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Going into Solo: A Star Wars Story, fans were excited to see two iconic moments from Han’s backstory. His allegedly record-breaking journey through the Kessel Run, and the game of Sabacc where he won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian. That second one is particularly intriguing because it could answer an ongoing question in Star Wars fandom: How do you actually play Sabacc?
What is Sabacc, the Star Wars card game?
Sabacc is the Star Wars universe’s answer to poker. It’s a high-stakes card game, originating in the vintage tie-in novel Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu. Since it didn’t appear in the movies, it was erased from canon when Disney dumped the old Expanded Universe in 2014. But it was incorporated back into the new Star Wars canon with more recent tie-in novels, going on to play a key role in Solo. You could say that Han and Lando’s entire relationship began with this game.
Han and Lando’s Sabacc showdown is a popular piece of Star Wars lore, inspired by a line that got cut from The Empire Strikes Back. The original story saw Han and Lando face off during a tournament in Cloud City, but Solo goes a different route. To get a closer look at the scene, you can watch a 360-degree clip on YouTube, or (seriously) check out this Denny’s commercial.
How to play Sabacc from Solo at home
Like the holographic strategy game Dejarik, Sabacc appears onscreen without an in-depth explanation of the rules. That’s fine from a narrative standpoint because Han and Lando’s game follows the same formula as a casino scene in a Bond movie. We don’t need to understand the details to follow what’s going on.
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Various tie-in books and games have offered their own take on Sabacc, with the most definitive version arriving in the 1989 tabletop game Crisis on Cloud City. Within the new canon, you’ll find a semi-official (albeit simplified) version of those rules. Fans at the 2015 Star Wars Celebration convention received free decks of Sabacc cards, based Crisis on Cloud City. Disney hasn’t released a commercial version, although it did sue an app developer in 2017 for attempting to launch a Sabacc mobile game.
If you want to play Sabacc yourself, Wookieepedia has a guide to the rules from that 2015 Star Wars Celebration deck. You may have to make your own cards, since it can’t be replicated with a normal 52-card deck. The goal is to build a hand that’s worth either 23 or negative 23 points. As for Han’s famous gold dice, they’re from a permutation of the game called “Corellian Spike.” Sabacc will appeal to fans of poker and blackjack, whereas Dejarik is more for chess players.
In Solo, the cards look different from the traditional rectangles most fans imagined. Han and Lando play with narrow, six-sided cards instead. It’s a more distinctive look, and Hasbro replicated it for a kid-friendly commercial card game. Titled “Han Solo Card Game,” adult fans probably wouldn’t describe it as a “real” version of Sabacc, although it’s clearly inspired by the scene in the movie.
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We won’t be surprised if Disney releases a more canon-specific version of the game later on. But if the “official” rules turn out to be different from the ones you learned from Wookieepedia, don’t get sweat it. Sabacc is played all over the galaxy, and there’s plenty of room for variation.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor