Liar's dice (common hand)

best rules variation

Posted by nietaki on December 12, 2015

I’ve been a semi-active board game nerd for quite a while now and I find myself playing a wide variety of games, ranging from Jungle Speed to Battlestar Galactica and go. Board games are a huge universe to explore, but there’s been one game that me and my friends have been playing for years now and it’s still a crowd favourite. It can accommodate virtually any number of players, it’s cheap (all you need is some dice), simple to explain, and - last but not least, drunk-people-friendly. If you can still count, you can still play and even if the table is all covered in beer, the dice couldn’t care less.

But as with most things, the devil’s in the details. Most people know a version of the game, but there is one particular one that is both fun and perfectly fair - there’s a winning move in every situation. I’ve recently been asked to write it up and share, soo…


You need between 2 and 20 people and five 6-sided dice per person. You can use dice cups to conceal your rolls but if the dice aren’t too big it’s not vital.


Each player starts with 5 dice. They all roll their dice, look at the result while concealing it from the other players. Next, starting from a randomly chosen player (or the owner of the dice), they take turns, bidding on the “state” of all the dice on the table. When the bidding war ends one of the players loses one of their dice. If after losing a die they have no more left they get knocked ouf the game. The last person standing wins the game.


Each bid consists of a die face (from 1 to 6) and a quantity of dice (between 1 and the count of all the dice on the table). A bid of “two threes” means that the person claims there’s a minimum of two dice with three pips on the face pointing up, between all players - under the cup of the person bidding and everyone else around the table. It translates to “There are at least two dice with threes facing up on the table.”

The next bidding person is the one to the left of the starting one. To continue the bidding, they have to name a bid that is “higher” than the previous one. The bid is “higher” if:

  • the quantity of the dice is the same (2, in this scenario), but the named face is higher (4, 5, or 6 in this scenario). “Two fours” or “Two sixes” are such bids.
  • the quantity of the dice is larger (3 or more in this scenario) and any face they choose (1 - 6). Examples: “three ones”, “six sixes”.

The bidding continues clockwise around the table until someone decides to “call” the previous player’s bid.

Calling a bid

To call a previous player’s bid, you literally call them a liar. When that happens all of the players reveal their dice and see if the previous bid was accurate or not. If the bid was accurate, the calling player loses the round, if it wasn’t, the bidding player loses the round. Whoever loses the round gives away one of their dice. If they lose all their dice, they get knocked out of the game.

Let’s see an example:
There’s 5 of us playing, all of us have 5 dice and the bids went as follows:

  • A: “two threes”
  • B: “two sixes”
  • C: “three threes”
  • D: “four ones”
  • E: “five sixes”
  • A: “you’re a liar!”

So what happened here: A saw he didn’t have any sixes in his dice and thought amongst all 25 dice of all the players there weren’t five or more sixes. All players reveal their dice and lift as many fingers as many sixes they had, to help the counting. Turns out B had two sixes and E had two more, but none of the other players had any - there’s only 4 in total. E’s bid was too high and they lose the round and one of their dice.

If there actually were five sixes on the table, A would have lost the round instead and they would have lost one of their dice.

After a call the next round starts and the first bid is made by the person who lost the last round. If the person who lost the last round got knocked out, the player who knocked them out has the first bid instead.


As you might have noticed, with just the above rules, there are situations where a player doesn’t have a good move. Let’s say there’s just two people playing and their dice rolls are as follows: A: {1, 3, 6, 6}, B: {2, 4, 6}. The last bid was A saying “three sixes” - and it’s a very good bid indeed. But it seems like B is out of luck: if they call they will lose the round and there is no “higher” bid that will be successful if A calls - and they probably will. What now?

That’s why the “spot-on” was introduced. If you think that the last person’s bid is accurate, but there is no higher bid that would work, instead of calling or bidding, you call “spot-on”. That means you assert the last person’s bid was exactly accurate. In the example above, when B says “spot-on”, they assert that there are exactly three sixes on the table - no more, no less.

If the person saying “spot-on” is right, they win the round and they regain one more die if they have fewer than five dice. Nothing happens to the last person bidding - their bid was correct. If the person saying “spot on” was wrong, they lose a die instead.

Beginner/kid-friendly variation

Instead of starting with 5 dice and losing them one by one, everyone starts with 1 die and they get one more every time they lose a round (instead of giving one away). If you find yourself getting your sixth die, you get knocked out of the game. In this version the result of a successful “spot-on” is also reversed - you lose one die instead of gaining one.

This way the worse you’re doing, the more information you have about the “global table state” - you can make your bids with more confidence.

That’s about it! Give the game a try and see how you like it. Let me know if any part of the explanation is unclear - the game is much simpler to demonstrate than it is to put on paper…

And remember: “three sixes” is always a good starting bid and “six sixes” is a good bid regardless of how many dice there are on the table ;)