Gluckshaus (German for House of Luck) is a simple Renaissance dicing game which was common among taverngoers and mercenaries in the 15th and 16th centuries. It has found a new life in reenactment societies as a period, social, and relatively mindless way to pass time and coins.
Gluckshaus Rules and Review
I have yet to find anyone selling a Glucks set, but you can make one in 30 seconds... or much longer, if you're inclined to crafts. You'll need a board with spaces for the numbers 2-12, two dice, and coins for each player. The game is played with equal stakes (i.e. everyone uses the same value of coin).
These are the most common rules as played by re-enactors today. The variety of surviving gameboards indicates that several games or variations were probably played.
Each player will want to start with at least a few coins. If they don't provide their own, perhaps 10 coins each would make for an interesting game. Like most casino games, play continues as long as each player wishes, but you can play to a set goal as desired.
The game begins with an empty board, and each player proceeds as follows. Note that the first player has terrible odds, so it might be appropriate for each player to ante a coin to the board before the first roll:
1. Cast the two dice.
2a. On a 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, or 11, check the corresponding space. If a coin is on this space, take the coin. If the space is empty, place a coin on the space.
2b. On a 7, place a coin on the 7. This space, called the Wedding, accumulates coins and becomes a growing jackpot.
2c. On a 2, called "the Pig," take all the coins on the board, except those on 7.
2d. On a 12, called "the King," take all the coins on the board.
2e. On a 4, which is missing from some period boards, the player may have paid the house, done nothing, kissed the wench... we don't know.
3. Pass the dice to the player on the left.
Gluckshaus seems to have been popular because it allowed illiterate, innumerate peasants and soldiers to do something with their left hand and money while the right is busy drinking. This isn't much of a pedigree, but it does have the benefits of being easy to teach, generating crowd interest by way of the Wedding Jackpot, and easy to walk away from. Side betting is arguably more than fun the main game, since it allows us geeks to set up favorable wagers against unwitting marks.
The main downside is that its simplicity is obvious to everyone, and it gets dull after 10 minutes, or markedly less if you're not in costume. The biggest rules weakness is that anyone rolling with a blank board can only lose (or keep) their money, and has no incentive to do so. This can be fixed by having someone who rolls a 12 ante the board before passing the dice. Or if you play that the house collects on a 4, the house could scatter coins on the board at opportune times to keep interest up.
I'll give the game a 5.5 for the first ten minutes, which is usually how long I play.
C. Knutson MacGregor Historic Games
We started playing our new Gluckshaus set in our booth at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival this year and some of our cast have played games where they felt they rolled too many "7's" and the payout from rolling a 12 didn't happen enough, so they started experimenting by paying to any space of your choice if you roll a "4".