Not far from my house there is a dive bar, with scary red lighting that hosts bingo on Monday nights. It’s really not all that exciting; you win a brown paper lunch bag filled with random odd items. I was lucky enough to win the first round Monday night and my winnings included some Cheez-It snacks, baby food, a bunny sucker and Chicklets. By the end of the night our table had a skull candle, a bible card game and three colors of “fun dough.” But before the bingo festivities began, we played quite a few rounds of the classic, but somehow not super well known, game Shut The Box.
Surprising to me, no one at my table had ever played Shut The Box before but by the end of the night everyone was addicted. There are lots of variations of this game but traditionally it’s a box with tiles numbered 1-9 that you can flip forward and backward, which allows players to “check them off” as they use them. The game is simple; you roll two standard dice and total them up. Then you flip forward any available tile combination that equals the number you rolled. So if you roll an 11 and it’s your first turn, you can flip forward a 9 and a 2 or a 1, 4 and 6. It’s totally up to you, but once you flip forward a number you can’t use it again. Your turn ends when you roll and you don’t have the right combination of tiles to equal your dice total. You get your score for the round by totaling up the unused tiles.
There are a couple ways to score. We played that whoever had the lowest number each round got one point. You can then play until someone reaches a certain number of wins or until you run out of time. Keeping a running tally of each player’s actual score is another way to play, just make sure you have a pencil and paper handy. Play a certain number of rounds or until one player reaches a set number, and then the player with the lowest score is the winner.
Other versions of the game include boxes with tiles numbered 1-10 or 1-12. There are also 2-player versions and 4-player versions. Blue Orange games also has a game called Double Shutter that has two levels of tiles numbered 1-9 so you can flip two 5s if you roll a 10. I also own a dice game named The Game of Chips by Jax that is essentially Shut The Box, with no box. It uses poker chips numbered 1-10 and you flip them over as you use them. This is a great low-priced travel alternative; it comes in a nice fabric pouch and can be purchased for ~$5.
Fun bit of trivia for you too, there was a TV show back in the mid-1970s called High Roller that was based on the game Shut The Box. It was hosted by Alex Trebek and players answered “toss up” questions to gain control of the dice and the option of rolling or passing to their opponent. It was on for a couple years and then again in the late 80s with Wink Martindale, but the new show wasn’t as successful.
Double Shutter stats:
~$19 at Amazon, Toys ‘R Us, Target, specialty retailers
1 or more players
Any amount of time
Ages 8 and up (it’s a bit more complex)
The Game of Chips stats:
~$5 Amazon some specialty stores
1 or more players
Any amount of time, ~15 if you play by their rules
Ages 6 and up