As Star Wars fans, we know that we can be pretty nitpicky and divisive when it comes to the lore of our favorite franchise. We will forever argue about what’s canon and what should be canon, and if certain plot choices and lines of dialogue were genius or downright horrible.
But in the end, we’re all so passionate because we love Star Wars. We love it for the many worlds and characters that George Lucas, Dave Filoni, and other storytellers created. We also revel in all the tiny details which make this space opera seem so real.
When we talk about “details,” we mean it in every sense of the word. Star Wars lore is so nuanced and deep, that unbelievably, there are real rules for an in-universe card game known as Sabacc, which is only actually played on-screen three times: once in Star Wars Rebels, and twice in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Not only can you play sabacc in real life, but you can also choose from three different versions of it: traditional sabacc, Galaxy’s Edge sabacc, and the Han Solo Card Game.
Because why not?
But which game should I play, you may ask? And what are the differences between them? Well, friend, you’re in the right place. We explain all the differences between these three variations, why we need three versions in the first place, and which one you should pick up for game night.
How Many Variations Of Sabacc Are There?
This question requires two answers. That’s because there is the in-universe answer, and then there’s the real life one.
In-universe, there are around 80 canon variations of Sabacc. The best known version is played with a 76 card deck and considered traditional sabacc. This is the game you see Zeb Orrelios and Lando Calrissian playing in Star Wars Rebels. It’s also what Lando and Han Solo are playing when Han wins possession of the Millennium Falcon at the end of Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Another popular one uses the 62 card deck and is recently being referred to as Corellian Spike.
In real life, there are three main versions of sabacc you can buy: the traditional version with 76 cards (with many sellers offering beautiful card variations and designs), the Han Solo Card Game with 62 cards, and Galaxy’s Edge Sabacc with 62 cards.
Why Are There So Many Different Versions?
The first official version of Sabacc was released in 1989 by West End Games as part of their Star Wars RPG supplement, Crisis on Cloud City. It’s been around for a long time, and many fans prefer it over Corellian Spike because 1) it’s the original version (and we know how Star Wars fans love the original lore), and 2) it’s more challenging than the latter.
What about the Han Solo Card Game and Galaxy’s Edge Sabacc? Where did they come from?
The Han Solo Card Game, which is basically Corellian Spike Sabacc but simpler, was released in tandem with the premiere of the Solo movie in theaters. It’s obvious why Disney and Hasbro, who manufactured this version, would want to release a card game that ties into an important plot point of the movie.
Similarly, when Disney built Galaxy’s Edge, they probably wanted to sell a version of Sabacc that looks exactly like a deck you might find in the movies. It became part of their effort to enhance the immersive experience of the rest of the park.
What Are The Differences Between Them?
What makes these three sabacc games different from each other? We break it down below.
1. Traditional Sabacc
To Win: Get a score as close to 23 or – 23 as possible with the total value of cards in your hand.
The Game Pieces: 76-card deck, one pair of dice, credit replicas or chips for betting.
The Deck: Traditional Sabacc uses a deck of 76 cards. 60 of these cards are divided into four suits: Flasks, Sabers, Staves, and Coins. There are 15 cards in each suit, numbered 1-15. The last four of these are face cards.
The remaining 16 cards are divided into two sets of 8. They are negative/neutral cards, meaning they either have a negative value or they don’t affect the total of points in your hand at all. Each one has a different name and value, and we go into more detail about all the cards in this article about how to play the game.
The Setup: Before you start the game, a dealer must be chosen. This person will shuffle and deal the card deck throughout the game, as well as play. Everyone who gets a hand must pay a small amount into the sabacc pot.
Next, one of the players is assigned to pay the blind. The blind is a certain amount of money (or in this case, fake credits or some other tender you and the other players have previously agreed upon) that will kickstart the hand pots. At the beginning of the next hand, the blind rotates to a different player. That’s why it’s important to agree beforehand on how much the blind will be.
This version of sabacc is a betting game with two pots. The first one is called the hand pot and is won by the winner of each individual hand. The second one is the sabacc pot, and it’s won by the player who manages to get a true sabacc.
A true sabacc occurs when a player scores exactly 23 or -23 with the cards in their hand.
But there’s a way to beat this perfect score. If you have a 0, a 2, and a 3 – literally 23 – in your hand, you have what is known as an Idiot’s Array. This beats a 23 or -23 every time.
Another hand called the Fairy Empress, which is two -2 cards or -22, will always beat another person’s score of 22 or -22. But if you play a Fairy Empress, you will only win the hand pot, not the sabacc pot.
The Rounds: The game of Sabacc is divided into hands, which are composed of 3 rounds: a betting round, a trading round, and a dice round.
In the betting round, you can bet, check, raise, or fold your hand.
In the trading round, you may perform one of three actions: draw a card; trade a card, as in discard one from your own hand and draw a new one from the deck; or do nothing, which is called “standing.”
Finally, in the dice round, the dealer rolls the dice. If they each land on the same face, then that is indicates a sabacc shift. Every player must turn their cards in to the dealer, who will deal them a whole new hand of cards.
If the dice do not land on the same faces, then the dice round is over, and you start over again.
