We sit down with founder Cosmo Fry and his son Orson to hear more about the game that everyone is talking about
By Anish Patel
If you see a group of members shaking little leather-bound cups at 180 Strand, roaring with laughter as bellows of ‘Dudo!’ fill the House, chances are they’re playing Perudo: a version of the traditional South American multi-player dice game that’s all about calling people’s bluff. It first appeared in the UK in 1982, courtesy of Cosmo Fry, who knew it would appeal to the nation’s appetite for game playing.
As we shake off the limitations of lockdown and a year of connecting with people through Zoom, there’s no better time to put Perudo back on the table. That’s why we’ve introduced Perudo Nights at 180 Strand, with the aim of reconnecting people through physical interaction, a bit of fun, and a lot of laughter.
What were your initial thoughts when you first played the game?
Cosmo Fry: ‘I was spellbound. I joined a group of 100+ middle-age golfers playing Perudo during a rain break in Lima, drinking Pisco Sours, and eating empanadas. Five hours later it was still raining and we were still playing Perudo, or Dudo, as the game is often called in Peru.’
Orson Fry: ‘I can’t remember as I must have been very young, but there was no looking back. I probably thought this is much more fun than playing Twister with the family.’
How does the game bring people together?
CF: ‘Perudo is dynamic, kind to beginners, and everyone loves a license to lie.’
OF: ‘The rattle of the dice is infectious.’
Why do you think it’s appealing to people of all ages?
CF: ‘Perudo appeals to people with short attention spans, typically the very young and old. A good game of Perudo is fast, with no time to get bored.’
Why did you decide to bring it to the UK in 1982?
CF: ‘I saw an opportunity to have a lot of fun.’
Why do you think traditional games are having a renaissance at the moment?
CF: ‘Simple format, instant attention grab, stand the test of time. Most games have a two to three-year life span, peak and disappear; good games last forever.’
OF: ‘I think people ran out of conversation during lockdown.’
How much of it is based on the original South American game, Dudo?
CF: ‘It’s pretty close, there was no need to change much. However, in the months ahead we will be introducing a few new tweaks largely involving the recent intro of the dice bin.’
Do you think that people are eager to connect in real life again after a year of interacting over Zoom?
CF: ‘100%, although games have thrived throughout the pandemic and Perudo sales have been brilliant. People just want to chat and have some fun.’
OF: ‘Perudo doesn’t really work on Zoom, especially if there’s any kind of connection issue. You need to be able to read people’s bluffs. That’s harder to do over a Zoom call.’
How does Perudo fit into a good night out?
CF: ‘It loves a late night out, larks about, makes friends easily, often picks up the tab, and is always last to bed!’
OF: ‘For me, it’s the best way to start or end a night. No dinner is complete without it. It’s like cheese –everyone loves it.’
What are your tips for having a believable poker face?
CF: ‘I wear fake glasses with special lenses, but it’s what you’re wearing that counts most. Rowland Rivron once said Perudo is 90% chance and 10% what you’re wearing. We think these odds are reversed.’
OF: ‘I find bluffing is as much about the voice and how you sound when making a call, as it is about your poker face. Make a call quickly, and with conviction, and you’ll convince the person next to you. Any hesitancy in your voice invites a Dudo, and could cost you.’
Who can always tell your poker face?
CF: ‘No one, I have more than one.’
OF: ‘My friend Jeremy, he’s a great poker player. Perudo is poker’s South American cousin, it’s all about the bluff.’
Who would be on your dream Perudo table?
CF: ‘My sister Minna. She’s the best, so is banned from all competitions. Felipe Sanguinetti, because he's Argentinian and a god. Helena Christensen, because she’s my pin-up and half Peruvian. Eric Cantona, because he’s very cool and would play with “serious attitude”. Final pick, a total stranger. Newbies are always a secret weapon; no one knows how they will play. We would be sure to win, but bring the house down if we didn’t.’
OF: ‘Mine would be Oscar Wilde – he’d make dice calling an art form and would be hugely entertaining. Bob Dylan – we don’t even have to play Perudo, I just want to meet him. Didier Drogba – I’m a big Chelsea fan and have a suspicion that he’d love Perudo. My friend Harry, just so there’s some semblance of normality to this very strange table, and my girlfriend. If she’s not available, then Lily James.
What’s your drink of choice when playing?
CF: ‘Cerveza with a lime wedge.’
OF: ‘Pisco Sour. It’s Peruvian water.’
The rules of the game
Perudo can be played with two or more players.
Each player starts with a cup and five dice.
Players throw one die to see who starts.
To begin, each player simultaneously shakes the cup and then upends it onto the table using it to conceal their dice from other players.
Having looked at their dice, the first player makes a call based on how many dice of a certain number there may be under all the cups. They have to bear in mind two factors:
1. The total quantity of dice on the table. For example, if there are six players (total of 30 dice), the law of averages suggests there should be at least (for example) five twos. The odds for the other numbers are the same. What you have under your cup can dictate what you ‘bid’. So, if you have three fives, that means you can call heavy on the fives. But then of course you can bluff.
2. All ‘ones’ are wild, so they can be used as any number. This means that when the dice are being counted at the end of a round, ‘ones’ contribute to the number of whatever call is in question. This factor, along with the open license to bluff, distorts all the ‘laws of averages’ and opens the door further to skill, guile, and a big slice of beginner’s luck.
Once the call (let’s say five twos) is made, the next player can do one of two things. They can either accept the bid or call ‘Dudo’ (which means ‘I doubt’ in Spanish.) If they accept the bid (i.e. deem it plausible), they must raise the call by either calling the same quantity of a higher number, say five threes, or a greater quantity of any number, say six fours. But if they call ‘Dudo’, then the round stops and the players lift their cups in turn (starting with the person who called ‘Dudo’) and the dice are counted, including the ‘ones’. If the total adds up to or exceeds the bid doubted, the challenger loses a die. If the count is less than the bid, then the bidder loses a die.
Perudo is a game of guesswork, bluff, luck and no small amount of skill. You win and lose dice until there is only one person remaining with any dice, and he or she is the winner of that hand.