I’m always looking for ways to entertain in my backyard – for kids and adults. When I was last cruising the web looking for something for our next gathering I came across yard dice. Now these look interesting.
Having the idea of yard dice in my head I started looking around for games to play – and other than Yardzee the games seem to a little sparse on the ground (backyard pun!)
To make a plan to entertain either kids or adults we went looking for some regular dice games that we could adapt to use with yard dice in the great outdoors. Here are 6 games that you can play with kids or adults with your yard dice – an entertaining way to pass the time at your next outdoor party.
One Note: Some of the adaptations for adult games include the addition of adult beverages. Please consume responsibly, and if consumption has taken place, please ensure nobody drives after.
Before We Begin: What Are Yard Dice And Where Do I Get Them?
Yard dice are larger versions of the standard 6-sided die that is used for board games like Monopoly or Yahtzee. The faces have numbers 1-6 represented by the number of dots on a face, and opposite faces add up to 7. They vary between 2.5″ and 3.5″ across each face and are made of wood or foamThere are a couple of ways to get your hands on yard dice. You can either make them yourself out of a 4X4 (and you can see an example link on Instructables here, or YouTube videos for making them here, here, here, or here) or if you’re less handy, you can buy yourself a set at Amazon here for wood or here for foam.
You can adapt most dice games that don’t require a board to yard dice, all you’ll need is a wide open space, and something to keep score on. Some sets come with paper or dry erase scoreboards, but you can bring your own board or get a piece of melamine dry erase board from the local hardware store. A chalkboard will work just as well to keep score, depending on the game.
Yard Yahtzee or “Yardzee”
Yahtzee is a game of five dice where two or more players take turns rolling the dice up to three times in a turn to try and meet certain (poker-like) combinations. After each roll dice can be reserved to try and make the combinations. In each game there are thirteen turns to play and thirteen boxes to fill. Each turn the roller must use the rolled dice in one of the boxes provided or mark a zero if they don’t meet the requirements for any available box.
There are two sections on the scorecard – the upper section where you add up all the dice of a certain number (1-6, depending on the box) and score that number. If your total score for the upper section is 63 or above you add a bonus 35 points to the upper score. The lower section of the scorecard is the poker-type scores, where you score a number based on if you meet the requirement (3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, small or large straits, full house or Yahtzee (5 of a kind). Remember you have 3 rolls to fulfill a score, so if you score 2 2’s and 2 3’s in your first roll you would reserve those, and roll twice more to try and get a 2 or a 3 to complete a full house. If a second (or more) Yahtzee is scored there are some complex rules on how to score – but it’s at least another 100 points.
How to Adapt Yahtzee to Yardzee
Yahtzee to Yardzee is an easy adaptation with yard dice – the game can be played very similarly with a few small changes
- You will need something large to throw the dice together. With table size dice you can do it with your hands but with Yardzee you’ll need to have a bucket or a basket to throw them together.
- You won’t be sitting at a table, so you’ll need something hard to keep score on. If you have a small whiteboard or chalkboard you can keep score directly and wipe it off, but if you only have paper scoring sheets you’ll need a clipboard or a paper-sized book or hard surface to let you write
- An of course you’ll need a large area on which to play. Yardzee dice can roll quite a bit, so you’ll need a fairly large open space. If it’s flat, it’s great, but it can be fun on a hilly area as well – adds some more randomness
Some Additional Adaptations
Kids: This game is great for kids as it is – adding, patters, choices – it really doesn’t need to be changed for kids to have fun. You can always make a prize available for the winner, but we don’t really find it necessary.
Adults: To make this game into a more adult game, consider that there are 13 rounds – and with 4 players that means that there will be 39 times that someone will have a score lower than the leader. This could be a good opportunity to add adult beverages to the game
- The highest scorer of the round is safe each round – unless a lower scorer attained a bonus – then they are the winner
- On a Yardzee roll, all players who did not roll a Yardzee that round get doubles
- If you score zero points, you get a double
- If there are any concerns about the amount of adult beverage being consumed, you can use half adult beverage and half water or seltzer, to space things out.
Pig is a great game for kids and adults that is played with a single six-sided die. The object of the game is to be the first player to score 100 point from the die rolls. Pig can be played with 2 or more players of any age and you will need something to keep score on.
To play Pig, each player begins their turn by rolling a die. If they did not roll a 1, they score a number equal to the value showing on the die. At this point, they can choose to end their turn, or to continue rolling. Players can continue making rolls until they decide to stop, or they roll a 1.
If a player rolls a 1, they lose all the points they have accumulated during their turn, and their turn ends. First to 100 wins.
Looking for Pig variations? Dice Game Depot has a few here.
How to Adapt Pig to Yard Dice
Given Pig only requires a single die, it is a simple game to play in your backyard. Space isn’t a huge requirement so if you have a few feet of grass available you can get the game going.
You will need something to keep score. Again a small whiteboard or chalkboard is the easiest to use as it’s already a hard surface, but you can use paper and a pencil with a clipboard or hardcover book. If you have a phone available, you can always keep track on a note on the phone as well.
Some Additional Adaptations
Kids: Pig is already a fantastic kids game, as they start to get a glimmer of odds, consequences, and get to practice adding, but to turn it into a party game we’ve gotten some candies or snacks or little prizes (party favors, dollar store items, etc…) for the winner of each round to choose. If you wanted to complete a game faster and run multiple games just reduce the number of points needed for the win.
Adults: Roll a 1, take a drink. Lose a round, take a drink. Lose the game, take a drink.
