The game required a large cloak or velvet cloth; a set of five six-sided dice; and two skulls, one of which had had the top sawed off. The intact skull was placed on the center of the cloak or cloth.
A target number (most often 36) was agreed upon by the players. They would then take bets on who would reach the target number first, and sometimes these bets were modified if the target was reached by a certain number of rolls.
The game was played in turns. On his or her turn, each player would shake the dice within the skull with a sawed-off top and pour them onto the top of the remaining skull. All dice must hit the skull and land on the cloth. If they did not, they had to be shaken and poured again.
After a valid roll, the value of the dice was added to the players running total. If the player rolled doubles, he or she could instead reroll one or both of the dice. If triples or quadruples were rolled, he or she could instead roll all three or four of the dice, respectively. If all five dice showed the same number, that player won the game instantly.
One had to reach the target number exactly. The first time that a player exceeded the target number, he or she immediately rerolled all five dice and subtracted their value from his or her running total. On every turn after that, such players could only roll one die, and if they ever exceeded the target value again, that roll was simply ignored.