September 1, 2022
Labor Day is the perfect time to celebrate the end of summer with a game of Yahtzee played outdoors. The sun in your face, the wind in your hair, birds chirping around you – an idyllic pastoral scene and no better place to harness the forces of Yahtzee. The over-sized dice variant Yardzee and the classic on-the-go Travel Yahtzee are great alternatives for an outdoor game. So this Labor Day weekend, spice up your Yahtzee regimen by playing outside while supporting the cause of an organized working class.
While most countries have established a holiday to celebrate their workers in springtime on May Day, the United States insists on sticking it in the dying days of summer. So rather than being associated with the freshness of spring, and the new life and sense of hope that it cultivates, Labor Day remains intertwined with back-to-school dread and the approaching embrace of an icy winter. But despite this subtle shade thrown at the American worker, the upcoming holiday weekend promises to be a time of jubilation for the Yahtzee proletariat. As the traditional last weekend of summer, Labor Day is the perfect time to play outdoor Yahtzee.
Labor Day originated in the late 19th century and was promoted by trade unionists as a way to publicly recognize the societal contributions of the working class. Union successes like the 40-hour work week, anti child-labor laws, and safer working conditions ensured that labor would be empowered for decades to come. As organized labor expanded, so did the popularity of the new holiday.
More recent legislative efforts have very successfully chipped away at those gains, with union membership on a spiraling decline. But popular support appears to be on the upswing with successful unionization efforts at companies like Starbucks gaining a wide public awareness. Through labor’s ups and downs in its struggle for fair treatment in a capitalist system, Labor Day's success has only continued to grow. This Labor Day we’ll celebrate the alignment in the values of organized labor and Yahtzee, with dice-infused picnics, cookouts, and road trips.
Unlike other popular board games such as Monopoly or Life, Yahtzee does not promote the qualities of greed and corruption that are inherent to a consumerist society. Rather, Yahtzee is a unifying game. It unites people across race, religion, socioeconomic status – all of the superficial differences within working classes that the powers-that-be use to divide us. This year, amid a murmuring din of misinformation there is but one simple truth: the roll of the Yahtzee dice.
Yahtzee is a natural fit for any rousing Labor Day festivity but it’s a real treat to play outdoors in the wonder of nature. A back porch, front yard, balcony, rooftop, open field, driveway, wooded thicket, or other space under the sky can do wonders for your game. Playing Yahtzee outdoors enhances a player’s senses. And natural sunlight clarifies the mind. If you’re playing with a big group this Labor Day weekend, turn up the fun with novelty over-sized dice.
Popularly known by the portmanteau Yardzee, the game is exactly the same as regular Yahtzee but is played using big dice. Hasbro has never released an official version of lawn Yahtzee, so there is plenty of space for non-licensed and derivative games. By avoiding use of the brand name Yahtzee, small companies or individuals can craft and sell their own custom-made lawn dice without fear of corporate reprisal.
Yardzee dice are typically made of wood, but can be found in a range of other materials, so long as they don’t become too heavy to roll. One particularly fun way to play is to use plastic inflatable dice and spike them like volleyballs. Yardzee is a great alternative to your standard issue Yahtzee set and can be enjoyed by the whole family. It is also a much safer alternative to other backyard recreational activities like Jarts or chess.
When it comes to Yardzee, size does matter. Rollers on either extreme of the age spectrum may find it difficult to properly manipulate the over-sized dice. Some players, on the other hand, find it preferable to use larger sizes of Yardzee dice. It all depends on the personal preference of the individual and their physical capabilities. Fortunately, Yardzee or other types of outdoor dice can be found in a wide array of dimensions so the dedicated roller is sure to find the perfect fit.
Playing Yahtzee with huge dice can be a fun variation to your regular Yahtzee routine. But keep in mind that bigger isn’t necessarily better. Consider the logistics of recovering an over-sized die after an errant roll, for example. A whole game could take quite a toll on the knees. Corralling unnecessarily large dice may require a player of peak physical condition. And rolling dice onto an uneven playing surface like uncut grass can result in unclear results so there is a need to keep a well-manicured yard.
