The first version of Yahtzee was invented by a moneyed Canadian couple in 1956 aboard their yacht, of all places.
Among the couple’s boating coterie, the dice-rolling game was called “the yacht game”, and everyone who rolled wanted a game of his 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 sect, 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 thrill 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.
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 you should be lucky enough to roll a Yahtzee, that is.
By the end of the game, all thirteen categories must be accounted for, whether your score entry is hefty or puny. All this dizzying data was notated on the score pads, which the winner could then tape on the refrigerator door if they were feeling not-so-modest (who me?).
Today it’s estimated that a whopping one hundred million people play Yahtzee.