Lord of the Board

Spreading the love of board games one meeple at a time




Shut-the-Box is a very simple game to play. Players roll the dice and flip numbers down (eliminate them) based on the numbers rolled. For example, if a player rolls an 8 he or she can flip down 8, 5 and 3, or 3, 4, 1, or numbers that equal 8. A round ends when the player rolls the dice, but cannot put any more tiles down from the numbers rolled, or when all the tiles are down.

Flip the tiles down based on the numbers you roll.

Shut-the-Box can be played for a set number of rounds or until a point total is reached. The winner is the player with the fewest points at the end. Players can compete against each other for the best score, or work towards personal bests. The ultimate goal is to be able to “shut the box” when all the number tiles have been flipped down.

Shut-the-Box holds a special place in my heart. I remember playing it at my grandparent’s house when I was young, and it always reminds me of them, and of my childhood. Aside from my own emotional attachment to the game, Shut-the-Box really is a great game to play. It’s simple to learn, fast to play, and surprisingly engaging. You can play the game in minutes but often find I keep at it in hopes of getting a clean board (all my numbers flipped down in one round).

I bought my copy of Shut-the-Box in Bremen, Germany at the annual winter fair (it was the 975th anniversary of the fair), in the “Medieval” section from a man who sold wooden toys and games. Buying the game on a cold winter night, at a medieval fair in Germany, sipping gluwhein (yup, I was a little tipsy), probably didn’t help to quell any nostalgic notions I already held about the game.

I bought the game in the Historic Market part of the fair.

On this trip, in an attempt to make our travel dollars go as far as possible, my wife and I were using Ryan Air as our mode of transport across Europe. And to stretch our dollar even further (okay, we were being cheap), my wife insisted that we save the 20 euros they charge for checked luggage, and only have carry-on luggage during our trip. That, and for reasons that have never been fully explained to me, my wife’s family has a strict “no checked luggage” policy.

Well, in theory that is fine, but Ryan Air also has strict baggage policies – including weight restrictions and only one carry-on bag per person. That meant that when it came time to board our flight out of Germany, I had many (heavy) things shoved in the pockets of my rain coat, including my new Shut-the-Box game. When the time came to go through security I diligently remove the coins from my pocket, my belt and my coat and slid them through the x-ray. Then, I get the finger (not that one), you know, the index finger beckoning, “come here.”
The security guard brings me to my jacket and asks, “sir, is this your coat?”
My mouth confirms it is mine, but my eyes scream “don’t strip search me!”
“Please remove the contents of the pocket.”
I took everything out of my pockets: my wallet, my passport, some gum, a hairbrush, a paperback novel, two travel journals, three bags of Haribo gummy bears, four fridge magnets, some drink coasters and, Shut-the-Box.
The security guard picks up the box and turns it over a few times, “what is it?” he asks.
“Um, well, it’s a game.” Now he looks intrigued.
He passes it back to me, “let’s see.”
I open the box and show him the inside: the soft green lining, numbered wooden tiles, and two little dice. He looks intrigued and asks, “what game is this?”
“It’s Shut-the-Box,” I say, and before he can ask anything else, I find myself explaining the rules and showing him how to play. I even let him roll a couple of times. Eventually, satisfied with my explanation of gameplay, and my lecture on why it’s a great game, the security guard lets me go on my way.  And, honestly, I like to believe that he went out that night and bought himself a copy of the game.*

Me playing a dice rolling game to win some eel at the fair – wearing my jacket with all the pockets.

(*The story told from the perspective of my wife, Krista:
Why is Justin taking so long with that security guard? Oh, great, he’s playing Shut-the-Box with airport security).

I sometimes turn my 12 number version into a 9 number version

The version of Shut-the-Box that I own has twelve numbers that players need to eliminate to win. Other versions of the game, like the one I played as a child, have only nine numbers in the box. I prefer to play with nine numbers because it is really hard to roll double six’s to eliminate the 12 or really anything above 10. Because there have to be two six’s rolled to eliminate the 12, more luck is involved in the twelve number version. In the nine number version, less luck is involved because a skillful player can often eliminate all the numbers with number combinations of the dice rolls, without relying on a specific roll.

Shut-the-Box is a very simple game, and you could easily make your own version if you had a pair of dice and a need to be entertained. Its simplicity is part of its charm and while I don’t play it often, it is a good game to have on hand for when you take trips, for killing a bit of time and, of course, for playing with grandkids.


2 comments on “Shut-the-Box

  1. Jennerosity
    May 30, 2012

    I have foggy memories of a similar dice game we used to play; no fancy box, just with paper and pen.

    Also, we usually travel with a carry-on only policy and it’s great! Though depending on how our souvenir shopping went, we sometimes have to check things on the return flight. Like a replica rifle we bought in Kyoto. Which also led to an interesting discussion with airport security.

  2. Steaks
    May 30, 2012

    I’ll explain Justin – we have a crazy father who never wanted to wait for baggage claim. I didn’t even realize this was weird until I reached adulthood.

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This entry was posted on May 29, 2012 by in Reviewed Games.
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