The 3 Best Dice Games to Play with Kids of (Almost) All Ages

published Mar 7, 2023
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someone holding dice on top of a game with books and pretzels on a table
Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

At a recent family gathering, all grandparents, kids, and grandkids ages 7 to 77 squeezed in around my mother’s vintage red and white Formica table and spent more than two hours playing dice games, which are simple to learn, challenging to win, and easy for hands of all ages to hold. If you’re looking to add some lively games to your indoor roster that don’t require a huge time commitment, take up next-to-no space, and are nearly indestructible, dice games are where it’s at. I hope you enjoy these as much as my family has. Here are the three games that kept multi-generations entertained.

1. Tenzi

An official Tenzi set comes with four different colors of 10-dice sets (for a total of forty dice). If you want to play with more people, you just need additional sets of 10 dice. The object is fairly simple: Be the first to roll all ten of the same number. Because the object doesn’t require extensive explanation, it’s a game that is easy to learn. Winning, though? That’s another story. 

Competitive rolling, it turns out, is an art form — and within a couple of rounds, each person will develop their own methods. Plus, there are tons of variations on the basic, including declaring a specific number everyone has to reach and stacking the dice as you roll. 

Tenzi can be played for hours, but a single round can take less than five minutes, so it’s a great game to play when you need a break from studying, work, or just want a quick reset. 
Tip: For younger kids with smaller hands, you can roll half the number of dice or work in teams.

2. LCR, or Left, Center, Right

Although LCR has been around for years, it has only been part of my life as an adult. Another parent busted this out “after hours” at a hockey tournament, and all I could think was: Where has this game been all my life? It combines the best of luck with a dash of healthy gambling (in the grown-up version, you can play with money, but the set comes with tiny betting chips to use as coins). 

I’ve since played this regularly with kids as young as 5 and adults well into their 80s. Like Tenzi, the basic rules are easy to learn, making the game adaptable for various ages. Each person is given three “coins” and then takes a turn rolling a set of three dice. The dice have a set of markings on them: L, C, R, and a single dot. An L represents left, meaning you must pass a coin to the person on your left. The R represents right, so you pass a coin to the right. C stands for Center, so a coin is placed in the center. A dot means you keep everything — so the more dots, the better. 

If you reduce the number of coins you have, you also reduce the number of dice you roll. So if you give away two coins, on your next turn, you only roll one die. A couple of quick rounds will show everyone how easy and fast the game is to learn, but winning takes a lot of luck. It’s a game you can make a comeback from easily, even if you have to skip a few turns, so it makes it exciting for kids to keep at it. The winner is the last person standing, who also rolls a dot. Otherwise, the pot of loot carries over to the next round. 

Tip: Got casino-loving grandparents? They’ll enjoy playing this one with the littles!

3. Farkle 

This one reminds me of a pared-down version of Yahtzee. The object is to be the first person to get to 10,000 points, so exactly how many rounds that takes is really up to Lady Luck. You can buy a complete Farkle game set or put one together yourself using six, 6-sided dice, a dice cup (if you like), a rules sheet with scoring instructions, and a way to keep score. The rules sheet is important because there are a number of combinations to keep track of, and you’ll want some kind of scoring sheet, even if it’s just paper and a pencil, to track each person’s score each round. 

Each player rolls all six dice. You can choose to keep a scoring combination and “stay” or gamble to try to get more points. The combinations are things like three 1s, 3 pairs, six of a kind, etc. As long as you have something to score on in your roll, you can keep rolling to try to increase your score. However, if you roll and get nothing, you “farkle” which is basically a fun word for saying you blew it. 

This one takes a little more skill and getting used to than Tenzi or LRC, but it’s still fun and very portable. On a recent cross-country train trip, I noticed a great number of families playing this game, and I have since found a pocket version (it’s 2″h x 1.5″d!) that I keep in my purse for restaurant doldrums and travel. 

Tip: Dice Game Depot offers the rules of Farkle and a free, printable score grid and tracking sheet here

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