421 or Four Twenty One is a classic dice game that has historically been mostly played in European bars, but as you’re going to see, the game can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter where they are.
To play 421, you need at least 2 players, 3 dice, 21 tokens. You can also have a board or a bowl to roll the dice in, but that’s not necessary.
The Players roll the dice, and the player with the highest number starts the game.
Objective of the Game
421 is played over two phases. In the first phase, the players receive tokens. In the second phase the players start getting rid of the tokens they’ve collected in the first phase.
The players who manage to get rid of their tokens are winners, the player who ends up with all the tokens is considered the loser.
List of 421 Hands
Players try to get rid of their tokens by forming combinations called hands.
Each dice roll determines which hand the player has achieved. For example, the strongest hand in the game is a dice roll where a die shows 4, and another die shows 2, and the final die shows 1. This is the 421 hands.
Here is a list of all the possible hands, sorted from the strongest to the weakest:
|Name of the Hand||Dice Roll Required to Form the Hand||Token Value|
|421||A 4, a 2, and a 1.||10 tokens|
|Triple 1||All the dice show 1. (Three 1s.)||7 tokens|
|Two Alike and One Different||Two dice show the same number and one die shows a different number.||The unique number is converted into token value.Example: 663. The number 3 is unique. Therefore, this combination is worth 3 tokens.Example: 442 (worth 2 tokens).Example: 554 (worth 4 tokens).|
|Barracks||The three dice show the same number.||The number shown on the dice.Example: 222 (2 tokens)Example: 555 (5 tokens)|
|Sequence||3 consecutive digits.Example: 456.Example: 234.||2 tokens|
|Nenette||A 1, 1, and a 2.This is the weakest hand possible in the game.||2 tokens|
Any combination that’s not written in the table is worth only 1 token.
- For a Sequence hand, the higher the numbers shown on the dice, the stronger the hand. Example: a sequence of 456 is stronger than a sequence of 234.
- For the combinations that aren’t written in the table that are worth 1 token, the higher the numbers shown on the dice, the stronger the hand. Example: 125 is stronger than 124. (5 + 2 +1 = 8 which is greater than 1 + 2 + 4 = 7.)
Course of the game
A game of 421 takes place over two phases: Charge and Discharge.
The Charge Phase
- Every player starts the game without any tokens. During the course of the game, the players will try their best to have as few tokens as possible.
- There are rounds within the first phase, a round consists of every player rolling the dice and writing down the hand they’ve got.
- The player who rolls the highest number starts the game.
- The direction of play is clockwise.
- Each turn, a player rolls the 3 dice in an attempt to obtain the best hand.
- At the end of a round (after all players have rolled the dice), the player with the weakest hand collects the number of tokens indicated by the strongest hand rolled that round.
Example: The first player rolls a Triple 1, the second rolls a Sequence and the third rolls a Nenette. In this case, the third player has rolled the weakest hand, therefore they receive the number of tokens of the strongest hand of that round: 7 tokens caused by the Triple 1 rolled by the first player.
- The player with the lowest hand starts the next round.
- .The game continues in this way until all the tokens have been distributed. After this, the second phase (The Discharge) will begin.
During The Charge phase, if a player receives all 21 tokens, then they will automatically lose the game and there won’t be a second phase.
The Discharge Phase
In this phase, a player can roll the dice a maximum of 3 times.
- The Discharge phase is played in rounds just like the The Charge phase.
- The player who had the lowest hand during the last round of The Charge phase starts The Discharge phase.
- A player must roll the 3 dice. They can then re-roll a second and a third time if they want.
- During a re-roll, the player can choose to roll only 2 dice or 1 die.
Example: A player rolls the dice for the first time and gets 245. They can choose to keep the “5” and re-roll the “4” and “2” dice to form a Two Alike and One Different hand (554, for example). The player can also choose to keep the “5” and “4” dice and re-roll only the “2” die to achieve a Sequence hand (345 or 456).
- If a player achieves the hand they want on the first or second roll, they must announce that this is the combination they want and then pass the dice to the next player.
- The following players take turns doing the same.
- Similar to the first phase, after a round ends, the player with the weakest hand collects the tokens indicated by the strongest hand during that round.
- The first player who manages to get rid of all of their tokens is considered the winner and they leave the game, but the game continues for the remaining players.
- Whenever a player leaves the game, the direction of play is reversed (if it was clockwise, then it’s anticlockwise now, and vice versa).
End of the Game
The first player to get rid of all of their tokens leaves the game and is considered the winner. However, the other players must continue the game until there is only one player left with all the tokens. The player who is left with all the tokens is the loser of the game.
If the game is played at a bar or a cafe, the losing player will be the lucky one to pick up the tab!