When most people think of dice games, the first thing that comes to their mind is Yahtzee. I would guess most people have either played Yahtzee or another similar dice game at least once in their life. With Yahtzee’s popularity it was obvious that the game would eventually receive some spinoff games. Yahtzee has actually had quite a few spinoff games made in the past. We have even looked at several of them here on Geeky Hobbies including Casino Yahtzee, Yahtzee Deluxe Poker, Yahtzee Free For All, Yahtzee Hands Down, and Yahtzee Turbo. Today I am looking at another of the Yahtzee spinoff games, Showdown Yahtzee also known as Challenge Yahtzee. The main addition to Showdown Yahtzee is the addition of a gameboard to the typical Yahtzee formula. Showdown Yahtzee adds a few interesting ideas with the gameboard but it ultimately hurts the original Yahtzee by adding luck and unnecessary mechanics.
How to Play Showdown Yahtzee
- Place the dice tray in the middle of the table. Place the gameboard on top of the tray so the tray fits into the hole in the gameboard.
- Lay the 12 cards near the gameboard so all of the players can reach them.
- Each player chooses a color and takes the pawn and chips of their chosen color. Each player places their pawn on the corresponding wild space.
- Choose which player will start the game.
Playing the Game
Moving Around The Board
A player begins their turn by rolling the red die. The player will move their pawn clockwise around the gameboard the number of spaces rolled. A pawn may occupy the same space as another pawn.
The player will then roll the black dice in order to try and get one of the Yahtzee combinations. The combination that the player is trying to roll depends on what space the pawn landed on.
Rolling To Place An Empty Card
If the player lands on a space that has no card on it and is not a wild space, they can try to roll for any of the combinations on the cards that have not yet been placed on the board. The player does not have to declare which combination they are trying to roll for. They can change what they are trying to roll for based on what they end up rolling.
The player will get three rolls in order to try and meet one of the combinations. After each roll the player can set aside dice they want to keep. They will then re-roll the rest of the dice. If a player sets aside a dice after the first roll, they can re-roll it for the third roll.
After the player has finished rolling the dice, they will compare what they have rolled to the cards that haven’t been placed yet. If the roll matches one of the combinations, the player takes the card and places it on their current space. They will then place chips on the card based on the card’s value with each chip being worth ten points.
The different scoring combinations in Showdown Yahtzee are as follows:
- Aces-Sixes: The player has to roll one or more of the corresponding number. If they roll one of the number they will place one chip on the upper left corner. If they roll two of the number they will place two chips in the top right corner. The same goes for three of the number. Finally if the player rolls four or five of the same number they will place four chips in the bottom right corner.
- Three of a Kind: If you roll three of the same number you will place three chips on the card.
- Four of a Kind: If you roll four of the same number you will place four chips on the card.
- Full House: To roll a full house you need to roll three of one number and two of another number. The full house card is worth 50 points so you place five chips on the card.
- Small Straight: A small straight consists of rolling four numbers in a row. The card is worth 50 points/five chips.
- Large Straight: A large straight consists of rolling five numbers in a row. The card is worth 70 points/seven chips.
- Chance: To roll a chance the total on all of the player’s dice have to be 25 points or more. The card is worth 60 points/six chips.
- Yahtzee: A Yahtzee is five of the same number. There is no Yahtzee card so when you roll a Yahtzee you have two options. First you can take any card not already placed on the gameboard and place it on your current space scoring the associated number of points. Second you can choose to take any other card on the gameboard. You move your pawn to the corresponding card and replace the chips with your own chips.
Rolling To Steal A Card
When a player lands on a space that already has a card on it, there are two options depending on whether the current player already controls the card.
If the player already controls the card, they can either choose to try and improve their score on the card (Aces-Six) or they can roll the movement die again and move to another space. If the player chooses to try and beat their score and they are successful, they add the additional chips to the card.
If the player does not control the card, they will roll the black dice and try to steal the card. In order to steal a card the player has to match or beat the card’s current score. For Aces-Sixes the player has to roll as many or more of the number than the player who currently controls the card. To steal any other card the player has to just roll the combination.
When a player successfully steals a card they will remove the other player’s chips from the card and return them to the corresponding player. They will then add the corresponding number of their own chips to the card.
