Do You Remember? Yahtzee

A bejillion years from now, when archaeologists are digging up the suburban dens of our buried civilization, amid all the broken down ColecoVisions and My Buddy dolls, a Yahtzee box will be reverently dusted off and carted away. Weeks later, at the next dig site, they’ll come across Yahtzee again. And again and again and again, because apparently no one’s twentieth and twenty-first-century den, they’ll theorize, was complete without it. They sure won’t have an easy time categorizing the game in their records, because within the Yahtzee pantheon, there are species such as Travel Yahtzee, Word Yahtzee, Casino, Pyramid, Painted, Battle, Triple, Deluxe Triple, Ultimate, Showdown, Electronic Hand Held—who can keep them all straight? The instruction booklets will be long gone, and invariably, a couple of dice will be missing from each. We should pity those scientists in advance—we’re not making their den excavations very easy.

The first version of Yahtzee, which would become a staple in every den indeed, was invented by a rich Canadian couple in 1956…aboard their yacht, of all places. Among the couple’s boating friends, the dice-rolling game was called the “yacht” game, and everyone who rolled wanted a game of their own. The couple approached Edwin Lowe, the brains behind the Bingo games of the 1920s, to request that a few samples be made as gifts for their friends. Lowe took a liking to the game, bought the rights, and manufactured truckloads of them. To kick-start the game’s popularity with the non-boating majority of the world, Lowe threw Yahtzee parties of his own—on dry land. In 1973, the Milton Bradley Company bought the E.S. Lowe Company, and the rest, as they say, is…wait, did I just roll a…I did! YAHTZEE! I rolled a Yahtzee!

A “yahtzee” is five of a kind, for the one or two of you out there who haven’t had the pleasure of hearing those dice clack around in the shaker cup. If that’s not thrilling enough, there’s that rare moment when the dice tumble out and look up at you with the same number showing on all. And if that number is “6,” well, that’s the feeling we play games for in the first place—that fantastic sense of good luck and sheer, unadulterated triumph.

For Yahtzee proper (not one of those new-fangled versions), a player can roll the dice three times, setting aside certain dice (if he likes their numbers) as he goes. The goal is to enter the heftiest five-dice combined score possible in each of the scoring categories. These categories are ones through sixes, a group of poker-Esque variations (three and four of a kind, full house, large and small straights), a “chance” slot, and a Yahtzee slot…if he should be lucky enough to roll a Yahtzee, that is. By the end of the game, all thirteen categories must be accounted for, whether his score entry is hefty or puny. All this dizzying data was notated on the score pads, which the winner could then autograph and tape on the refrigerator if he or she was feeling not-so-modest.

Today, out there in the big, bad game-playing world, it’s estimated that a whopping one hundred million people play Yahtzee. And don’t think the game is out of commission once one of those dice is lost—no sir. That’s when you dip into another board game and borrow a die. It might look different than the others, but the shaker cup doesn’t discriminate, and good rolling is just good rolling.

About Mickey Yarber 237 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Sometimes referred to as the Retro Rambler...I was born in the '70s, grew up in the '80s, and came of age in the '90s. I love to share all the fun stuff from those years via my Retro Ramblings column.

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