Shut the Box is a simple game with a long history. There is evidence that a version of the game as we know it existed since the 12th century. It was a popular choice for travelers, sailors, and soldiers, and has a long history as a pub game. It was very popular because while it could be played with a specially made game board with doors to shut, it could also be made with anything on hand: really all you need is a pair of dice and 9 things!

You can make your own game of shut the box with things that you probably have in your home! It’s a fun game to play by yourself or as a group.

Here’s what you need:

  • A piece of paper
  • A marker, pen, or pencil
  • 9 of something (we used pennies, but anything works! Some options you can use are beads, beans, and small rocks).
  • A pair of 6 sided dice
Step one! We’re almost ready to play!

Step One: Make a tic-tac-toe board on the piece of paper. Number the board with the numbers 1 through 9. A variation of Shut the Box goes up to 12, so if you feel like a challenge, you can make 12 boxes, numbering them 1 through 12.

Step Two: Collect your 9 things with which to play. We used pennies: they’re a good size and always on hand. Anything works, though!

Step Three: Play the game! Yes, it’s that easy!

So, how do you play?

Start the game with the board totally uncovered. The object of the game is to cover every number on the board (that means that you’ve shut the box!) If you’re playing with a group (or against yourself) the goal is to have the lowest number at the end of the game.

We rolled a 7, so we covered the 2 and the five. Here’s hoping we shut the box!

Roll your dice. After rolling, add up the dots on the dice and cover (“shut”) one of any combination of open numbers that equals the total number of dots showing on the dice. For example, if the total number of dots is 7, the player may choose any of the following sets of numbers (as long as all of the numbers in the set are available to be covered): 1, 6 and 1, 5 and 2, 4 and 3, or 1, 2, and 4.

Then you roll the dice again, following the same process. The player continues throwing the dice and shutting numbers until reaching a point at which, given the results produced by the dice, you cannot shut any more numbers. At that point, you score the sum of the numbers that are still uncovered. For example, if the numbers 2, 3, and 5 are still open when the player throws a one, the player’s score is 10 (2 + 3 + 5 = 10). Play then passes to the next player.

After every player has taken a turn, the player with the lowest score wins. Covering all numbers counts as a zero.

Below is a video on how to play: just substitute covering your numbers with flipping down the doors!

Did you have fun making your own shut the box? Email is your game at

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