Where Did Yahtzee Board Game Come From?

January 11, 2023 Card Games

Yahtzee is a game with a long history.

The invention of the game itself is relatively recent—the first mass-marketed Yahtzee set was released in 1956. Since then, toy manufacturers have been churning out a steady supply of updated and redesigned products. But Yahtzee’s origin is more ancient, with some researchers believing that the game has a much longer history, with a board game pedigree stretching back thousands of years!

Yahtzee board gameYahtzee is a dice game that has been around for generations. It’s still one of the most popular games in the world up to now. Maybe it’s because, aside from being fun, there are many skills learned from Yahtzee.  

The game started as a tabletop game and developed into something more portable with travel sets, then into handheld electronics, then personal computers and smartphones. It’s been through all of these changes, but its spirit has always remained constant at its core. This is why Yahtzee is so beloved by so many people today.

The design of Yahtzee’s scorecards, dice shaker, and packaging have undergone many updates over the years. From its tabletop beginnings to travel sets to handheld electronics to personal computers and smartphones—but the spirit of the game always remains constant: simple elegance mixed with a bit of humor. However, the Yahtzee rules have several variations developed over time.

Ancient Yahtzee

Ancient Yahtzee Board Game

The invention of Yahtzee may be lost to history, but it’s not hard to imagine a time when the dice were invented.

Throughout history, dice games have been used as tools for gambling, entertainment, and even as a form of currency. Many ancient civilizations also used dice games as tools for learning probability theory.

The most famous example is the idea of probability theory, which is based on the possibility of by rolling dice repeatedly. This led to game theory: a way of thinking about how different strategies will affect a player’s success when playing against another player.

The usages of dice aren’t a modern invention, making it challenging to pinpoint their exact ancestry. According to archeological data, the six-faced cubes were hand-crafted improvements to proto-dice game pieces. These items are made from the knucklebones of sheep or goats.

The astragalus, one of the bones in the ankle, was used by prehistoric peoples to produce random numbers for amusement and financial gain. The four sides of the bones, which could only land on one of them, were frequently imprinted with numerals, exactly like contemporary dice.

The game of Yahtzee is thought to have originated in ancient Tibet, where it was known as Ya-Tsee. The game’s origins are unknown, but there are many theories on how it came to be. One theory suggests that it was popularized by traders who traveled through the Himalayan mountains, bringing their game with them. Another theory states that it was created by monks who would play the game to pass the time while meditating during religious ceremonies.

Although its origins are murky, we know that the game of Yahtzee has been played for thousands of years in Tibet and other parts of the Himalayan region. It is believed that at some point in history, players began using dice made from sheep or yak bones instead of wooden ones. Yak bones were easier for players to transport between without worrying about breaking their dice or losing them along the way.

Modern Yahtzee

In 1942, the Leister game company had a big idea: to make their own version of the Yahtzee. During this time, the rules of Yahtzee were refined, and the scoring system was established.

The game was a hit with consumers and soon became one of America’s most popular board games. In 1947, they began manufacturing the game in their Toledo factory, and it quickly became one of the most widely played board games in history.

Yahtzee - dice game


Like many other companies, Leister produced a line of dice games during the 1940s. Among these was “Yatzie.”

“Yatzie” was not quite the game we know today, but it was a precursor of sorts. It was included in a boxed set called “Luck – 15 Grand Dice Games.”

The rules of Luck were very similar to modern Yahtzee. There were only minor differences in scoring combinations, and the Three-of-a-Kind was unavailable. There were also some differences in how Straights worked; for instance, both Straight instructions required five sequential dice.

National Association Service distributed “Luck” as part of their National Service program, becoming a regional success. The other games in the set did not form any lasting impression on gamers throughout the country. These include dice games such as “Floradora Sextette,” “Black Cat,” and “Help Your Neighbor.”

Leister’s “Yatzie” was a precursor to the modern game of Yahtzee, released in 1943. While it wasn’t quite the same as we know it today, it was still a precursor included in a boxed set called “Luck – 15 Grand Dice Games.” It had similar scoring rules and dice combinations to the modern game.

“Yatzie” took off like wildfire when it first hit shelves in 1943, but its popularity didn’t last long. The game didn’t have enough of a following for manufacturers to invest significant amounts of money in promoting it as a national craze; instead, most people who remember playing “Yatzie” are probably just old men who still have fond memories from when they were kids!

The second major contribution to modern Yahtzee was due to a wealthy Canadian couple who rediscovered the game’s ancient origins while on a tour of Tibet in the early twentieth century. They were immediately won over by the game’s complex simplicity. They began playing it regularly as they cruised worldwide on their private yacht. The couple updated the rules and created a more modern type of scorecard, referring to it as the “Yacht Game” or “The Yacht at Sea Game,” which eventually was corrupted into its current manifestation, “Yahtzee.”Yahtzee

The couple met an experienced board game maker named E.S. Lowe. His company had invented another game called Bingo 25 years earlier and enjoyed success in the board game market. Lowe suggested that he could make Yahtzee even better than it already was by creating new rules for the game and mass-producing it as a commercial product that could be sold across North America.

Released in 1956 by the E.S. Lowe company, only 1,000 games were manufactured. But they sold out so fast that he decided to continue making them until he could get enough orders to keep up with demand!

Today, there is Yahtzee online games to play with friends. With many versions available, it’s easy to find one that fits your play style.