The game of Zilch requires six dice, two or more players and a whole lot of luck. Other than that, all you need is blank paper and a writing instrument for keeping score, making it a low-cost game. Easy-to-follow rules allow for players of all ages, making it a fun game for friends and family alike.
Rolled dice are scored as follows: six of a kind equals 6,000 points; five of a kind equals 5,000; four of a kind equals 4,000; any two triplets equals 3,000 points; any three pairs equals 2,000 points; a straight equals 1,500 points; three 6s equals 600 points; three 5s equals 500 points; three 4s equals 400 points; three 3s equals 300 points; three 2s equals 200 points; three 1s equals 1,000 points; one 1 equals 100 points; one 5 equals 50 points. If none of the above are rolled, you score nothing, nada--Zilch!
In order to “get on board,” or start scoring, a player must attain at least 500 points. On subsequent turns, he must reach at least 350 to keep scoring.
A turn consists of one or more rolls of the dice. To start, the player rolls all six dice. Dice that equal a score–referred to as a counter–must be put aside, or frozen. There can be more than one counter; for example, three 2s and a single 1. The player continues her turn by rolling any dice that remain unfrozen. The turn continues until all dice are frozen, or until the player throws no counters. At that point, the player must declare Zilch, and pass the dice clockwise, to the next player. Points are recorded at the end of each turn; only frozen dice may be tallied.
The player does have the option to pass the dice once the minimum score has been reached. The only exception to this rule is a roll that produces all six dice as counters. When this happens, the player must continue his turn by starting over. This is referred to as “turning the corner.” If the player then throws a Zilch, all points are lost.
The game ends with the first player to complete a turn with more than 15,000 points. Each consecutive player gets one final turn. The person with the highest final score wins the game. In the case of a tie, tied players each receive one more roll.
General rules remain the same for all games of Zilch; however, you may find slight variations. Some versions end with 10,000 points (and exclude four, five and six-of-a-kind from scoring), others end with 5,000 points (and exclude two triplets, three pairs and four, five and six-of-a-kind from scoring).
Some games allow pyramiding, or the ability to build on frozen die/dice with subsequent rolls. For example, if you have a single 5 frozen, and roll two more 5s, you may count a three of a kind–opposed to three singles–for more points.
Games may also permit challenging. This rule gives each player the ability to use up to two turns–one before 5,000 points and one after– to challenge a specific player. A challenge turn must be announced before the roll of the dice. For that turn, total points are added to the player’s score and subtracted from the challenged player’s score. If a Zilch is thrown on the first challenge, the player must subtract 600 points; if a Zilch rolls on the second challenge, 2,000 points must be subtracted from his score.
Finally, some variations call for surpassing. With this rule in place, each player must not only meet the minimum scoring requirements, she must top the score of the previous player’s turn.
Amy Brueggemann is a freelance writer based out of Boise, Idaho. With over 10 years of experience, she has written on a wide variety of topics - from vintage fashion to photovoltaics. Brueggemann holds a Bachelor of Arts in English/writing from Boise State University.