The History of Yahtzee


There were, of course, other dice games before Yahtzee was invented (buy other great dice games here).  The many games similar to Yahtzee include a Puerto Rican dice game called Generala, and English games by the name of Cheerio and Poker Dice.  yahtzee also has another close cousin called Yap, copyrighted in 1952 by Robert Cissne.  The game that comes up most often when discussing the history of Yahtzee is the English version of Generala -- Yacht.
Yacht is very similar to Yahtzee, but the rules have some significant differences.  In Yacht:
  • There is no upper section bonus.
  • There are two straights which are both a sequence of five dice (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 for the small straight and 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 for the large straight).
  • The value of the full house is determined by adding up all the dice faces (2, 2, 4, 4, 4 = 16 points, 3, 3, 3, 6, 6 = 21 points)
  • The three-of-a-kind category doesn't exist.
  • 302 is the highest possible score.


The Yahtzee game most of us know and love today started when Edmin S. Lowe -- a game and toy entrepreneur -- filed the Yahtzee trademark on April 19, 1956.  However, Lowe officially used the name Yahtzee a few weeks earlier as he introduced his Poker Dice Game to the world
The original Yahtzee game was invented by a Canadian couple who's name has disappeared.  The created it in 1954 to play with friends on their yacht, which resulted in it being called The Yacht Game.  Shortly after, in 1956, they asked Lowe if he could create sets to so that the couple could give them as gifts to acquaintances that liked playing the game.  Lowe saw the commercial potential of those five dice and secured the rights to Yahtzee in return for 1000 of the requested gift sets.
At first, Yahtzee was not a big-seller.  Lowe attributed it to the fact that the rules of the game, and the easy but addictive play was hard to get across in advertising.  Later, he came up with the idea of Yahtzee parties -- organized by him -- so people could try some actual game play.  It was an excellent marketing decision and soon word-of-mouth took over as fans made the game popular across North America.
Lowe owned the Yahtzee name and sold the game from 1956 to 1973.  Milton Bradley bought the E.S. Lowe company in 1973, which gave it the rights to manufacture and sell the game.  While Lowe owned it, he sold over 40 million sets.  Hasbro -- the current owner of the game -- states that about 50 million Yahtzee sets are sold every year.
Yahtzee also became a short-lived game show in 1988.