But perhaps Yardzee’s biggest downside is its lack of portability. Some of the less-swole dice sizes are more manageable than others. But no one should have to lug around a sack of huge Yahtzee dice like a deranged Santa Claus. Dice on the largest scale should remain confined to the lawn. And as luck would have it, there is a already a great way to take Yahtzee on the road.
On the Road Again
Much like Yardzee, Travel Yahtzee is really nothing more than a redressed form of standard Yahtzee. That is, however, not to take anything away from its many virtues. And first and foremost, its main blessing is portability. There have been a variety of different designs over the years but Travel Yahtzee has always strictly adhered to the concept of mobility. This allows for easy outdoor play and you will rest easy knowing that the game equipment can be easily transported from place to place.
Travel Yahtzee was first released in 1970 as the first variation to the regular game, preceding Triple Yahtzee by three years. Early versions were simply smaller game pieces but the concept continued to innovate. Some sets have included a miniaturized dice shaker to keep the feeling as close to the original gameplay as possible. But the risk of lost dice on a road-trip is real so makers developed new designs which locked the dice into place. The 1986 version, for instance, utilized a plastic dice holder where the player sweeps their hands over the device to spin the dice.
Other models came designed as a small carrying case that transforms into a rolling tray, perfect for reigning in your dice. Or five mini-dice enclosed in a transparent Yahtzee shaker keychain. More modern versions of Travel Yahtzee include nothing but five dice and an instruction book for the ultimate in simplicity. And although not technically marketed as such, the surge into portability culminated in handheld electronic Yahtzee games that served as de facto Travel Yahtzee sets in the 1990s.
If you’re feeling more adventurous this Labor Day, free yourself from the shackles of the backyard Yahtzee regime and escape to the open road with a free-wheeling Travel Yahtzee set.
Nature is Metal
Whether you play Yardzee, Travel Yahtzee, or any other version of the dice game outdoors, be aware of your surroundings and take the proper precautions. The great outdoors is wonderful but accidents can happen when away from the cozy confines of an indoor Yahtzee table. Yahtzee injuries are rare, but not unheard of.
Be prepared to face elemental hazards during outdoor play and know how to deal with them. Something close to a golf course’s precision is needed to maintain a proper Yardzee playing field so overly high grass can become a real impediment. Establish rules with your fellow players as how to deal with an uncertain roll caught up in high grass, sand, or other uneven surface.
Labor Day will hopefully be basked in sunshine as people celebrate the working class but adverse weather conditions can greatly impact a Yahtzee game. Wind, snow, and rain each offer a different challenge. The successful player will find a way to adapt their game to the environment. And whatever the weather, don’t disregard your physical needs: stay hydrated, use sunscreen, and dress appropriately according to local weather conditions.
Camping is a popular way to play outdoor Yahtzee. Five dice and a piece of paper are light additions to a backpack. But when packed weight is a major factor, such as on ultralight journeys, you should never include a Yahtzee set at the expense of more vital equipment, such as an ice axe on a trip to Mt. Everest. An outdoor game of Yahtzee at the top of the world in enticing, but only bring the dice if you can spare the added weight.
Once the personal safety of all players is ensured, take steps to protect the Yahtzee equipment. In the summertime, the greatest risk to a scorecard is water. People flock to beaches, pools, and lakes – anywhere wet to beat the heat. But a spill or submersion can run ink or even worse, lead to complete scorecard disintegration. Find a dry area for maximum safety or plan ahead with waterproof materials.
Enjoy a few games of outdoor Yahtzee this Labor Day, have a slice of Granny’s pie, and take the opportunity to appreciate the nature around you, even if it’s only a few blades of grass. Consider how you can support organized labor locally and continue to demand fairness in a time of skyrocketing inequality.