Shut the box

Shut the Box: Classic Dice Game – Rules, Instructions & How to Play Strategies


Shut the box is a good ol’ fashioned dice game that’s been around for a long time. I find it’s a simple yet engaging game that involves rolling dice and flipping down numbers based on the roll. The game is originated in Europe and has been enjoyed by sailors and fishermen as a gambling activity much like Ship, Captain, and Crew or Crown & Anchor which I’ve written guides on previously.

It’s also been used as an educational tool to teach kids basic math skills. The game is usually played with a box that has a set of hinged tiles numbered from 1 to 9 or 1 to 12. Players take turns rolling dice and flipping down the tiles until they can’t make any more moves or they successfully “shut the box” by flipping down all the tiles.

Quick Tip for Shut the Box

Always aim to flip the higher numbers first, as they are harder to get rid of later in the game.

Rules for Playing Shut the Box

The rules for Shut the box are pretty straightforward. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

  1. Each player starts their turn by rolling the dice.
  2. After rolling, the player adds up the total of the dice and then flips down any combination of numbers that equals the total roll.
  3. The player can continue to roll as long as they can flip down new numbers.
  4. If a player can’t flip down any more numbers, their turn ends, and they score the sum of the remaining numbers.
  5. If a player flips down all the numbers, they have “shut the box” and typically win instantly.
  6. The game can be played in rounds, and the player with the lowest score at the end of all rounds wins.

Some variations allow for different rules, like using only one die after certain conditions are met, but these are the basic rules most people play by.

Equipment and Setup for Shut the Box

To play Shut the box, you need a few things:

  • A Shut the box game board with hinged tiles numbered 1 through 9 or 1 through 12.
  • Two dice (some variations use only one).

Setup is easy: just lay the box flat and make sure all the numbers are flipped up to start the game.

How to Play Shut the Box

Playing Shut the box involves a few key steps:

  1. Key Game Mechanics: Rolling dice, adding numbers, and flipping down tiles.
  2. Setup: Place the box on a flat surface with all numbers showing.
  3. Gameplay: Players take turns rolling the dice and flipping down tiles. The game continues until a player can’t make a move or someone “shuts the box.”
  4. End of the Game: The game ends when a player has the lowest score after a predetermined number of rounds, or when a player shuts the box.

How to Win at Shut the Box

Winning at Shut the box often comes down to luck, but there are some strategies you can use:

  • Try to eliminate higher numbers first, as they limit your options later in the game.
  • Be mindful of the combinations of remaining numbers that can be made with a single roll.
  • Consider the probability of rolling certain totals with two dice to guide your decisions.

While there’s no surefire way to win, these strategies can help improve your chances.

Best Strategies for Playing Shut the Box Game

Here are some of the best strategies for playing Shut the box:

  • Focus on flipping down the “7,” “8,” and “9” tiles as early as possible.
  • Keep track of which numbers have been flipped and adjust your strategy accordingly.
  • When given a choice, flip down a single tile rather than a combination that adds up to the same number.

These strategies can help you minimize your score and increase your chances of winning.


There are several variations of Shut the box, including:

  • Playing with a different number of tiles, like 1 to 10 or 1 to 12.
  • Changing the number of dice used during the game.
  • Adding special rules, like “forced moves” where you must flip down certain numbers if you roll them.


Here are some common scenarios in Shut the box and how to handle them:

  • If you’re left with only high numbers, try to roll low to avoid adding too much to your score.
  • If you have a mix of high and low numbers, aim for combinations that will allow you to flip multiple tiles.
  • In a situation where you have one tile left, consider the odds of rolling that exact number before making your move.

Frequently Asked Questions about Playing Shut the Box Game

  1. Q: Can I flip down more than two tiles?
    A: Yes, you can flip down any combination of tiles that equals the total of your dice roll.
  2. Q: What happens if I roll a number that can’t be matched with the remaining tiles?
    A: Your turn ends, and you score the sum of the remaining tiles.
  3. Q: Can I play Shut the box with more than two players?
    A: Absolutely, Shut the box can be played with any number of players.
  4. Q: Is Shut the box a game of skill or luck?
    A: It’s mostly a game of luck, but there’s some skill involved in choosing which tiles to flip.
  5. Q: Are there any penalties in Shut the box?
    A: There are no standard penalties, but some variations might include them.

For more information on Shut the box, check out these links:

Shut the Box Unboxing and Gameplay [Video]