◦ last updated:

Ship, Captain, and Crew is a simple dice game for any number of people.

There are a few similar games that go under the same name, but the main goal is always to roll a Ship (6), Captain (5), and Crew (4), in that order.

Sometimes it is called Ship, Captain, Mate, and Crew — where the Mate is the 4, and the remaining two dice are the Crew. Other recorded names are Mariner, Battleship, or Destroyers.A[p. 364] All of these names, for whatever reason, are nautical!

The oldest record I have found of the game is from 1937, where it is mentioned as being played in Mexico.B[p. 25] It seems to have been popular on the West Coast of the USA in the 1970s.See Games They Play in San Francisco (p. 58), and The Great Green (p. 121) says it is a “dice game played in West Coast bars”.


Five standard dice are required to play.

Each player has three attempts to obtain their Ship (6), Captain (5), and Crew (4), in that order.

On their first attempt, they must roll all five dice. If they roll their next required result, they may set it aside, but a 5 may not be set aside until a 6 has been set aside, and a 4 may not be set aside until a 5 has been. Dice that have been set aside will not be rolled again.

After setting aside any dice, they then roll their second attempt with the remaining dice, and likewise for their third attempt.

If a player does not achieve their 654 after three attempts, they score zero, otherwise, they score the sum of the remaining two dice (the “cargo”). If they achieve their 654 on the first or second attempt, they may reroll one or both of their cargo dice for their remaining attempt(s) to try to achieve a higher score; the new result of the dice must be kept.

Once all players have had a turn, the player with the highest score is the winner.


Ship, Captain

In this version of the game a player only needs to roll their Ship (6) and Captain (5); the remaining dice are all Crew, and the sum of their numbers is the player’s score.EF[p. 101–2]

Die Familie Meier

This simple version is from Germany. Reiner Knizia gives the name as “The Family JonesG[p. 105] but a direct translation would be “The Miller Family”. This game involves no decisions, so the result is entirely due to luck.

On each player’s turn, they always make three rolls of three dice, then two dice, then one die. No dice are set aside. The player must roll a 1 (Mr Miller) and a 2 (Mrs Miller), and after they have done so the remaining dice are all totalled to count the number of “children”.

The player who reaches the highest total wins.

Low or High

The book Come Up: San Francisco Bar Dice Games (pp. 28-33) describes a version of the game where a player can roll either 654 or 123 in order. This increases the odds that a player will roll a scoring result.

It also describes a version where players must aim for the lowest rather than the highest leftover dice.

General References

See: Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations (vol. 1, p. 138).


  1. (). ⁨Scarne on Dice⁩ (8th edition). Melvin Powers Wilshire Book Co.⁩: Hollywood, CA, USA. ISBN: 0-517-54124-6.

  2. (). ⁨⁩. Reynald & Hitchcock⁩: New York, NY, USA.

  3. (). ⁨⁩. San Francisco, CA, USA.

  4. (). ⁨⁩. The Dial Press⁩: New York, USA.

  5. (). ‘⁨⁩’. Motor Boating and Sailing⁩, : pages 102–4.

  6. (). ⁨⁩. A. S. Barnes and Co.⁩: Cranbury, NJ, USA.

  7. (). ⁨Dice Games Properly Explained⁩. Blue Terrier Press⁩. ISBN: 978-0-9731052-1-6.

  8. (). ⁨⁩. Dixon Press⁩: Cupertino, California, U.S.A..

  9. (, originally published 1960). ⁨Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations⁩. Dover Publications⁩: New York, NY, USA. ISBN: 978-0-486-23855-5.  Two volumes republished as one.


Expand to show comments