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Thinking Out Loud

Monday, April 17, 2006

Push Your Luck Profile >> Yahtzee Progeny

I'm a big fan of easy to learn, quick playing games with push-your-luck elements, and the large family tree of Yahtzee games/clones/variants certainly fits here. The thing is, I'm not a real big fan of Yahtzee itself, but appreciate some of those elements.

But I enjoy the concept, and I enjoy the breezy nature of the games. So here's a look at the grand daddy itself, as well as my favorite and least favorite Yahtzee clones on the market.


Yahtzee is a classic dice game (nee Yacht) played with 5 dice. Each player's turn consists of rolling the dice up to 3 times in hope of getting die results which match 1 of 13 different scoring categories (earning several 1s or 2s, getting 3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, straight, full house, etc). Each player tries to fill in a score for each category, but this is not always possible -- especially later in the game as more categories are already filled in and your target categories may be harder to achieve. When all players have entered a score or a zero for all 13 categories, the game ends and total scores are compared.

Yahtzee is simple and straightforward, and does have some very light push-your-luck decisions over the course of the game, but even at 10-15 minutes, it takes too long for what it provides. It's one of the few games my wife will play, though, so that's something. As a basis of comparison, I give Yahtzee a true average 5/10 rating.


Red Hot Yott is a simplified version of Yahtzee, which I'm guessing is aimed toward younger players. It's hard to think of getting simpler than Yahtzee, but it dumbs the game down a step. You can find Red Hot Yott at Wal-Mart or Target for $5 or so -- so at least it's cheap.

The game play is almost identical to Yahtzee (roll dice, reserve or re-roll until you pass or hit a scoring combination), and the categories are similar (though renamed), but the difference between Yahtzee and Red Hot Yott is that Red Hot Yott changes the 1s on the dice to Red Hot Dots, which are wild. And that is the game's downfall. They come up far too often, removing decision making, creating wonky results and eliminating any sort of suspense or interest in the gameplay.

Bottom Line: 2/10 -- Red Hot Yott is an absolutely horrible Yahtzee variant. While it does come in a nice tin, with decent bits, there's nothing else good to say. Having "wild cards" (the red pips) that can be used as any number is crazy -- with so many dice and so many rolls (and re-rolls) you're going to get lots and lots of Yotts/Yahtzees, for crazy high scoring games that never end. Completely strips away strategy or decision making. Blech.


On the flip side of my Enjoy-O-Meter is Reiner Knizia's Easy Come, Easy Go, with a great edition published by Out of the Box which you can snag for $12-15. It's a slightly more confrontational Yahtzee, forcing players to vie for the same limited pool of scoring options, rather than each player scoring for each category individually.

There are nine "Prizes" -- the scoring combos -- which players earn by rolling the requirement printed on the card (Less Than 3, Exactly 13, Four of a Kind, etc). Players roll four dice and try to earn a Prize by hitting the card requirements. The first player to get and have three cards at the beginning of their turn wins. Ah-ha, but winning a Prize doesn't prevent other players from trying to seize it... If I snagged the "Exactly 7" card on my turn and you roll 7, you can snatch it from me!

This wrinkle is great, especially when added to the "no going back" aspect of dice rolling. Once you set a die aside to count toward your hand, you can't later re-roll it if a subsequent die roll makes you think another Prize might be easier to go after. While there's obviously a ton of luck, there's some probability manipulation, too -- most of the time, you can set aside dice in such a way that you'll usually have a 50% chance (or at worst 33% chance) of hitting what you need to grab a score (though considerably lower at the end of the game should you need a specific combo to snag a card from another player with three Prizes already).

The Bottom Line: 7.5/10 -- A very nice, light, breezy filler game of Yahtzee-esque push your luck. This is kinda' what Pickomino should have been. Plays quickly and offers enough push-or-pass to keep it interesting for a few rounds in a row. As an added plus, it's one of the few games the wife will play!! That's worth +.5 in the rating right there!!


  • What's your take on "Um Krone und Kragen" as an improvement on Yahtzee? It was featured in the last Board games With Scott.

    By Blogger ekted, at 1:53 PM  

  • Dunno... In fact, hadn't even heard about it, as it's not linked up on BGG as related/similar to Yahtzee... But I'll have to take a look-see now that you've mentioned it!

    By Blogger Jason Little, at 3:20 PM  

  • Have you tried Sharp Shooters? It's a cool Yahtzee-like game.

    By Blogger Ryan Walberg, at 9:03 PM  

  • Ryan -- Sharp Shooters is one of my favorite push-your-luck games out there. I rate it a 9 or 10 over on BGG... Now that you mention it, there is a lot of Yahtzee-isms to Sharp Shooters, but I guess I had never really considered it as such before.

    The gameplay and scoring reminded me more of something like Pass the Pigs, Farkel or Cosmic Wimpout since one of the key decisions is knowing when to call it quits, even if you score little or nothing (but in this case, so you don't set anyone else up for a monster turn). Thanks for reminding me about SS -- time to pull it out again :)

    By Blogger Jason Little, at 10:30 PM  

  • Challenge Yahtzee was an interesting 4-player variation, although it took too long to play a game, for the amount of enjoyment involved.

    We play Fill or Bust occasionally with our grandkids, but I prefer the version published as "V" (Five Thousand), mostly because of the large, rounded-corner, heavy dice and the large, deep, heavy vinyl tray for throwing the dice into. We played many a game of Five Thousand when our kids were very young.

    My favorite in this genre, though, is Can't Stop.

    By Blogger Gerald McD, at 8:33 AM  

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