotherhood and camaraderie when Native Americans welcomed English pilgrims to the New World with roasted turkeys and cranberry sauce. It was the beginning of beautiful friendship. In the centuries that followed, the European settlers returned the natives’ generosity with gifts of smallpox-infused blankets and a lovely sight-seeing hike across the country to prime real-estate out west.
This century, Thanksgiving has incorporated a relatively new tradition. The President of the United States leads the nation in a celebration of capital punishment and carnivorism when he “pardons” two turkeys from their death sentence. The turkeys get to live out their lives naturally, free from the worry of ending up on someone’s dinner plate. So if you find yourself at a Thanksgiving celebration this day, take a moment to give thanks to what makes America great – laws that permit the execution of criminals, slaughtering and devouring other living creatures, and a history of genocidal tendencies! Happy Thanksgiving!
Dear Yahtzee Manifesto,
After reading The Yahtzee Manifesto, a group of friends and I have decided to start a Yahtzee club. We meet every Thursday night for cocktails and several games of Yahtzee. We always have a great time and everyone looks forward to the next game night. In an effort to expand our pool of players, I recently invited some friends of mine from work who happen to be a gay couple. They are both new to Yahtzee and were unfamiliar with the rules of the game. Of course, once they started playing they quickly became addicted and are now regulars at our Thursday night meetings. There is one aspect of the game, however, that bothers them. They feel that the terms “Small Straight” and “Large Straight” are exclusive to their sexual orientation since they are gay, not straight. We have explained that these scoring categories were borrowed from poker and that they are in no way meant to be discriminatory. But my friends are still concerned. My question is this: is it in poor etiquette to use these terms around our gay friends if it causes offense? Are there any solutions that will make them feel more comfortable and accepted around the Yahtzee table?
As I’m sure you are well aware from having read The Yahtzee Manifesto, one of the main principles behind Yahtzee is the notion of inclusiveness for all human beings. Since its earliest days, Yahtzee has been bringing people together based on their shared characteristics, not tearing them apart because of their differences. It may seem that your friends are being a little dramatic in their reaction to the Straights categories but who are we to judge another’s reaction to what they deem to be offensive? I would highly recommend giving copies of The Yahtzee Manifesto to your friends so that they too can learn of the universal ideals behind Yahtzee.
In the meantime, if your friends feel in any way uncomfortable against by these terms, it is the responsibility of your Yahtzee club to change the wording of these scoring categories to foster a warm, supportive atmosphere. The naming conventions for the Straights, or any other scoring category for that matter, are not set in stone. In fact, they were only invented in the 1950s when a large game manufacturer changed the scoring terms to make the game more attractive to modern American gamers. The Straights were originally called the Small and Large Rivers, in the translation from the original Chinese. So go ahead and revert back to the original names for these categories if it will promote well-being within your club. Or perhaps you could simply remove the word “straight” and call them the Small and Large Gays. What’s important is to always make your fellow gamers feel welcome and included in all aspects of the game. That is, after all, the spirit of Yahtzee!
Dear Yahtzee Manifesto,
Last weekend I invited over some friends for some Tex-Mex and a spirited post-dinner game of Yahtzee. On not one, but two different occasions we had quite a controversial situation arise. While my friend Larry was tossing his second roll of the dice, the dice coming out of the cup collided with the dice he had set aside, making a complete mess of an otherwise valiant attempt at locking up the Upper Section bonus. This very same thing happened to my friend Cheeto two turns later! In each case they chose to take whatever course of action most padded their score… I was left with such consternation that I couldn’t even offer a ruling and the game carried on. To this day I carry around a small amount of emotional pain in feeling that, as the host, I should have been more responsive in coming up with a fair and just house rule. The game felt completely tainted and I haven’t been myself since. Please help me in my anguish.
Frustrated over Fives,
Jamal Pickels - Rockport, Texas
We here at the World Yahtzee Institute feel your pain. It’s a shame such careless play marred what was sure to be a spectacular night of food, friends, and sweet Yahtzee action. The problem you pose is as profound as it is perplexing. So much so that it prompted Louise and I to throw a few games in order to simulate such an occurrence. I must say that after many o’ lively game (is there any other kind?) we found it difficult to even replicate such an unfortunate occurrence. Now it must be mentioned that we were playing on one of the World Yahtzee Institute’s rather stately beech tables donated to us from the estate of Sir Edmund Hillary. With such a bountiful playing surface in which to roll, we found no problem in avoiding our dice we set aside. Now since you were playing in Texas, and everything is bigger there, we must assume that you, being the conscientious and courteous Texan host that you are, provided your guests with an ample playing surface in which to toss the five beauties. With this in mind, it is always good to remember that mistakes do happen (take the creation of the Jeep Liberty, for example). As such, it is our recommendation that the player, in this case either Larry or Cheeto, be asked to put the set aside dice back to their original state and preform a re-roll. While re-rolls are typically avoided at all costs, we find no other way to restore the integrity of the game, which is of course top priority. It may be wise to kindly remind the person who caused the infraction that it takes little effort to place the dice a safe distance from their tossing pathway. Your suffering over such an unfortunate occurrence only proves you have a passion for the game and its values. For this, we commend you.
