Colby tradition, a dieing culture

Did you know that Beer Die was created at Colby in 1978 by a group of students? If not, you’re not alone. In a recent survey, only 47 percent of participants knew this fact about Colby’s history. So what happened to the Colby legacy that used to be a prevalent feature of the Colby culture? And why do so few people know about what used to be one of Colby’s greatest traditions? This is because beer die is no longer the popular game it once was due to structural and institutional changes. What was once part of a widespread social culture is now just something freshmen hear about when they see the dice under their doors during orientation. Only 52 percent of respondents had played beer die, yet 97 percent have played or play other drinking games. So what is it about beer die that has people no longer interested?

The answer is nothing: it’s not about the game.

The game of beer die hasn’t changed since 1978. Yet, something about Colby’s culture is not the same. What has changed in the past 15 years that has made Beer Die go from being “a proud trademark of the campus social scene” and a game where the rules were included in the 2002 Colby Echo Freshman Orientation edition to a game that most students don’t play today?

Colby students and recent alumni reported disliking Beer Die because they believed it to be too slow, boring, not including enough players and not as active as other games. But the dislike of beer die is strongly correlated with the changing institutional culture at Colby. The structure of our night life has driven us increasingly behind closed doors to pregame in short periods of time. We are on tighter schedules to be at places by certain times, like catching the buses to go off-campus, and the access to alcohol is often limited once students start mobilizing. Drinking games often seem to be about getting as drunk as possible in the shortest amount of time, which is why games such as flip cup, slap cup, beer pong and civil war are some of the most popular drinking games Colby students play, according to survey data.

Changes in Colby’s alcohol policies also help to account for the decline of plunks and bizzes campus wide.  We know from the past that Colby’s alcohol policies reflect the current conditions of the school; however, with each new policy change there becomes more restrictions. There have been at least three major policy changes since 1988: a ban of kegs in dorm rooms, a ban of drinking games on campus, and a hard-alcohol ban. In 1990, in light of growing frustration at Colby’s first attempts of cracking down on alcohol, students engaged in a sit-in for the right to party after security tried to shut down a 700-person party in Foss dining hall that had surpassed fire code occupancy.

Today, the Colby Handbook allows only up to 18 students to congregate in quads, 5 person rooms and 6 person rooms. Yet, in reality, the rules are broken every Friday and Saturday night in the Apartments.  If the school wants to prevent binge drinking, why don’t they sanction safer drinking environments such as beer die tournaments that encourage more responsible drinking and foster a community aspect that harnesses tradition? 60 percent of participants said they would play in a beer die tournament. So let’s create this space for them to do it. As an Echo writer said in 2000, “Remember that beer die is not just a game but rather a piece of time honored history.”

But is beer die the only tradition to disappear as our institution changes? What other impacts will we see from current and future institutional changes? We have already gotten rid of mobile parties. We are getting rid of Loudness because it is too associated with heavy drinking and excessive dorm damage. What’s next to go? Pig Roast? Mustachio Bashio? Doghead?

The culture has changed, but the game hasn’t. So, perhaps the question is: how do we keep our Colby social traditions alive, yet still adhere to the new institutional rules and realities that reflect the student experience? For now, the answer remains unclear.

For those students out there who don’t know how to play and want to embrace the Colby legacy and bring back the tradition of beer die, here are the rules from the creator of beer die and the Colby Echo Freshman Orientation edition from 2002:

Beer Die Rules


  • 2 players on each end of the table
  • Beer cups are placed about one forearm in from the end and a hand from the side of the table….filled with beer
  • Oldest person at the table starts

The Toss:

  • The die is tapped twice on the table and then thrown underhand towards the other player’s cups
  • The toss must go as high as it goes far
  • If the toss doesn’t hit the table, you drink
  • If a tossed die hits the opposing team’s cup without going in, it’s a plink
  • A plink is a drink UNLESS the die is caught before it hits the ground
  • Catching must be done with one hand only and no body trapping allowed

Bizz and Buzz:

  • During the game, the numbers 5 and 7 should be referred to as bizz and buzz, respectively.
  • If you say the numbers in any context you must finish your beer and refill to continue playing.

The Plunk:

  • If one team throws the die and it lands in a cup belonging to the opposing team, it is called a plunk.
  • The team that was plunked must drink and refill.


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