Yahtzee is a family-friendly dice game made by Milton Bradley (which is owned by Hasbro) that is based somewhat on poker hands. Notoriously addictive, it is played with five standard six-sided dice and can be played alone or in a group at a table. While much of the play within an individual game depends largely on luck, there are strategies players may employ to optimize their scores.
Concentrate on the upper section of the score card at the beginning of the game. You need 63 points - the points you would get if you scored exactly three of a kind for each die face - to earn the bonus 35 points. When playing against others, scoring these bonus points is nearly always necessary for a winning turn. If you get four of a kind for 4s, 5s or 6s, use those points to fill in your score in the top section, rather than in the space for three or four of a kind in the bottom section. The extra points will allow you to use the 1s and 2s for disappointing turns and still earn the bonus 35 points.
Do not take risks to attempt to get a full house early in the game. In general, full houses often come spontaneously, without effort.
Go for a large straight when you roll a small straight. These can be difficult to get, so take advantage of any chance you might have to get one.
Don't waste chances early in the game. Instead, fill in the 1s or 2s in the upper section, even if that means you will enter a zero. These are relatively easy to make up with four of another die face in a later turn.
Look for opportunities to make second and third yahtzees (five of a kind). These are worth 100 points each and make up for an otherwise mediocre game.
Things You'll Need
- 5 identical dice
- Yahtzee score sheet for every player
- A pen or pencil for every player
There are online or electronic versions of Yahtzee that may appeal to you.
A wooden serving tray with raised edges can be useful as a playing surface, particularly when playing with children whose dice tend to go flying, either out of frustration or sheer enthusiasm.
If you play this game for any length of time, it will invade your dreams at night. Beware.
Cindy Day has been writing and editing since 1977. She was an editor for "Moody Monthly" magazine, a reporter for the "South Bend Tribune" and has contributed to "Advertising Age" and "Notre Dame Magazine." Day has a Master of Science in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.