As readers of The Yahtzee Manifesto know, Yahtzee began as a quasi-Buddhist method of increasing one’s levels of good karma and was developed thousands of years ago in Tibet. While some may contend that Yahtzee was invented by a bored Canadian couple sailing their yacht on a Great Lakes cruise or conjured up by a desperate board game manufacturing company, these arguments hold no water. Crazy notions like these are nearly as misguided as calling the theory of evolution “just a theory” or of building a museum to teach children that the earth is 6000 years old. I suppose there have always been and always will be wacked-out cranks in the world. Just like the loons who stubbornly adhere to the fantasy that baseball is “America’s pastime”.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the game of baseball. What red-blooded American doesn’t love watching juiced-up freaks of nature competing on the same field with overweight tub-of-lards in mind-numbingly slow competition? But Yahtzee was, without a doubt, the original American pastime. In fact, many elements of baseball were borrowed from Yahtzee. Unfortunately, baseball’s early players also borrowed heavily from such English amusements as Rounders, cricket, and watching paint dry. These limey elements of baseball contributed heavily to the game’s development and tend to overshadow its Yahtzee-esque characteristics. But should anyone doubt Yahtzee’s influence upon the game of baseball, I’ll let the facts speak for themselves:
1. Unlike other American team sports in which the length of a game is measured by a set amount of time, baseball is divided into nine innings and the length of a game can vary dramatically. This feature was borrowed from the unvarying structure of a game of Yahtzee, in which each player takes a set number of 13 turns and there is no time limit.
2. Both Yahtzee and baseball can be enjoyed as a single game, but the real beauty only emerges after playing a multitude of games. The 162-game baseball season is extreme compared to other American sports’ schedules but because of the slow nature of the game, it takes this long to notice real differences between teams. Similarly, a poor Yahtzee player can defeat a more seasoned pro in a single game, but a true measure of skill only becomes obvious over a long series of games.
3. Baseball derives its profusion of statistics from Yahtzee. For example:
Runs Batted In (RBI) = Full House Dis (FHD)
Base on Balls (BB) = Boven Bonus Quotient (BBQ)
The Yahtzee Manifesto explores many other aspects of life where Yahtzee has exerted its awesome influence.
Carlos Villarreal of Oviedo, Spain, is the champion of this year’s World Yahtzee Challenge. Villarreal worked his way through the European qualifiers with ease to land a spot in the finals. From there he never looked back, trouncing his opponents with a total score of 502 in the last match. Villarreal becomes the first Spaniard to claim the trophy since Miguel Zapatero in 1972.
I read an article today about how the Occupy Wall Street movement is beginning to draw NYC tourists. Along with the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, the brave anti-corporate protesters in Zuccotti Park have become an attraction in their own right. Hopefully, as Occupy Wall Street continues to go global, the general public will soon come to terms with the simple truth that capitalism itself is the cause of class warfare. Maybe then a group of people standing up against economic exploitation won’t be seen as such an oddity.
The principles in The Yahtzee Manifesto share many similarities with those of the Occupy Wall Street protesters. And we also share this new-found stature as tourist traps. Attendance at tournaments sanctioned by the World Yahtzee Institute has increased 289% since the release of The Yahtzee Manifesto. Many in the audiences were not loyal followers of the Yahtzee Pro Circuit, but casual fans of the game whose interest was piqued by the Manifesto.
Here’s to the continued success of the Occupy Wall Movement, and the hope that it will lead to the World Yahtzee Revolution!
My dear friend Rick McCallister and I have just returned from a road-trip of the U.S. Midwest on our first book promotion tour for The Yahtzee Manifesto. It was a successful adventure and we had a great time driving through the beautiful countryside of that part of the world. As we passed state line after state line, we began to notice how the states seemed to melt into each other. If it weren’t for the signage, we would never know when we had crossed a border. The land looked the same, the people were the same. Of course, much of this is due to the homogeneity of modern American culture. But we found greater cultural and geographical differences within states rather than between them. This led us to the conclusion that state borders were originally drawn willy-nilly. The effects of this go far beyond mere curiosity. With the power that states hold as self-governing administrative districts, the very nature of American democracy is influenced.
If we really want to give representative government another shot – and if this doesn’t work I really think we need to put it out of its misery – we need to go back to its roots by ensuring that the represented’s true interests are always the focal point of politics. Modern capitalist society has really done a number on representative democracy, warping it in strange ways. One effect of this is the gerrymandering of political districts, warping them into shapes only a contortionist could love. The ideas of James Madison and Pericles are nearly unrecognizable in today’s political institutions. In order to revive the true concept of this form of government in America, we need to start by redrawing the state borders.