When a player lands on a wild space they can do one of three things. They can roll to try to add another card to the board. A player can try to increase the value of one of their own cards. Finally the player can try to steal another player’s card. The player does not have to decide on which option they want to use until after they have rolled the dice all three times.
If the player successfully adds a card to the board, they will move their pawn to the next unoccupied space clockwise from their current space. They will add the card to the space and add the corresponding chips to it.
If the player successfully steals a card, they will move their pawn to the space and steal the card detailed in the previous section.
If the player increases the score of one of their own cards, they will move their pawn to the space and add the corresponding number of chips.
If the player fails to claim any card, their pawn stays on the wild space.
End of Turn
After a player has had a chance to roll to claim a card, play passes to the next player clockwise.
Players will keep taking turns until all twelve cards have been placed on the gameboard. The game then moves onto the showdown round. Starting with the player to the left of the player who ended the previous round, each player will have one turn.
The players will roll the movement die and move their pawn like in the normal game. The player will then roll the black dice in order to try and steal the card. If the player already controls the card they landed on and don’t want to improve their score, they can roll again and move their pawn to another space.
If a player successfully steals or improves a card, they will get to roll the movement die again and try to take another card. The player will get to keep taking turns until they fail to complete a card. Play then passes to the next player.
End of Game
The game ends when all of the players have had one turn in the showdown round.
The players will then count up how many chips they have on the gameboard. The player with the most chips wins the game.
My Thoughts on Showdown Yahtzee
To get right to the point Showdown Yahtzee shares a lot in common with its namesake Yahtzee. Showdown Yahtzee is basically what you would get if you added a gameboard to the original Yahtzee. The dice rolling mechanics between the two games are basically the same. You get three rolls in order to roll one of a set of different dice combinations. Showdown Yahtzee even has the same categories as the original game except that a Yahtzee basically acts as a wild. As almost everyone already has their own opinion on Yahtzee or other similar dice games, I am not going to talk about the dice rolling mechanics. Instead I want to focus on the mechanics unique to Showdown Yahtzee.
Basically everything that is new about Showdown Yahtzee comes from the addition of the gameboard. In normal Yahtzee you can roll for any combination that you haven’t already scored in the game. This is not the case in Showdown Yahtzee as the gameboard will determine what you can try for on your turn. Basically you roll a die to move around the board. Which space you land on will determine which combination(s) you can roll on your turn. If you land on an empty space you can roll for any of the combinations not already claimed by one of the other players. If you land on a space that already contains a card, that is the only combination you can try to roll this turn. Finally if you land on a wild space you can roll for whichever combination you prefer.
This is one of the things that I liked least about Showdown Yahtzee. Basically all the gameboard does for the game is add even more luck to the game. In normal Yahtzee there is a little strategy in choosing which combination that you will try to roll each turn. You will choose which combination you will score each turn which determines the combinations you can score in future turns. When you land on a blank or wild space you have some choice over which combination you want to roll. If you land on a space that already has a card on it you are forced to try to roll that combination (unless you already own it). This takes away most of your decision making in the game. I think this was a bad choice for Showdown Yahtzee as you usually don’t want to eliminate players’ options from a game.
The other thing that the gameboard adds to the original Yahtzee is actually beneficial to the game. Normally Yahtzee is a pretty solitary game. Players take turns rolling the dice and scoring one of the categories. There is basically no interaction in the game as you only compare your scores at the end of the game. The one benefit the gameboard brings to the game is that it adds a decent amount of player interaction to the game. In the original Yahtzee you would score a category and that would be it. In Showdown Yahtzee you can steal combinations from other players by landing on the appropriate space and tying or beating the combination they rolled.
This doesn’t add a ton of player interaction to the game, but it is a giant improvement over the original game. Outside of landing on a wild space you can’t actively target another player’s card. Being able to steal other players’ cards does add some interaction to the game though. Players have something to pay attention to during other player’s turns as their turn can directly impact them. People who don’t think there is enough player interaction in normal Yahtzee might appreciate this change in Showdown Yahtzee.
