While the ways of the Jedi and the Sith are complex sci-fi concepts that define the Star Wars franchise, the attention to detail in everyday life is a massive part of the series’ charm. Everything from the color of milk (blue, obviously) to the nature of political meetings are covered on screen and in the wider Star Wars canon.
It’s not just the functional side of life on Star Wars’ planets that we get to witness. Gaming is a huge part of life here on planet Earth, so it is no surprise that George Lucas and other creatives have sought to portray how Star Wars characters get their kicks. Gaming and sport have been given great prominence in the movie franchise, with The Last Jedi dedicating a subplot to the casino city of Canto Bight.
Another notable example of leisure activities in Star Wars is podracing, the sport in which a young Anakin Skywalker was extremely well-skilled. Leisure is perhaps the wrong choice of word to describe podracing, given that these flying speedsters had to contend not only with each other but also with vengeful Tusken Raiders.
It’s not advisable to try and recreate the thrills of podracing in the real world, unless you’re playing via the safety of a video game. However, some Star Wars gaming activities are easier to emulate in real life, largely because these games are not too dissimilar from some of our world’s most famous leisure activities.
Dejarik is perhaps the most famous game featured in Star Wars; in A New Hope Chewbacca and R2-D2 enjoy a fiercely-contested game of dejarik, a scene which is then referenced in The Force Awakens. Players select holographic creatures to place on the board, doing battle against the holomonsters chosen by their opponent. Dejarik is also known as holochess, although the use of monsters means dejarik doesn’t necessarily look like our version of chess.
However, each holomonster has a specific set of moves, in the same way that different chess pieces can operate in different ways. Strategy is also at the core of both games, as dejarik and chess require players to try and outmaneuver their opponents. If you want to live a little bit more like Chewbacca then chess provides an accessible and similar strategic challenge, although there have actually been attempts to accurately recreate dejarik for human players.
Sabacc is a card game where the objective is to acquire a hand with a value of 23, or as close as possible. This naturally invites comparisons with blackjack, the classic game of 21 which is a fixture at online casinos in the USA and across the world. One of the reasons why blackjack is among America’s favorite casino games is because of its relatively simple rules. Reach a total of 21 with your cards and win; surpass 21 and go bust. The same is true in sabacc, where a player who exceeds 23 “bombs out” and loses the round.
There are many varieties of blackjack, including blackjack switch, but sabacc brings its own distinctive gameplay features to the table. While blackjack uses a standard deck of cards and pits a player against the dealer, sabacc relies on a 76-card-deck and can be played competitively by as many as eight players. That head-to-head gameplay was crucial in one notorious game of sabacc, which saw Han Solo prevail over Lando Calrissian and claim a particularly illustrious prize in the sabacc pot: the Millennium Falcon.
Even with all the technology at their disposal, Star Wars characters still choose to rely on a trusty cube to settle wagers. One type of chance cube features two colors spread equally across its six faces. Other chance cubes have distinctive pattern on each face, which makes them resemble common dice. Just as dice are the best way to fairly determine movements in a board game like Monopoly, rolling chance cubes is the best way to conclude wagers in an unbiased way.
At least, that’s the theory! In The Phantom Menace Watto and Qui-Gon Jinn use a chance cube to decide whether Anakin or his mother could be freed. Of course, a Jedi would never leave such a thing up to chance, with Jinn using telekinetic powers to ensure the cube landed on blue – meaning Anakin’s future would be at stake in the podrace.
The presence of Jedi powers is proof that games in Star Wars are not quite like our games, but you can clearly track the inspiration behind the likes of dejarik, sabacc, and chance cubes. While Star Wars characters might use holographic monsters as chess pieces and wager spaceships rather than chips when playing cards, the underlying gaming principles are certainly from this world.