The Name of the Game: Hazard
Being a 17th century dice game
for use in camp during times of relaxation

By Robert Giglio
The most popular form of gaming in the 17th century, which has been the soldiers' traditional pastime for centuries past and present, are dice games. The most popular dice game at this time was Hazard, which was the forerunner of present day Craps.

Rules for Hazard, as well as other period games, is available to Society members through their handbook (see 'Entertainment' chapter) they receive on joining. Although, I thought that over the next couple of issues they would be reprinted. With the addition of period reproduction coinage (or in lieu of such, pebbles could be used!), soldiers and campfollowers can play such games when they have time in camp, especially during nighttime hours. Officers would normally be the ones staying up to the wee hours of the morning drinking and gambling in the 17th century, whether Royalist or Parliamentarian.

The type of dice used in the period were made of bone and small in size (about the size of one's little fingernail). A pair of dice like these was recovered from the wreck of the Mary Rose. Of course, its assumed soldiers would flatten lead musket balls into square cubes to make dice, or fashion a pair out of wood, which was cheaper then buying a pair. Numbers were arranged the same as their modern counterparts.

In addition, contemporary paintings, woodcuts and engravings show gaming with dice by soldiers and officers usually being done on the head of a drum in lieu of a table. No doubt something which could be quickly done to wile the hours. Dice were thrown by hand, but frequently using a leather cup or "box" (as in Backgammon).

Rules for Hazard

The players of Hazard placed side bets amongst themselves, "laying" and "taking" the odds as to whether the "caster's" or "fader's" point would be "cast" first. The odds against a 6 being thrown first before a 5 are different from those of a 5 being thrown before a 7, or a 9 before a 10, etc. Therefore, the expert Hazard player had to have a remarkable memory and a very clear head to succeed in the game (which would be hard considering that drinking and gambling went hand-in-hand!). This fact, along with the action of the game itself, shows that Hazard was a fast-paced game.

All bets, whether with the caster, are to be placed upon the playing area within a circle designated for that purpose (I really do not think they drew circles on drumhead for fear of punishment!). After this is done, if the caster agrees to it, they knock the "box" that contains the dice upon the playing area at the person's money with whom they intend to bet, or mentions at whose money they are going to throw against (modern craps players will note that this is just the opposite of what is now done).

The player who takes the box and dice must then cast either a 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9. If they fail to cast one of these numbers on the first cast, then they must continue casting until one of the numbers finally did appear.

Once one of the aforementioned numbers did come up, it became the fader's point. The caster then had to try to cast a point for theirself, which could be any of the numbers 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10.

If, when trying to cast a point for themselves the caster either cast a 2 or 3 (no matter what the fader's point was); a 11 when the fader's point was 5, 6, 7 or 9; or a 12 when the fader's point was 5, 7 or 9 - these were called "outs" (today they are called craps), then the caster loses their stakes.

If, when trying to throw for their own point the caster either casts the fader's point; a 12 when the fader's point was a 6 or 8; a 11 when the fader's point was 7 - this was called a "nick" (today they are called a natural), then the caster wins the fader's stakes.

If, when trying to cast for their own point the caster did not cast either a nick or an out (i.e., natural or crap today), then the number cast becomes the caster's point. The caster then continues to cast the dice until they either casts their own point (which wins for them) or until they cast the fader's point (which loses for the caster).

For more information on Hazard or other dice games, please consult Scarne on Dice by John Scarne (Crown Publishers Inc., New York, 8th rev. ed., 1980).


© Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 & 2002 The English Civil War Society of America. All rights reserved.