Sabacc: an abridged history

The history of Sabacc in the real world is a long and muddled tale. However, in attempting to create an authentic Sabacc variant for SWG, I spent a good deal of time determining what exactly the “correct” way to play Sabacc was. So my goals in writing down this history are twofold. One, I wanted to fend off the angry emails from folks who thought that I was teaching people to play Sabacc the “wrong” way. Secondly, I hope to put this abridged history in one place so that others don’t need to search all over the web to determine why there is so much confusion about this simple game. As many of you may know, Sabacc gained it’s notoriety in the Star Wars saga, as the card game in which Lando Calrissian lost the Millennium Falcon to Han Solo. Furthermore, the game has been used in the plots of several Extended Universe books. Unfortunately, neither the movies nor any other officially-recognized “cannon” source of information provides any information on how to play the game of Sabacc. There is no single EU book that describes the game in enough detail that there are not holes in the rules gleaned from these books. In fact, some of the EU descriptions flatly contradict each other when put to the test. Additionally, it is a generally accepted fact that many variants of the game Sabacc exist throughout the Star Wars Universe, each of which can have different rules, and even different cards. Given that kind of introduction, the quest to seek out the “true” rules of Sabacc (generally called “standard Sabacc”) seems rather hopeless. Fortunately, in early 1990 West End Games came out with a campaign for the Stars Wars RP game called “Crisis in Cloud City”. Included with this adventure book were sheets of perforated cardstock on which Sabacc cards were printed, and the “official” rules for Sabacc. These rules did not try to account for every situation described in the EU books, but instead included solid playable rules for a fun card game that could be enjoyed by role-players and Star Wars fans alike. It is this rule set that Egna’s Variant attempts to utilize, and is generally considered the “right” way to play standard Sabacc. If you would like to see the original card images, I suggest poking around on the net a bit. I would not feel right hosting those images without the permission of the copyright holders. However, in the interest of history I have linked a transcribed copy of the out of print rules here Our story is not over though. In 1995 or so, one Marc J.S. posted another set of rules on Usenet from the email address. This set of rules is sometimes referred to as the dagobah rules of Sabacc. These rules can still be found around the net and are quite detailed. The dagobah rules include cards and rules for different variants of Sabacc, including “Rebel Alliance Rules”, “Old Republic Rules”, and the infamous “Cloud City Casino Rules”. These rule sets attempt to explain some of the conflicting information found in the EU books, and is generally an enjoyable if not somewhat complicated manner of playing Sabacc. The reason the dagobah rules are important historically, is that they became closely tied in with the Sabacc games that were programmed in the late 90’s. Throughout the 90’s, people had taken what rules they had available at the time, and worked to create computer programs that would allow people to play Sabacc against a computer dealer or computer AI players. As far as I know, no one created and released a computer game that would allow multiple real players to play Sabacc on the computer, or over the web. As these games were developed, the majority used some form of the dagobah rules to govern the game play. As online games became more popular, the dagobah rules became well-known, and are integral to the game play found in one of the most popular Sabacc games today. I hope you’ve found this short history interesting, and invite you to send any additional information or clarifications to
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