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How to Play Pirate's Dice

While in Germany we were introduced to this simple pub game. They call it Mäxchen, which I think is just their pronunciation of Mexican… but the game is really called Pirate’s Dice.

Mäxchen is the art of being deceived and detecting deception with dice. Best to be played with four or more scoundrels.

Items required for play:
1 pair of dice (I found that the dice you buy at the Stratosphere in Vegas are too big. Something a little smaller is better.)
1 cup for rolling the dice (backgammon cups work nicely if they are handy.)
1 cardboard coaster (preferably one stolen from a German Pub.)

You also need something on which to scratch out your scores. Carving on the furniture will earn you a date with the Cat O’Nine.

How to play:
Assuming your party is sitting around a table (or a dead man’s chest), play advances clockwise from the starting scoundrel.

Dice are read together. For instance, rolling a 6 and a 2 equals 62.
Doubles beat singles any time.
Doubles higher beats doubles lower.
Mäxchen (21) beats all.
The number you receive ALWAYS has to be higher than the previous roll.

Scoundrel with most points gets strung up by the yardarm.
(or buys the next round).

How Play Advances:
Start the game by placing both dice in the cup.
Cover cup with coaster.
Shake cup.
Hold cup upside down so that the dice are resting on the coaster.
Lift the cup up slightly so that you (and only you) are able to read both dice underneath. You don’t want your opponent to see your roll.
Read the number on the dice to your opponent, and pass.

The person receiving the cup from you has 2 choices:
(to believe you or not to believe your swine-loving heart)

Don’t Believe Your Opponent?
If you don’t believe the scallywag is telling you the truth about what number they rolled, you can lift the cup and read the dice.
If you’ve caught them in a lie, they get the point. Cup returns to them. They have to roll again.
If the scoundrel spoketh truth, point goes to you. And it’s your roll Long John.

Believe Your Opponent?
Do you believe your opponent is telling you honestly what number is upon their dice? And truthfully there is very little reason for your opponent to lie to you at the opening of the game–unless you’re married to them. However if you DO believe your opponent, you can’t look at the dice.

For example, your opponent rolls and looks. They pass you the cup and say “52”. You agree that’s a number they got, and that it’s possible for you to beat it. But if you agree with their number, you cannot look at the dice. You must roll by shaking the cup. You’ve let your opponent off the hook. Now, this is where your inner scoundrel gets to have a run around the park:

Check the dice…
If your roll is higher than the last roll (say a 63), read the dice number to your opponent and pass.
OR you may lie about the dice number to your opponent and pass.
Either way they will have to determine if you play false with their trust.


Close the cup, shake the cup, and pass to your opponent (without looking at the new dice) and say “higher.”
The chance your opponent must take at this time is to believe if your new roll was higher than the last spoken number. If they lift the cup and the number is indeed higher, then the point goes to them. If the number is NOT higher, then the point goes to you.

Mäxchen (21) beats all
If you roll a 2 and a 1 that’s Mäxchen. This number trumps everything (singles and doubles) and can be your get out of the stockades for free. For instance if your opponent rolled a 4 and a 4, you would either need to roll higher doubles or a 21 in order to get out. If you do roll a 21, you can say Mäxchen. Of course, your opponent to whom you pass this bit of plunder to must either believe you or not. If they don’t believe you and you do indeed have 21, then two points go to them. If they don’t believe you, and you lied, then you’re two points closer to buying the grog.

Dirty Pool & Tips
Scoundrels are allowed to shake the dice and pass without lifting. They pass by saying “higher”. If they do this, their roll has to beat the previous roll or they get the point, and play returns to them. Abuse of this tactic is not recommended for those wishing to avoid a trip to Davy Jones’ Locker.

It is considered cheating to remind the person who is rolling what the last number was.

I’d love to list out my friends who helped us learn this game. But they are German, and strangely strange about their privacy online. So a simple Danke! will have to suffice.

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