Twenty-One is the dice version of the popular card game Blackjack. To play Twenty-One you will only need one die and two or more players. To win the game a player has to have the closes total to 21 without going over – highest total wins. In the case of a tie, a playoff is completed (players again rolling trying to stay under 21) with the winner of the playoff the winner of the round.
Adapting Twenty-One to Yard Dice
With Twenty-One using a single die, you will only require a small outdoor space and something to keep score with. A whiteboard or chalkboard, paper and pencil with a clipboard, or a note on your phone.
An Additional Adaptation: Raising the Stakes
Twenty-One can also be played with stakes – whether they be cash, chips, coins, or candy. It can be fun to play with kids (and a good chance to talk about gambling and how it can impact them and their families) with a few bowls of m&m’s.
To play with stakes, everyone put one chit into the pot. If they bust, they place an additional chit in the pot. The winner of the round takes whatever is in the pot and the next round begins.
Going to Boston
Going to Boston is a great game that needs three or more people. Three dice are required for this game.
Before you begin the game, players must agree on how many rounds will be played. The winner of the game is the player who wins the most rounds. In the case of a tie, those players have a one-round playoff for victory!
To play a round of Going to Boston, the first player will roll 3 dice. The highest die number will be reserved, and the player will roll the other two dice. Again the highest die number is reserved and the player rolls the final die again. If during the first or second roll two dice show have the same highest number, only one die is kept. Play then passes to the next player, and the player with the highest total score showing on the dice wins the round. If there is a tie, tied players play a mini-round to determine the winner of the round.
Adapting Going to Boston to Yard Dice
Changing to yard dice changes the dynamic of the game a little, as you’ll be doing a fair bit of walking to collect and re-roll your dice – unless, of course, you’re smart enough to play in two groups facing each other.
- The first player of the first group rolls all three dice across towards the second group
- The second group rolls the two dice with lowest scores back to the first player
- The first player rolls two dice towards the second group
- The second group returns a single die
- The first player rolls the final die towards the second group.
- Scores are tallied
- Play passes to the first player of the second group, who rolls the dice back towards the first group
While you can rolls three yard dice with two hands, it might be easier to find something that will hold 3 yard dice (like a bucket) to use for rolling the dice.
For Kids: Going to Boston is great for kids the way it is, but make them run for the dice. You’re going to want to tire them out so they go to bed nicely!
For Adults: If you want to include adult beverages, the basic addition is if you didn’t win the round, you drink. You can also add additional sweeteners to the pot such as:
- Triples (everyone else)
- Doubles (everyone else)
- Three Eyed Snake (3 ones – you drink, or everyone else drinks)
- Hitting another die on a subsequent roll (you)
- Under 7 (or 6 or 5) (you)
Ship, Captain, and Crew
Ship, Captain, and Crew is a dice game played with 5 dice and 2 or more players. It’s best played with 5 to 6 players. The object of the game is to roll a 6, 5, and 4 in order before 3 rolls have completed and have the highest numbers on the remaining two dice. You must have the 6 before or on the same roll as the 5, and the 5 before or on the same roll as the 4. The dice are rolled 3 times per round.
Before the game begins, each player rolls 3 dice. The highest total is the player that goes first. Before play begins, the players agree on the number of rounds.
The first player rolls all 5 dices. If they get a 6, they may put it aside as the “Ship”. If they have also rolled a 6 and a 5, they may also put the 5 aside as the “Captain”, and if they have rolled a 6, 5, and 4 they may also put the 4 aside as the “Crew”. Whatever dice have not been rolled in order are re-rolled.
After a player has rolled a 6, 5, and 4 in order, the final two dice are the “Cargo” that show a player’s score for the round. If the 6, 5, and 4 are rolled in the first or second throw of the dice, the player has the option of re-rolling the cargo to attempt a higher score. In all cases, the player only gets 3 throws of the dice.
If a 6, 5, and 4 are not rolled in order on a player’s turn, they score a zero for that turn.
An Example of How to Play
Player 1 rolls 5 dice the first round and gets a 5,4,3,2,1. As they have not rolled a 6, all 5 dice are rolled again. On their second throw, they roll 6,6,4,4,1. One 6 is put aside, and the player rolls 4 dice again. On their last throw the player rolls 5,5,4,4. As they have received a 5 and a 4 after the 6, they have manned their ship and their cargo is worth 9 (5 + 4).
Adapting Ship, Captain, and Crew for Yard Dice
Because there are 3 rounds of rolling and up to 5 dice each round, there could be a lot of space required, as well as a lot of moving and collecting. Players can also play across from each other in two groups and pass dice back and forth in order to minimize travel. You will also like want two buckets for throwing dice – one for each group.
A scoring surface will be require to track scores for the round and the winner of each round. This can be a whiteboard, chalkboard, paper and pencil on a clipboard or table, or captured on a phone note.
2 Additional Adult Adaptations
This game can be used for either wagering or as a drinking game. To wager – all players ante up before any dice are rolled each round, with the winner of each round taking the pot. As a game that includes adult beverages it’s simple – if you didn’t win, you drink.
There is another fun yard dice game called Snake Eyes that is played with 2 or more people or teams and 6 dice.
To play the game you set up an approximately 3 foot circle with a hoop or rope about 10 feet away from the players. The players throw dice one at a time trying to have the dice stop in the circle. When the player or team has rolled all 6 dice, their total is score from the amounts showing still in the circle.
First player or team to reach 21 wins – unless a player or team has thrown all 1’s in one round – an instant victory.
To Sum Up
Using big dice in the back yard is a blast for kids and adults, and can be a great way to pass the time. Get yourself a set of yard dice and give them a try!