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The Game of Farkle

Dice History

by Gael Stirler
(September, 2005)

Dice have been found depicted in the tombs of ancient Egypt and were mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. Nearly every culture in the world has developed some form of randomizing toy for divination or games. Cube dice are the most popular but, over the centuries around the world dice have taken many shapes, including cylinders, cubes, straws, polyhedrons, spheres, and the knucklebones of sheep. You can even find fanciful dice in the shapes of animals, monsters and people.

Knucklebone/dice set $23.95 pair
Knucklebone and dice

In the middle ages dice makers gathered in formal craft associations called guilds. Dice gamblers even had a guild. Medieval dice were made from many different materials like bone, ivory, stone, precious metals, gems, clay, and wood. They were all handmade and were often carved in amusing or lewd designs. False dice and loaded dice were so common that many laws were issued regarding the illegal making, use, and possession of these cheaters' tools.

Both men and women practiced dice gaming in high and low society in the Renaissance. Preachers reviled gambling frequently in sermons filled with enough details that we can conclude dice games were immensely popular. The English military could not eliminate dice gaming, so rules were established limiting how much could be wagered depending on the rank of the soldier or officer.

Dragon Dice $7.50 ea.

A popular game, similar to those played in the time of Queen Bess, is known as Farkle. It is similar to Yahtzee and easy to learn. Add some period-style entertainment to your next event with this fun game that can be played by two or more players just about anywhere.

Farkle also known as 10,000

Needed:Six dice, pencil, & paper. A shaker cup is recommended. Any number of people can play. Teams of two or more can also play.

  • To begin: Each player rolls one die and the highest gets to play first. Play rotates clockwise thereafter.
  • Play: Each player (or team) tries to score points using various combinations of the dice. The scores are recorded on the paper and accumulated until one player (or team) reaches 10,000 points.
  • Table: At the beginning of the player's turn, all six dice must be rolled; thereafter, to continue rolling, the player MUST set aside or "table" one or more SCORING die on every roll. (See below for scoring)
  • Farkle: If a player rolls a non-scoring combination of dice, that player "busted" or "Farkled." The player scores zero and must pass the dice to the next player. The turn ends when the player Farkles or banks.
  • Banking: If the player makes a roll with scoring dice, the player has the option of "banking" the points or rolling again. In other words, the player may gamble the points tabled or pass the turn and record the points on paper.
  • Heavy Table: If a player ends up using all of the dice to score, then the player can choose to bank or continue rolling. If the latter choice, the player picks up all 6 dice and continues to add points to the "heavy table." The player looses all the points in a heavy table if the player Farkles.
  • Piggybacking: When a player decides to stop and bank the points on paper, the next player has the option of starting all over with the six dice (and zero on the table) or starting with the dice positions the previous player chose NOT to continue playing. This is called "piggybacking." No heavy table piggybacking allowed.If the new player chooses the latter, and scores on the roll, the new points, plus banked points, go to the new player and the old player gets to keep only the banked points.
  • Etiquette tip: Since the next player may choose to piggyback, it is bad manners for a player to scoop up the dice and pass them to the next player at the end of a turn.
  • Objective: The object of the game is to reach or exceed 10,000 points. (You may pick another target number.) When one player (or team) reaches or goes over 10,000 points, all other players get one more chance to exceed that score. The winner is the player or the team with the highest number of points.

Optional variations that can liven up the game:

  • No "piggybacking" allowed.
  • Play the game with only 5 dice to 5,000 or 10,000 points. (Colorado Dice)
  • The player is only allowed to bank points if "on the board" by achieving a specified score, usually 450 points.
  • After three-of-a-kind is rolled, the player must bank the points and pass to the next player.
  • Some play to EXACTLY 10,000 points. If you go over you score zero that turn.
  • Triple Threes on one roll earns a penalty of -300 points.

Online References

For information on the history of dice go to The Bone Rollers Guild

For the rules of Farkle in "The Queen's English" see The Game of Farkle which requireth six goode dise.

Related Article

Piquet: a 14th century card game

Scores in Farkle ---Click here and print this out for a hint card

Point values:
  • 2 or 2 2= 0 points.
  • 3 or 3 3= 0 points.
  • 4 or 4 4= 0 points.
  • 6 or 6 6= 0 points.
  • 5 = 50 points. 5 5= 100 points.
  • 1 = 100 points. 1 1= 200 points.
  • 1 1 1= 1,000 points.
  • 2 2 2= 200 points.
  • 3 3 3= 300 points.
  • 4 4 4= 400 points.
  • 5 5 5= 500 points.
  • 6 6 6= 600 points.
  • 1 2 3 4 5Low Straight in one roll = 750 points.
  • 2 3 4 5 6High Straight in one roll = 1,000 points.
  • 1 2 3 4 5 6 Full Straight in one roll = 1,500 points.

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