The dice game Shut the Box is also known as Canoga Card Sharks, Tric-Trac and Batten Down the Hatch. Originally the game was played with a play area that included a dice rolling location and a side location of 9 hinged flip up or slide cover tablets, each one of the tablets being numbered 1 through 9. It is getting more and more difficult to find one of these traditional play boxes, so I’ll show you how you can play with pen and paper. Shut the Box can be played by 2, 3 or four players and is often be played as a gambling game.
How do you play Shut the Box?
Playing Shut the Box is a super simple game with the overall objective of covering all 9 numbers by throwing the dice several times. Depending on what numbers are thrown, the numbers on the box or tablets are covered which match the ones appearing on the dice. You can also cover numbers based on adding the total scores on the ones thrown on both dice. So throwing a one and a five means you could cover the number six if you choose.The player who’s turn it is will continue as long as they can cover numbers with the dice roll, to the point where either all of the numbers have been covered or none can be covered.
Note: If the player has covered the 7, 8 and 9 within their turns, it is then up to them whether they wish to continue to play with one or both dice.
To make your Shut The Box game out of paper, merely write numbers 1 through 9 on 9 similarly sized pieces of paper and place them in numerical order to the side of the playing area. As the numbers are thrown you ‘cover’ your numbers by turning the paper over.
How to score in Shut Box
Rather than as in most conventional dice games, scoring in Shut the Box means that the lower the score, the better, with the overall goal of the game to shut all boxes (cover all the numbers) leaving the player a score of zero. Numbers that are left exposed at the end of a player’s turn are added up on a score sheet. The individual with the lowest score wins the round. In betting terms, the player who wins by closing all the boxes in their turn wins outright, and the other players have to pay them double the initial stake.
To be clear, let’s take a look at the Shut the Box method for scoring. Play starts and the individual has all numbers (1 through 9) uncovered, the player throws a total of 8 on the dice, they then might choose one of the following closing sequences:
- Closing the 8
- Closing the 7 and 1
- Closing the 6 and 2
- Closing the 5 and 3
- Closing the 4 and 3 and 1.
- Closing the 5 and 2 and 1
All of the numbers you selected to cover however MUST be uncovered, so for example a player rolling a total of 7 on the dice can not choose to cover 4 and 2 if 1 is currently covered. All number combinations need to be available, and that is the aim of the game.
A Different way to play Shut the Box
An alternative to Shut the Box is ‘the long score’, in this variation, instead of numbers just being totaled, they read directly from the box as seen. For instance a player usually left with the 2, 3 and 4 showing would score an overall of 9 points, but in the long score variation, the player gets 234 points!