Shut the Box is a traditional dice game that has remained popular for centuries. It only requires two dice and a simple board, but it provides a good amount of strategy.
Alternate Names for Shut the Box
The dice game of Shut the Box is also known by other names. These include:
One to Nine
Batten Down the Hatches
Shut the Box Game Summary
Object of the Game
The object of the game of Shut the Box is to “shut” as many numbers as possible and become the player with the lowest score.
To play Shut the Box, you'll need the following components:
- Two 6-sided dice.
- Nine chips or glass stones or some kind of markers.
- An app or a notepad and pencil for keeping score.
- One or more dice cups (optional)
- A playing board with nine boxes on it numbered 1 to 9. (Some boxed versions of the game provide you with the numbers on wooden paddles that you can then slide or flip in place of using markers, but the game can easily be played with a board that you print or create yourself.)
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Number of Players
Shut the Box can be played by any number of players but is best with 2 to 5.
How to Play Shut the Box
The following rules represent the most standard or traditional version of the game, but there are many, many variations to allow you to alter the game if you should choose (see below).
Set the markers in the center of the table so they can be easily accessed by all players. Choose a starting player and give them the two dice. After the first player completes their turn, play will progress clockwise around the table.
Important terminology: Each box on the board that contains a number is called a number-space. When you cover a number-space with a marker, you have “shut” that number-space. If a player is able to cover all nine number-spaces on their turn, they have “shut the box” and they score 0 points for that turn (which is a good thing!).
To begin your turn, place the empty board in front of you and roll the two dice. You may then take one of the following two actions:
each die individually
If the numbers on the two dice are different from each other, and if both number-spaces on the board that match the numbers on the dice are not currently shut, then you may shut each of those number-spaces.
the sum of both dice
If the number-space that matches the sum of the two dice is not currently shut, you may shut that number-space.
If you are able to perform one of these two actions, you may then continue your turn by rolling both dice again. If you were unable to perform either action, then your turn is over.
At the end of your turn, sum up all the number-spaces that have not been shut. Record that result. Keep a running total of each player's score.
If you succeed in shutting number-spaces 7, 8, and 9 on your turn, and your turn has not ended, you have the option of rolling only a single die instead of both dice. If you do roll a single die and the number-space matching the number you rolled is shut, then your turn ends.
Play continues for five rounds so that each player will get five turns in total, and then a winner is determined. (See Winning Shut the Box below.)
On the first throw of your turn, you roll a 3 and a 5. You decide to use the sum of both dice and so you shut the “8” number-space. Since you were able to perform one of the two turn actions, you roll the dice again. This time you get a 5 and a 6. The sum of 5 + 6 is 11, and since there is no “11” number-space, you have to place one marker in the “5” number-space and one marker in the “6” number-space. You roll the dice a third time, and this time you get a 1 and a 5. You are unable to use both dice individually, because the “5” number-space is already shut, and you can't use the sum of the two dice since the “6” number-space is also already shut. This ends your turn and so you clear the board and pass it and the dice to the next player.
Winning Shut the Box
The player with the lowest total score at the end of five rounds is the winner.
Shut the Box Rules Variations
The game rules of Shut the Box can be altered in many ways to provide exciting changes every time you play.
Always Sum is one of the most commonly played variants of Shut the Box. In this version of the game, you never use the numbers on the two dice separately. You roll both dice and then always sum them together. Then, you may shut any uncovered number-spaces on the board that add up to the sum of the two dice.
For example, if you rolled a 3 and a 6 on the first roll of your turn, you could shut any one of the following combinations of number-spaces:
- 4, 3, and 2
- 5, 3, and 1
- 5 and 4
- 6, 2, and 1
- 6 and 3
- 7 and 2
- 8 and 1
As in the standard rules, as long as you are able to continue shutting number-spaces after each roll, your turn continues.
Also as in the standard rules, you may choose to only roll a single die if you have managed to shut number-spaces 7, 8, and 9 during your turn.
Always Sum Duo
The Always Sum Duo variant plays like the Always Sum variant except that on your turn you must shut exactly two number-spaces whose sum is equal to the total of both dice. So for example, if you rolled a 3 and a 6 on your turn, you would have the option of shutting any one of the following combinations of number-spaces:
- 5 and 4
- 6 and 3
- 7 and 2
- 8 and 1
Note that in this variant, it is not possible to shut all the boxes. One will always remain open.
In this variant, if a player is able to shut the box (cover all the number-spaces) during their turn, they immediately win the game.
In this game variant, the board consists of a full 12 number-spaces instead of only 9 number-spaces.
The Long Game
In this two player variant, the first player begins by playing as normal, and both dice are always rolled every turn. When the first player's turn ends, the board is not reset but instead the other player rolls the dice and attempts to “open” all the number-spaces that have been shut. Rolling doubles provides a player with an additional turn. The first player to achieve their goal of either “shutting the box” or “opening the box” is the winner.
2 to Go
In this version of the game, you must shut the “2” number-space on your first roll if possible. If you fail to do so, your turn immediately ends.
3 to Go
Similar to 2 to Go, except that you must shut the “3” number-space on your first roll if possible. If you fail to do so, your turn immediately ends.
Against All Odds
Every player's first turn of the game begins with all even number-spaces already shut.
Every player's first turn of the game begins with all odd number-spaces already shut.
3 Down Extreme
Every player's first turn of the game begins with the number-spaces 1 through 3 already shut. Only the number-spaces 4 through 9 are available during the first turn.
The game is played in a single round, with each player only getting one turn.
Instead of playing a set number of rounds, keep a running total of player scores. When a player reaches 45 points, they are out of the game. The last player remaining is in the game is the winner.
When determining a player's score at the end of their turn, read the open number-spaces in sequence. That is the player's score for the turn. For example, if the number-spaces 3, 4, and 6 remained open, the player's score would be 346 points.
At the end of a player's turn, their score is determined by how many number-spaces remain open, not by the numbers themselves. For example, if a player succeeded in shutting 5 number-spaces on their turn, that would leave 4 number-spaces still open, so their score for the turn would be 4.
In this version of Shut the Box, any player who rolls a 7 is immediately out of the game and obtains 43 points. This is summed onto any score they have already achieved. During their turn, a player may decide to end their turn at any time and score normally.