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The History of Dice Games

DiceWhat’s your favorite dice game to play with your family? There are so many to choose from. Some games consist of little more than seeing who rolls the highest. Other games, like the popular Dungeons and Dragons, require players to roll dice in order to determine how the story they are playing through continues. Your ancestors may have been playing dice games that are similar to some that are still played today.

Before there were dice made of plastic (like the kinds you see in stores today) there were astragals. These were literally the anklebones of sheep, buffalo, or other animals. Sometimes, these bones would have markings placed upon four sides of them. People used these early forms of dice to divine what the future would hold.

Later, people decided to create dice games that were done for the purpose of entertainment. The Aztecs, Mayans, and other cultures made dice from pebbles, pottery, walnut shells, peach stones, and other similar objects.

There have also been cube shaped (or six-sided) dice found in China. Those date back to 600 BCE. Some Native American cultures used decorative, four-sided, stick dice in their games. The Greeks and Romans made dice out of bronze, onyx, marble, and amber.

Today, dice can be used in classrooms for the purpose of teaching children about numbers and encouraging them to practice their math skills. There are a variety of games to choose from that are not gambling and do not require money (or anything else) to “change hands”. Teachers, or parents, can select a dice game that matches a child’s current skill level in mathematics.

One popular game is called “Going To Boston”. It goes by several other names including: “Going to Town”, “Newmarket” and “Yankee Grab”. The game requires three six-sided dice. Players will take turns using them.

First, players must decide how many rounds the game will consist of. Once that has been agreed upon, the game can begin. The first player throws all three dice. The die with the highest number is put aside. The same player then rolls the remaining two dice. Again, the highest numbered die is set to the side. The player then rolls the last die one more time.

This gives the player three numbers – one from each die. The player must add up the numbers from all three dice. That is the player’s score for the first round. Next, another player takes his or her turn and follows the same process. Repeat as needed until all the players have had a turn.

Who has the highest score for round one? That player wins the round. What if there is a tie? The players who tied repeat the process for that round all over again. This gives each one a new score. Everybody gets a brand new turn for round two, and for each new round. The way to win the game is to win the most rounds. Whoever had the highest scores will become the winner.

Image by Toshiyuki IMAI on Flickr.

Related Articles:

* The History of Dominoes

* Children’s Games Your Ancestors Played

* Fun Genealogy Activities for Kids

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