A pedantic could argue it’s not technically a Free Thursday, because dice aren’t free. But come on, everybody has a half-dozen six sided dice in the house, right? Heck, if you’re a member of our readership and you can’t scrounge a dozen out of other games or the utility drawer or something, you’re hereby on double-secret probation.
So, here’s some simple games you can play with a pile of six-sided dice. Some are betting games, some are actually strategy games, some are silly, and some date back to my college days, you are forewarned.
Hazard. Wikipedia explains the rules pretty succinctly, so I won’t bother to repeat them here. Hazard is older than dirt (it gets mention in the Canterbury Tales), and is probably the direct ancestor of Craps. Craps takes Hazard’s rules complications and chucks most of them away and replaces them with betting complications. If you want an in with that cute girl who is a classical English lit major (or guy: this tactic will work much better if you’re a woman working on the guy crowd, actually, because guys always think girls don’t know how to gamble), finagle your way into a game of Hazard at a party. Since you’ll need to explain the rules a few times, you’ll have to go away from the noise and find a nice quiet corner where you can quote Chaucer and root for each other. Chaucer is ribald, too. Sneaky “get their number” strategies aside, Hazard is a fun way for two people to resolve, say, who needs to do the dishes.
Three-Man. Unless you’re a college student looking to drink a massive quantity of beer in a very short time period, you don’t need to pay much attention to this link. If you are, you probably know about Three-Man already.
Mexicali. Mexicali is a variant of Mexico, and follows the same scoring rules, but the order of play is different. In Mexicali, you need a large opaque cup (a 32-oz plastic tumbler is perfect). You place two dice on the table, put the cup over the dice, and whip the cup off the side of the table while inverting it, keeping the dice in the cup (losing a die is a foul and you’re out). Shake the cup and then slap it down on the table. The roller peeks under the edge of the cup, and calls out their score (using the Mexico scoring rules), setting the point. The next player has the choice to challenge, if they think the roller is lying, or attempt to beat or match the roll with an equal or higher score. If the next player challenges and wins (the roller was lying), the roller is out and the next roller begins fresh, rolling a new point. If the next player challenges and loses, the challenger is out and the roller begins fresh, rolling a new point. If the next player chooses not to challenge, they need to beat or tie the score on their roll. So, they roll, peek under the cup, and call out a new point. Obviously, if their actual roll fails to beat the previous roller, they need to lie about their score. Play continues until there is only one player left, who wins the round and scores (hash marks will do to keep score); play to whatever number is comfortable to the house.
Hog. Hog is a game of my own invention, based on Pig, which I read about in “Scarne on Dice”. Tangent: if you’ve never read any of John Scarne’s books and you’re anything of a gambler, you should stop what you’re doing and order Scarne’s books from Amazon. In Hog, you roll three dice until your result has no dice showing a 1. That’s your starting score. You can choose to hold, or you can keep going. However, after that point, any single 1 (not pairs of ones or trips) zeros out your score and you pass the dice. Pairs are worth 10x the face value, trips are worth 100x the face value. One additional wrinkle: two rolls of trips in a row is a trip to the slaughterhouse, the player loses all points accumulated to that point and needs to pass the dice. Rather than play to a set amount, play on a set number of rounds (10 is good), the winner is the person with the most points when the rounds are out.
Oddly enough, I don’t have a single four dice game. Anybody?
Yahtzee and its variant Kismet are both good contenders. While Kismet requires colored dice pips, you don’t have to buy special dice, just color in the pips on one set with a Sharpie. We played a home variant of Yahtzee that the pater familias named “Yahoo”, wherein Chance was scored differently; if you rolled a second qualifying roll for the Lower Section, you could put the Lower Section score value in Chance, instead of summing the pips. This enabled the player who rolled a Large Straight twice in a game to score the 40 points twice, and also changed the game mechanics since Chance suddenly becomes a very important scoring box, not something to be wasted on a bad roll.
Dirty 10,000, aka a bunch of other names. We played this in college quite often (you can imagine a drinking-related version with little imagination). Dirty 10,000 is apparently a variation of Farkle, which I’d never even heard of until working on this blog post. Farkle has some neat rules variations, check it out.
Other favorites, post ’em in the comments!