Shut the Box is a dice game popular in Continental Europe, Great Britain, and the former British Colony of Zambia. Some claims about the origin of the game date back to the 12th century, when William the Bastard of Normandy invaded England and named himself King.
It is said, traditionally, that the game followed William and the commanders in his army, spreading to the English people via their new French Lords.
How to Play Shut the Box?
2-4 Players can participate in a game of Shut the Box.
- Pen and Paper
- Two Six-Sided Dice
- Proprietary Box for playing the game.
- A set of tiles/tokens numbered 1-9 (Optional)
Shut the Box is traditionally played with a special box that can be closed in half for easy transport, which holds the dice inside and even provides a convenient place to toss the dice. This box is simply referred to as “The Box.”
The Box is not a necessary component, although people who expect to play regularly should invest in such a Box. It facilitates the Pick-up/Pub Game style of play, making it far easier to play with strangers as originally intended.
If one does not have a box, a set of tiles or cards numbered 0-9 on one side will suffice. Players can simply flip them face-down. If they are two-sided, Players can simply remove them from the table.
Shut the Box, if played for gambling purposes, involves the use of money as a “Stake.” Players each put up an agreed-upon, equal amount of money into a pile in the middle of the table.
The game can even be played solitaire, although no money is at stake in such a game.
Once each Player has put up their money, players will roll both dice to determine their turn order.
- Higher rolls take earlier turns, the highest going first and the lowest going last.
- If there is a tie between two or more Players, those Players will participate in a tiebreaker by re-rolling both dice.
Once the turn order has been determined, the game begins.
- Players will sit in front of the Box, which has levers or hinges (similar to the popular game Guess Who) denoting the numbers 1-9.
- These numbers will be matched with the sum of the Player’s dice-roll, and flipped down or “Shut” as they match.
The aim of Shut the Box is for players to lower or close number tiles that equal the sum of their dice rolls during their turn.
For example, Player 1 rolls a 7. Player 1 therefore may choose which numbers to shut that add up to 7. Player 1 could shut 7, on its own. They could also shut the following combinations of numbers: 1 and 6, 2 and 5, 3 and 4.
Players that were able to shut at least one number are allowed to roll again during the same turn. Players roll until they get a roll that cannot shut any numbers. At this point, their turn is ended.
Players tally the total of Open Numbers, as opposed to Shut, and that becomes their score. So, if Player 1 left 9, 6, and 3 still Open at the end of their turn, then they scored an 18.
Players must roll both dice so long as the 7, 8, and 9 are still Open. Once those numbers have been shut, Players are free to roll only a single die.
Ending the Game
Each Player is only given one full turn. Once a Player cannot shut any more numbers, their turn has ended and their score is tallied. Once the last Player takes their turn, scores are compared and the lowest score wins all of the Stakes.
If there is a tie, the Stakes are evenly split among the tying Players.
Shutting The Box
There is another way to end the game before all Players have finished their turns. “Shutting the Box” is a gameplay mechanic that grants immediate victory (and ownership of the Stakes) to any Player who shuts the last remaining Open number on The Box.
Once the game has ended, either by Shutting the Box or each Player finishing their turn, the Stakes are paid to the appropriate Player.
If the Players wish, new Stakes can be put up, and a new game can begin.
Shut the Box is scored in two different ways.
- There are the Game Points, which determine the winner of a game by the end of the Round.
- There is also the monetary “score”, in case it is played as a gambling game.
Game Points are scored at the end of a Player’s roll, with the remaining un-shut numbers totaled together, and given to the Player. Since the Player with the lowest score is the winner, Players aim to have as few numbers remaining at the end of their turn as possible.
The monetary score is more or less a way to measure the overall performance of a Player in the meta-game.
Players that walk away from Shut the Box with more money than they approached with are therefore winners, regardless of the number of individual games they played, the scores of those games, or their Win/Loss record in those games.
Shut the Box Rules Summary
You can find the key takeaways of the rules below:
- Players shut their numbers by rolling the Dice. The possible sums of the dice roll are used to shut matching numbers.
- Players’ turns end when they cannot shut any numbers from their roll. Players are only given a single turn in which to play.
- At the end of their turn, all the remaining Open numbers will be totaled together, and becomes that Player’s score. Lowest Score Wins.
- Players can win the whole game automatically if they manage to shut the last remaining number.
Suppose you are playing a game of Shut The Box, and you are going second. The Shut numbers are 9, 4, and 3.
You roll your Dice and receive:
This means there is a decision for you to make. 11 can be Split in a number of ways:
- 8 and 3
- 7 and 4
- 5 and 6
Although 9 and 2 also forms 11, 9 is already taken and 2 is very easy to shut. 10 and 1 also form 11, but the 10 is not on the Box, so you would only be closing 1. Since the other three options above shut two numbers at once, they are the superior choices.
Consider that 8 and 7 are not only higher numbers and therefore harder to roll for, but once the 7, 8, and 9 are shut the second dice can be set aside.
Rolling with a single die will likely increase your odds of achieving desirable numbers. Shutting the 7 and 8 first gives the highest probability of shutting the whole Box, winning the game. Furthermore, 7 is the most common roll when using two dice. As such, the odds of rolling another 7 are higher than rolling another 8.
Therefore, shut the 8 and 3 to maximize the probability of success.
It would be possible to combine more than 2 numbers, such as 3, 2, and 5. However, getting the higher numbers shut first is a priority. They are harder to roll for, and if left Open can potentially destroy your score.
Strategy and Tips
Going first can be very risky. Since your score is tallied at the end of your roll, and high scores are bad, the First Player has the highest chance of getting the highest score. However, going first confers certain advantages.
- Primarily, the First Player has the opportunity, if the Dice roll well, to win the game before any other Players can even take their turn.
- Secondarily, the First Player will always be able to take two rolls. As the first roll is on a fresh board and will therefore always shut some of the numbers, the first Player is guaranteed a second roll.
While it may seem that going last would have only advantages, keep in mind that it is actually more dangerous to go last.
If you are the last Player, and there are only a few numbers left on the board, you must roll the exact number needed in order to lower your score. Otherwise, you will tie with the last Player able to shut a number and split the money.