Zanzibar, better known as 421 in french speaking countries(after the best combination of the game), is a popular dice game, and is often played in bars, especially in France but also in Quebec.

Game rules

The game is played with 3 dice. The goal is to get rid of all your tokens. The player who has no more tokens wins and goes out of the game. The last player remaining with all the tokens has lost and must pay the drink. One often plays with 21 tokens, but any number for a shorter or longer game is possible.

Course of the game

The game is played in two phases:

As soon as the loading is finished, every player who has no more tokens has won and goes out of the game. The loser is the last who remains and who thus has got all the tokens.

At each turn, each player will try one after the other to obtain the best combination with the three dice, in as many as or less rolls than the previous player (3 at most).
In order to improve your combination, at second and third roll, you can decide to roll again one, two or even the three dice. However, you can't roll more times than the last player.
For example, if a player stopped and have said to be satisfied after two rolls, no player after him will have a third roll in the turn.

At the end of the turn, the player who got the weakest combination takes some tokens, the amount of which depends on the strongest combination obtained. During the loading phase, tokens are taken from the table; during the unloading phase, the player who got this strongest combination gives tokens to him.
Of course, one can't take more tokens than available: if the player who got the best combination has only 4 tokens, even if his combination was worth 6, he can only give 4. The loser of the previous turn starts the next one.


Here are existing combinations and their value in points, from strongest to weakest:

At strictly equivalent combination, the last player who played wins. In particular, a new 421 beats another 421, and a new 221 beats an older 221.


As Zanzibar is a quite popular game and especially played in bars, there are lots of variations, often regional, or sometimes even local to a particular bar. Only one is currently proposed.

Amelioration during loading phase

The possibility of improving your throw during the loading phase is activated by default, but a lot of players play this phase « dry », meaning without that possibility to reroll the dice. In this case, during this first phase of the game, everyone has only a single roll per turn.

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