By THLaird Colyne Stewart, May AS 38
There are many variants on games using dice from all over the world. To narrow things down a bit we will only be looking at dice games that require nothing other than dice to be played (except, of course, for some coin to gamble with on the outcome). These games all use the common six-sided dice that are most common today. (Some games, like Blind Dice, needed special dice.) They are all also relatively easy to learn and to teach to new players. There do exist period dice games (such as Medio Azar, Panquist or Al-Falahia) which are much more complicated.
As Much with Two as with One
For this Spanish game two dice are needed.
1. Each player throws one dice to see who goes first. (Presumably the person closest to 6. A roll of 1 would be re-thrown.)
2. Each player would then take turns throwing both dice until someone’s roll matched the first cast.
Equal with an Ace
This Spanish game needs three dice to play.
1. Players take turn throwing all three dice.
2. The first to roll a double and a 1, won.
This game existed between at least 623 and 1600 CE and was known by many names. This is a simplified version that could easily be played in the food court at Pennsic.
1. Player 1 takes two dice and rolls the “main”. The main must be 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9. Player 1 throws until one of these numbers is achieved.
2. Player 1 then throws the two dice to determine his number, which had to be a 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10. If it was a 2, the player lost, and all bets placed on him were lost. (Others were free to place bets with each other on the outcome of the players’ rolls).
3. If the main is 7 and the player rolls a 7 or 11, or the main is 8 and the player rolls an 8 or 12, the player wins. If the main and the number are the same, the player wins.
4. Once the main and number were rolled, if they did not match any of the previously mentioned combinations, the player continued to roll until he matched his main or his number. If he rolled his main, he lost. If he rolled his number, he won.
5. Play then proceeded to the next player.
He Who Throws Most Wins
This is most likely the easiest dice game possible.
1. Players take turns throwing a predetermined number of dice.
2. Whoever has the highest result, wins.
A game for two or three players, requiring four dice.
1. Player 1 rolls the dice. There are several possible outcomes. If he rolls doublets, it is an inn. If no doubles are rolled, it is an out. If four of a kind, or two sets of doubles are rolled, it is an in and inn. (Triples count as a double.)
Inn beats out while in and inn beats inn.
3. If everyone throws the same, the round is over. Presumably the pot either carries over to the next round or is split between all players.
4. If two players tie, they roll again or split the pot between them.
Six dice are needed to play.
1. A set number of numbers between 6 and 36 were designated as winning numbers.
2. Players then rolled all six dice. If their roll equaled one of those set numbers, they won.
A game for two players using three dice.
1. Player 1 rolled the dice until he rolled triplets.
2. If the result was 10 or higher, he won the pot and continued throwing. If the result was under 10, he lost and play proceeded to player 2.*
*Salallamah gives results for over 10 and under 10, which would leave no result if the total on the dice equaled 10. Therefore I have assumed that 10 counts as a win.
Shut the Box
Thought his game is often played with a board, it can be played without one as follows. Players will need 11 dice.
1. Set up nine dice so that the following numbers are shown: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3. (The second 1 represents 7, the second 2 represents 8 and the second 3 represents 9.)
2. Player 1 rolls two dice. He can them remove the dice that correspond to his roll, or remove the one that equals the total of his roll. (For example, if player 1 rolls a 3 and a 4, he could remove the 3 and the 4 or the 7.)
3. Once the 7, 8 and 9 have been removed the player rolls one die.
4. His turn ends when a number cannot be removed. The numbers left are then totaled.
5. Player then proceeds through the rest of the players.
6. When all players had finished, the one with the lowest total won. The losers paid the winner the difference between his result and theirs. (So, if player 1’s turn ended when he had only the 1 left, and player 2’s turn ended when he still and the 9 left, player 2 pays player 1 eight of whatever currency they are bidding.)
This die game is the ancestor of the card game of the same name. The object is to come as close to scoring 31 points as possible, without going over. It was played with two or three dice. Rules varied from place to place and time to time. Below is a very easy version of the game.
1. Player 1 rolls the dice until he reaches a number close to 31. If he goes over 31, he looses.
2. Player 2 then does the same.
3. Whoever is closer to 31, wins. If both end with the same number, whomever reached that number with the fewest dice rolls, wins.
4. If the number of die rolls are also the same players can either split the pot, carry the pot over to the next round, or cast one more die each, with the highest number taking the pot.
1. Player 1 rolls any set number of dice three times. The results of all three rolls are combined.
2. Play then proceeds from person to person. High score wins.
3. In the case of a tie, those players may cast again between them, or split the pot.
Lord Brusten de Bearsul, The Compleat Anachronist: Non-European Games, Vol. 78, March 1995.
The Compleat Anachronist: Indoor Games, No. 4, January 1983.
Patrick J. Smith, The Compleat Anachronist: Period Pastimes, Vol. 71, January 1994.
Salaamallah the Corpulent (Jeffrey A. DeLuca), Medieval Games, third edition, August 1995.
History of Dice
Making Dice and Knucklebones