Showdown Yahtzee consists of two phases. In the first phase the players will take turns trying to claim a card. Players spend this phase placing cards on the gameboard and stealing control over the cards from other players. At first I didn’t think it would be that easy to steal cards, but it is quite a bit easier to steal cards than you would expect. This comes from the fact that you only have to tie the player who controls the card in order to take it. I thought this phase was going to drag on as players wouldn’t land on the spaces needed to place all of the cards. It turns out the phase moves quicker than you would expect mostly because the wild spaces let you quickly fill in the spaces that you otherwise can’t land on.
Once you get all of the cards on the gameboard you move onto the showdown round which is basically a sudden death round. Each player will get to keep rolling until they fail to claim a card. On the surface this actually sounds pretty fun. It is pretty suspenseful waiting to see how many cards you can claim and how many cards the other players will steal from you. Players can go on pretty long runs claiming quite a few cards before their turn ends. I would actually be really curious to see how this mechanic would have worked if it was the whole game instead of just the final round. Unfortunately this round adds two problems to the game.
By far the biggest problem with the round is that it basically makes the beginning of the game pointless. You could enter the showdown round with a pretty big lead and then lose it all in this final round. It doesn’t really matter how good you do in the first phase as the second phase is going to determine who wins the game. You will spend a majority of the game in the first phase and in many games it won’t really matter what you do in it. This makes the first phase feel kind of pointless. I think Showdown Yahtzee would have benefited from either eliminating the showdown round or making that the entire game instead of the first phase. Instead you are stuck spending most of your time playing part of the game that will have little impact on the outcome.
The other problem with the showdown round is that it adds a lot of luck to the game. Turn order is crucial in the showdown round. The first player to play in the round is at a distinct disadvantage. The problem with going first is that you have no way of protecting your cards from the other players. You could capture quite a few cards and then the next player just takes them all back from you. You then have no way of retaliating. I don’t really know how else the game could have handled it though as someone had to go first. It ends up giving the player that places the last card a huge advantage in the game.
Showdown Yahtzee in particular relies on a lot of luck like most dice games as you have to roll well in order to do well in the game. The player who is best at rolling combinations will have a huge advantage in the game. What spaces your playing piece lands on might be just as important though. Wild spaces in particular are really powerful in the game. The benefit of landing on a wild space is that it gives you a lot of flexibility when rolling your dice. You can analyze the dice you have rolled and adjust the combination you are going to target based on what you have already rolled. This makes it quite easy to claim a card on your turn. The player who lands on the most wild spaces will have a big advantage in the game.
The components for Showdown Yahtzee are pretty basic. A lot of the pieces are pretty standard like what you would find in a lot of other Milton Bradley games. Basically the components serve their purpose but don’t do much else. The biggest problem with the components are with the box itself. The box for Showdown Yahtzee is quite large. The game doesn’t really justify such a large box either. Basically the only reason why the box is so large is due to the gameboard. If the gameboard had one more crease in it the box could have been made much smaller. This might not be an issue for most people but it will probably be a turnoff for people that don’t have a lot of free space.
Should You Buy Showdown Yahtzee?
Basically Showdown Yahtzee is what you would get if you added a gameboard to the original Yahtzee. The dice mechanics are pretty much the same as you get the same number of rolls to try and roll the same combinations. The addition of the gameboard adds a few different things to Yahtzee. On the positive it adds more player interaction to Yahtzee as you can steal combinations from the other players. At the same time though it adds quite a bit of luck to the game as you are limited on what combinations you can roll each turn. The showdown round could have been a good addition to the game as it adds quite a bit of excitement. The problem is that it makes the first half of the game almost pointless and adds quite a bit of luck to the game.
At the end of the day I think Showdown Yahtzee is worse than the original Yahtzee. This is mostly due to the game adding even more luck to the original game. For this reason I think the decision on whether to pick up Showdown Yahtzee comes down to a couple factors. First if you don’t like Yahtzee or other similar dice games you won’t like Showdown Yahtzee. If you don’t like the idea of even more luck being added to Yahtzee, it also won’t be for you. People who are looking for more player interaction in Yahtzee though, and think the addition of a gameboard sounds interesting may be able to have some fun with the game. I would recommend only picking it up though if you can get a good deal on it.