Our first idea was to create a state of Appalachia (or perhaps three: an Upper, Middle, and Lower) that encompassed this distinct geographic area and its culturally-unique people. Bits and pieces of existing states would be carved away to create a state whose inhabitants have more in common with each other than may be the case under today’s boundary lines. Representation, therefore, would be more natural and fair. And we could continue to divide current states and reshape them with more logical borders all across the country.
But why stop there? National borders face the same problems, and on grander scales. Of course, resolving the issue on a global scale will not happen overnight. But the World Yahtzee Revolution will attend to this in due time, once the global network of hierarchy and oppression has been removed. The fact is, borders of all kinds can be detrimental if they are not administered with due diligence. If redrawing state lines seems too daunting a challenge for the beginning revolutionist, try starting out smaller. Transition from the rigid boundaries of the mass-manufactured Yahtzee scorecard to the liberating creative action of drawing your own from scratch!
The ancient Nepalese Yahtzee artifacts that I mentioned in a previous post have just become a lot more dear to me. I received a phone call very early this morning from Norway. For a moment I thought it was the Nobel Prize committee ringing to notify me that I was a winner. But it was even better news! The voice on the other end of the line belonged to none other than Paul Aalgaard, the lead archaeologist who made the find in Nepal. Dr. Aalgaard invited me to study the dice and other Yahtzee remains that his team recently uncovered.
I quickly assembled a small team of my best researchers and one choice historian and we all leave tomorrow for Oslo! Most ancient dice and other gaming equipment rarely see the light day as they are either locked away in a museum or in private collections. Dr. Aaslgaard is making this find available to the World Yahtzee Institute on a perpetual basis while its permanent home is yet to be determined.
This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get hands-on with genuine Yahtzee relics. The closest I’ve come before was at a dig outside Jerusalem in 1976. The shaker cup that I was called in to examine turned out to be a clever forgery. That incident really dashed my hopes of ever encountering truly meaningful ancient Yahtzee artifacts. And now I’ve been presented with this chance – surely I’ve gotten my hopes too high already. I feel as giddy as a schoolgirl but I suppose that Yahtzee has that effect on everyone at one time or another.
Every day is an adventure at the World Yahtzee Institute, but today is without a doubt the most memorable in my more than 40 years there.
Tragic news out of the Sunshine State last week when a Florida man attempted to choke his wife to death during a friendly game of Yahtzee. Fortunately, the poor woman survived but was forced to abandon the game in which she had already rolled three Yahtzees. Surely a personal high score was in the making. While it is true that Yahtzee has a bloody past, including a successful murder committed by three young men against their mother earlier this year, most of the violence has been associated with societal uprisings and revolutions centuries ago. This begs the question, why are we seeing a spike in Yahtzee-related violence and what can we do to stop it?
As documented in The Yahtzee Manifesto, the game of Yahtzee was built on peaceful principles. Rather than inciting divisions like in Monopoly or Risk, Yahtzee celebrates humanity’s diversity by bringing people together. Once a player becomes aware of Yahtzee’s true nature, an undeniable spirit of camaraderie overtakes her and fellow players come to be viewed as equals rather than opponents. Many Yahtzeeists today use the game as a means of enlightenment or as a way to gain a deeper knowledge of reality. In fact, there are scores of monasteries and nunneries around the world that practice Yahtzee to promote global peace and personal healing. What other board game can say that?
So it would appear that the recent trend of physical violence at the Yahtzee table cannot be attributed to the game itself, but is a symptom of larger ills within modern society. To open this Pandora’s box would require an entire manifesto of its own. Suffice it to say that even in these troubled times, we must not lay the blame upon a game as gallant as Yahtzee. Indeed, without the ever-increasing popularity of Yahtzee and the spread of its non-violent ideals, the world may well be even worse off than it already is.
The last week of summer was an eventful one in the world of Yahtzee. The weather may be cooling off, but things are really heating up at the World Yahtzee Institute. The WYI intern program announced four new openings are available in the always popular Archives Department.
The American Southwest Yahtzee Classic was held this week in Albuquerque, New Mexico. An exhilarating final match left spectators breathless as Enrique Jones and Phillipa Inez both rolled a 267. Never before had there been a tie in the final match of a WYI sanctioned tournament. Jones went on to win the trophy in sudden death.
Archaeologists working a dig in northern India uncovered what are believed to be an early set of Ya-Tsee dice. This ancient game is a form of proto-Yahtzee and the researchers hope their find will shed light on the game’s earliest beginnings.
And on a more somber note, Claude Francis, long-time competitor on the Yahtzee Pro Circuit (YPC) passed away this week at his home in Portland, Oregon. While he never won an official tournament, Francis was a widely respected character on the YPC, well-known for his ever-present He-Man action figure lucky charm.