I’ve been thinking a lot lately about new game concepts and designs using existing bits – dice, playing cards, checkers, &c. One such recurring thought is expanding on the Yahtzee sort of theme – solitaire dice-chucking games with poker-like scoring. It’s easy to pan Yahtzee as a garbage game, but as a quick solo activity it isn’t terrible. It isn’t great, but nor is it terrible. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been playing around with an idea for a dice game that offers a tiny bit extra in the decision-making category. I call it Yamzod, which is a name I came up with while on the brink of sleep, and have stuck with because it makes me laugh.

A Yamzod player will ideally have eighteen d6s1 – six each in three different colors. Alternatively, a single set of six could be used with three playing areas to isolate the three different ‘types’ of dice. Any given roll will only use six dice (compared to five in Yahtzee). The three colors/play areas will correspond to the allowable faces for those dice – one set will be limited to 1-3, one set will have all six sides 1-6 available, and the final set will be restricted to 4-6. Because of the way dice are designed, if a die is rolled outside of its boundaries, the player can simply flip it upside down to go in-bounds (a 4 will become a 3, a 5 will become a 2, a 6 will become a 1, and vice versa). Initially, the player throws all six 1-3 dice. Rounds consist of three rolls with the option to hold/release any number of dice in between, just as in Yahtzee. At the end of a turn, any threes can be ‘upgraded’ to the 1-6 dice, and (later in the game as this becomes possible, of course) any 6s can be ‘upgraded’ to the 4-6 dice. A player would use these at their respective values for scoring purposes, and then swap them out for the new dice to be rolled next turn. Dice never get ‘downgraded’. The scorecard I’ve been using so far has scoring slots for ‘low’ (1-3) 4-, 5-, and 6-of-a-kind; ‘high’ (4-6) 4-, 5-, and 6-of-a-kind; straights of 4, 5, and 6 dice; ‘5050’ (that is, two 2-of-a-kinds); and chance.

I have to work out some probabilities, both from a strictly mathematical perspective and from decisions made during gameplay, as I’m not really sure how to score the various slots (points-wise) yet. On the first turn, only low -of-a-kinds and 5050 are possible. Straights require at least two types of dice to be in play. High -of-a-kinds are possible once enough 1-6 dice come out, but the probability increases considerably once dice are further upgraded to 4-6s. At the same time, having too many 4-6s messes with the probability of getting straights. A final point of tension comes from the decision to hold 3s or 6s with the goal of upgrading, even though it may impact scoring for that turn. I don’t want to stick to the Yahtzee system of forcing a score for every slot – slots can be ignored and slots can be scored multiple times throughout a game. Aside from figuring out straightforward scoring for each slot, I think certain ‘grouped’ bonuses would be good goals. If things aren’t going so great as far as upgrading, maybe at least aim for a bonus filling in all the ‘lows’. If things are going pretty well, try to get a low 6-of-a-kind, a high 6-of-a-kind, and a straight of 6.

There’s a bit of work to be done here regarding scoring, but my initial playthroughs have been pretty interesting. Lots of tension from decision-making, but the dice are both restrictive and diverse enough that scoring something is pretty easy.

  1. In case anyone winds up here who isn’t familiar with die notation, a d6 is simply a six-sided die. This could also be notated as 1d6 (one six-sided die), and we could say that the game requires 6d6 or ideally 18d6. ↩︎