Dice game rules: Zanzibar

Posted by Dice Game Depot

This lively, free dice game is for 2 or more players, and uses lots of chips and an interesting scoring mechanism.

You'll need three six-sided dice and 20 chips or counters per player. (Poker chips will work, or M&Ms, or glass stones, or any other type of counter you have on hand.) The winner of the game is the first player to lose all their chips.

Each player begins the game with 20 chips. (If you wish, you can increase or decrease this number for a longer or shorter game.)

So how do you play Zanzibar?

The first player may roll the dice up to three times in an attempt to get as high a score as possible. (See How do you score? below.) They may stop rolling after the first or second roll if they wish.

The other players, in turn, then try to roll a higher score in the same number or fewer rolls than the first player.

Once all players have had a turn, the player with the lowest score receives a number of chips from the other players. The number of chips they receive depends on the hand of the player who rolled the highest score. The loser receives:

  • 1 chip if the highest score is a points total
  • 2 chips if the highest score is 1,2,3
  • 3 chips if the highest score is three-of-a-kind
  • 4 chips if the highest score is 4,5,6 (Zanzibar)

The winner of the previous round rolls first in the next round.

Players continue playing rounds until one player has no chips remaining.

How do you score?

The highest ranking combinations are shown in descending order:

  • 4,5,6 - Zanzibar
  • 1,1,1
  • 2,2,2
  • 3,3,3
  • 4,4,4
  • 5,5,5
  • 6,6,6
  • 1,2,3

All other combinations rank as a sum of the three dice added together:

  • 1 = 100 points
  • 6 = 60 points
  • 2 = 2 points
  • 3 = 3 points
  • 4 = 4 points
  • 5 = 5 points

Scoring Example

If a player were to throw one the following combinations, they would receive the score shown.

1,4,5 = 109 points

2,3,6 = 65 points

1,5,5 = 110 points

2,4,5 = 11 points

3,2,2 = 7 points

Round Example

This example shows a round with five players:

  1. Player 1 begins and rolls 1,1,1 in two rolls.
  2. Player 2 then has two rolls to try and beat this score. He rolls 1,2,3 on his second roll.
  3. Player 3 also has two rolls to try and beat Player 1's score. She rolls 4,5,6 (a Zanzibar) after one roll and decides to stop rolling.
  4. Player 4 has two rolls to try and beat Player 3's score (which is now the highest score), but her best roll is only 4,4,5 and she scores 13 points.
  5. Player 5 rolls 1,3,6 and scores 161 points.

Player 4 is the loser for the round. She receives 4 chips from each player because the highest roll was a Zanzibar.

How do you win?

The first player to get rid of all of their chips wins.

Are there any rule or scoring variations?

Yes there are!

Simpler Scoring

This variant is the same as regular Zanzibar except the sum of combinations are only their face value. Ones and sixes are only worth 1 point and 6 points respectively instead of 100 points and 60 points.

Alternative Chip Distribution

This variant is the same as regular Zanzibar except the losing player receives a number of chips from each other player based on each player's score instead of just the winner's score. In the Round Example above, Player 4 would receive three chips from Player 1 (for having a three-of-a-kind), two chips from Player 2, four chips from Player 3, and one chip from Player 5.