Winning the Game: These three rounds may be repeated indefinitely until a player finally has a total value close to 23 or -23 that they believe will win. They must wait for the trading round, and when it is their turn, they must call out, “Alderaan!” and place their cards face up on the table.
If there are any players who have not completed their trading turn yet, they may do so. Then, if any of them have a hand equal to or closer to 23 or -23 than the Alderaan player, they should lay their cards down and claim victory. If they achieve exactly 23 or -23, then they also win the Sabacc pot.
As always, an Idiot’s Array trumps over all other scores.
If there is a tie between two or more players, then the dealer must draw a card for each player and turn it face up next to their current hands. The value of the new cards must be added to the original ones. Whoever is closest to 23 or -23 is the winner of the hand pot.
If, however, one or all of them “bomb out,” or get a total above 23 or below -23, then they must pay 10% of the hand pot to the sabacc pot, and the person who won the tie also wins the hand pot.
If all the players in the tie bomb out, then the entire hand pot is added to the sabacc pot.
2. The Han Solo Card Game
To Win: Get a score as close as possible to 0 with the total value of cards in your hand.
The Game Pieces: 62-card deck, one pair of dice, and 24 cardboard bounty tokens.
The Deck: In the Han Solo Card Game, there are 30 green cards with positive values 1-10 and 30 red cards with negative values 1-10. The last two remaining blue cards are worth zero.
Unlike traditional sabacc, the cards in this variation don’t have any special suits or unique faces. This may seem like a cheat, but it actually makes the game much simpler to play.
The Setup: Once again, you must choose one player to be the dealer. This person deals out two cards to each player (including themselves) Next they must draw bounty tokens equal to the number of players from the pile and place them face up on the table. These tokens are the rewards you are playing to win, and they will determine the victor at the end of the game.
The Rounds: Instead of three rounds, you must only play through two rounds.
In the first one, you may draw a card, trade a card, or discard. In the second, the dealer rolls the dice. If they land on the same face, a sabacc shift occurs, and all players must discard their current hand so the dealer can give them a new one.
You probably already noticed that there is no betting round in the Han Solo Card Game. This version is a bit watered down, probably so that Disney is not accused of encouraging young Star Wars fans to gamble.
Winning the Game: The drawing and dice rounds are repeated a total of three times. At the end of the third pass, all players must lay their hands faceup on the table. Whoever has a score closest to 0 is the winner of that hand and gets first pick from the tokens.
The winner should choose the token with the highest value. The reason is that the game will continue until all the tokens have been distributed to their winners and runners-up. In the end, the player with the highest added-up value in tokens is the overall victor.
If there is a tie, then the person with a positive score is the winner. If the tied players all have the same positive score, then the winner is determined by who has the highest positive value card in their hand. For example, if one of the tied players holds a card with a value of 3, and the other person’s highest card is a 2, then the first player wins.
In this version of sabacc, then, the goal is to collect the tokens with the highest values. There isn’t as much emphasis placed on the cards themselves as there is in the traditional variation of the game.
3. Galaxy’s Edge Sabacc
To Win: Achieve a score as close to 0 as possible with the total value of the cards in your hand.
The Game Pieces: 62-card deck, one pair of dice.
The Deck: The Galaxy’s Edge version of sabacc comes with 62 cards, just like the Han Solo Game. Similarly, 30 of the cards are green and hold positive values of 1-10, and the 30 of them are red with negative values of 1-10. The extra two cards are dark green and are worth zero.
The 60 cards are divided into three separate suits: squares, triangles, and circles. But this fact has absolutely no bearing on the game whatsoever. They seem to have been added in more for looks than any sort of practical use.
The Setup: As with the other two versions, you must choose one player to be the dealer. That person must deal every player, including themselves, two cards each.
The Rounds: With respect to gameplay, Galaxy’s Edge Sabacc is exactly like the Han Solo Card Game. You play two rounds, a drawing and a dice round, and you repeat them a total of three times.
Winning the Game: At the end of the game, whoever’s total hand value is closest to 0 is the victor. The same tiebreaking rules as the Han Solo Card Game apply here.
The most glaring difference between both the previous two versions of sabacc we covered and this one is there are no winnings in this game. No credits, no chips, not even cardboard bounty tokens. I guess the bragging rights are the most important part anyway, right?
Which Version Of Sabacc Is The Best?
As for which version of sabacc is the best, we still love the original (you can buy our version of it here). It’s a little longer and a little more complicated than the other two, but it’s more fun and comes with bigger stakes.
However, if you’re looking for something simple and easy to play with the kids, we absolutely recommend the Han Solo Card Game. It embodies the spirit of sabacc with the bounty token winnings, and there’s still a little bit of a challenge to it.
The Galaxy’s Edge version of sabacc still has its place. In our opinion, part of the point of this game is that you win something at the end. But this is a great starter game that doesn’t feel like a kid’s game and can segue you into traditional sabacc. This happened with some friends of ours. They were used to playing Galaxy’s Edge sabacc and just changed it a little to add gambling. One night we wanted to show them the traditional deck. They were hooked and didn’t want to go back. They said that they would teach newbies the Galaxy’s Edge version first before introducing the more complicated traditional version.