Pig is a very simple dice game that is exceptionally easy both to learn and to play. As a jeopardy dice game, it manages to keep players on the edge of their seat as they try to determine whether to risk it all or to play it safe. Pig can be played virtually anywhere and it only requires one die and something to keep score with, making it a fun and convenient way to pass the time.
The game was introduced by John Scarne, a magician and game developer, in 1945 and it has since been played with a wide range of variants to the original concept. Over the years, there have been a number of commercial productions of Pig, with titles like Skunk and Pig Dice, as well as the most current version, Pass the Pig. It has also served as a fun and useful tool for math teachers who are trying to convey probability concepts to young students and for computer science instructors, as well.
How to Play Basic Pig
Pig requires at least two players and it can, conceivably, be played by as many people as you have available. The only things that you’ll need to have are a standard, six-sided die, a piece of paper and something to write with.
Every time that a player rolls in Pig, they have to make a decision about their next move that could cost them the win. If they have rolled any number from a 2 to a 6, they are free to collect points that are equal to the face value of their roll and they can roll again, or they can decide to take the points and hold, handing the die over to the next player. If the player makes the call to decide to roll again and a 1 comes up, the points that they had from their initial roll are taken away, their turn is over, and their score for that round is a zero. For as long as they don’t roll a 1 though, the player can continue to throw the dice and to accumulate points. The players take turns this way until one of them reaches 100 points and is declared the winner.
In an example, if a player’s first three rolls come up as a 4, a 2, and a 3, and they opt to hold, they will receive nine points for that turn, because 4 + 2 + 3 = 9. If they decided to continue rolling and their fourth throw yielded a 1 on the die however, those nine points would be wiped out and their score for that round would be a zero.
Optimal Play was developed in 2001 as a strategy tool for Pig players. By cross-referencing the player’s score, their opponent’s score and the total number of points accumulated in the turn so far, a player can determine based on this graph whether they should continue to roll or hold their play.
Pig Game Variations
Due to its uncomplicated rules and scorekeeping, there have been many variations on the game intended to make it more challenging or lively. Some games use two or more dice and others make 6 the unwanted number rather than the 1, but they all employ the jeopardy aspect to add to the suspense of the game.
Two-Dice Pig uses most of the same rules as regular Pig, but the addition of the second die can either help or hurt players. If neither of the dice come up as a 1, the player can record the points and roll again or hold, just like in the standard rules game. If they do roll a 1, they’ll lose the points accumulated on that turn, also the same as in the regular version. But if the player rolls two 1’s, they not only lose the points from that turn, but their whole score for the entire game is wiped clean. If a player rolls any other doubles in Two-Dice Pig, they collect the points from the dice as normal, but they are then required to roll again, thereby jeopardizing their winnings whether they want to or not.
Big Pig operates in much the same way as Two-Dice Pig, but with two big differences. If a player rolls two 1’s in this variation, they get to add twenty-five points to their score. Also, if they roll any other doubles, they can add twice the amount of the dice values to their tally.
While Skunk is the name of a commercial game that was based on the same concept as Pig, it is also the name of a popular variation on the original game format. Skunk, also often referred to as Think, is a variation on Pig that is intended to be played by larger groups. Players in this version don’t role as individuals. They all begin the round standing and the dice are thrown by one person or by players taking turns, but every role of the dice belongs to every player who is standing. At any point in the round, a player can hold and collect their points by sitting down. The round goes on until all of the players are seated, or until a 1 is rolled. If that happens, anyone still standing loses all of their points for that round and their score is recorded as a zero. Skunk continues for five rounds and the scores are recorded in columns that are labeled S, K, U, N and K. At the end of the five rounds, the player with the highest score is named the winner.
All of these variations on the game and the ease with which most people can pick it up and play it have made Pig a popular and versatile game for families and parties, or for simply killing time. Thanks to its quick pace and the need for a little luck paired with some basic strategy in order to win, Pig is still a dice game with a lot of dedicated fans.