How to Care for Your Yahtzee Set
March 9, 2021
The good folks at Hasbro can churn out a high-quality Yahtzee game that is built to last. But nothing is immune to the ravages of time. Accidents, sabotage, and general decay can all result in a loss of game equipment, archival data, and historical relics. Take steps now to protect your game. We answer letters from our readers with questions about how to care for your Yahtzee set.
Greetings, Yahtzee comrades! This week we once again open the mailbag to answer questions posed by our readers. In this installment, we’ll look at issues that revolve around the most fundamental of all Yahtzee strategies: how to care for your Yahtzee set. After all, if the physical game itself is missing pieces or otherwise degraded, it may not even be possible to play a single match. The Yahtzee Equipment page provides a comprehensive overview of the game materiel and its proper maintenance, but sometimes unique situations arise where there are no clear answers. Keep sending us your questions and Yahtzee oddities and we’ll wade through the murkiness together to find a practical solution for even the weirdest of circumstances.
Reader letters may be lightly edited or condensed for clarity. The following commentary does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the World Yahtzee Institute or its subsidiaries.
Yahtzee in the Bathtub
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! It may seem preposterous at first, but playing Yahtzee around the water is certainly not without precedent. In fact, there is a rich history of aquatic dice play amongst European sailors that stretches back centuries. This nautical theme continued into the 21st century. The modern iteration of the game was developed on a yacht at sea. And ever since then, sanctioned tournaments have been held on a multitude of other watercraft, including paddleboats, canoes, cruiseliners, aircraft carriers, 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.
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 our game, 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 Yahtzee rule book 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 well 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 imagine 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!
Yahtzee Scorecard Bias
Dear Yahtzee Manifesto,
Did you ever wonder how they picked the order of scoring combinations on the Yahtzee scorecard? Why not put the Full House at the top, for example?
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 me 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.
Still with me, Jimbo? That 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.
Don’t let yourself be chained in by the inherent constrictions of the traditional Yahtzee scorecard. If you feel the urge to correct inherent biases or just as a means of personal expression, homemade scorecards offer a level of freedom unobtainable from the standard set.