The Yahtzee Playing Surface
November 9, 2011
Four of out five Yahtzee pros name dice as the most important piece of Yahtzee equipment. But they’re wrong. The playing surface outranks even dice as the one vital foundation to any Yahtzee game. Typically taken for granted by players of all stripes, the humble table is the most common Yahtzee playing surface. Overlook its importance at your peril.
Dear Yahtzee Manifesto,
Last weekend I had friends over for some Tex-Mex and a spirited 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, 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.
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 me and Louise to throw a few games in order to simulate such an occurrence. I must say that after many a 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 the dice we had set aside.
There were three ways you could have avoided this calamity. 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. A spacious and unencumbered flat(ish) area is a necessity for playing Yahtzee. Indeed, it is the most vital piece of gaming equipment considering that even the mighty dice are useless if they never come to a stop. Ask yourself before the next game if the intended playing surface is of sufficient size and consider implementing backstops or barriers to better control the rolling dice.
Secondly, it would 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. It may sound like plain old common sense but we see this mistake all the time, even at top-level professional Yahtzee tournaments. It may help to create a holding pen that will secure the kept dice in a safe place. Or you could at least mark out a held dice safe zone with some masking tape or magic markers.
Finally, get your home Yahtzee venue in proper playing condition by setting a few simple House Rules. It’s important not to go overboard with rule modifications – don’t forget the harsh lessons from the 2006 Korean Yahtzee Open debacle – but one or two choice selections may be appropriate based on individual circumstances. And your circumstances, Jamal, seem to pointing you quite blatantly into creating a House Rule to address just this issue. Since the local game host is solely responsible (and accountable) for official rule changes and tweaks, how you decide to do it is your business. But I’ll give you my two cents nevertheless.
I feel that you took up the duties of a good game host with the best of intentions, but of course good intentions don’t roll us Yahtzees. With this in mind, it is always good to remember that mistakes do happen (take the creation of the Jeep Liberty, for example). Even the official Yahtzee rule book can require correction. 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 perform a re-roll. While re-rolls are typically avoided at all costs, there is no other way to restore the integrity of the game, which is of course top priority.
Your suffering over such an unfortunate occurrence only proves you have a passion for the game and its values. For this, we commend you.