The Rules of Shut the Box
Shut the Box is also known as Canoga. Being a traditional pub game without any national governing body, variations of equipment and rules abound. Where there is doubt, locally played rules should always apply.
Shut the Box can be played by any number of players although it is most enjoyable with two, three or four. Some people even play the game solo as a pastime akin to patience. As played traditionally in English pubs, Shut the Box is a gambling pastime with each of the players paying an agreed amount into the "pool" at the beginning and the winner collecting the pool at the end of each round. However, it isn't necessary to gamble in order to play the game.
See also: Shut the Box.
Description of equipment
The "box" is an open tray with a baize interior. A row numbers one to nine also appear along the top length. Each number has a corresponding square panel cover which can either slide or swing to cover the number. Two dice are the only other requirement, although a dice cup may be used if desired.
A round of the game consists of each player taking one turn to try to shut the box. A turn consists of a player repeatedly throwing the dice until he or she cannot continue. Each throw of the dice is taken as follows:
- If 7, 8 and 9 are all covered, the player decides whether to throw one die or two.
- If any of these 3 numbers are still uncovered, the player must use both dice.
The player throws the die or dice into the box and adds up the pips. The player must then cover available numbers that add up to the total thrown. So for instance, if the total is 8, the player may choose one of the following options:
- 7 & 1
- 6 & 2
- 5 & 3
- 5 & 2 & 1
- 4 & 3 & 1
Assuming that one of the options is available to be played, the player selects one, covers the selected number or numbers and proceeds to throw the dice again.
If none of the options are available because at least one number is already covered in each case, then the player's turn finishes and the player scores the sum of the numbers that are still uncovered. For example, if numbers 1, 5 and 9 are uncovered and the player throws a 4, options are 4 or 3 & 1, neither of which are available - so the turn finishes and the player's score is 15.
If anyone succeeds in shutting the box i.e. closing all the numbers, that player wins outright immediately and receives double the stake from all players. Otherwise, after each player has taken one turn, the winner of the round is the player with the lowest score.
Shut The Box for 4 Players
It is possible to buy a Shut the Box game featuring 4 sets of flaps and sometimes 4 sets of dice. Just use the normal Shut the Box rules in one of the following 2 ways:
1. If there are just 2 dice or the dice are the same colour, people take turns to throw the dice and flip their flaps until they can't go any longer.
2. If the central area is big enough and each player has a pair of dice of different colours, then everyone throws the dice at once each turn until they can't go any longer.
A popular variant for two players is called the 'long game'. The player who goes first attempts to shut the box exactly as above. When the turn ends, the other player takes over the board as it is and attempts to uncover all the covered numbers using exactly the same rules. When a double is thrown, the player gets an extra turn. The player who shuts the box or uncovers the box first, wins.
Another way of playing is to add the number of points each round to a player's score. A player has to drop out when that player's score reaches 45 and the last player remaining wins the game.
Some people play that the single die option comes into force once the total of the remaining numbers is less than six.
An alternative way of calculating the score is occasionally used whereby the number read directly from the available digits on the box is the score for the player. E.g. if the numbers 1, 5 and 9 are uncovered, the score is 159.
These rules are provided by Masters Traditional Games, an Internet shop selling quality traditional games, pub games and unusual games. For general information or for copying and copyright, see our Rules Information page.
Our rules are comprehensive instructions for friendly play. If in doubt, always abide by locally-played or house rules.
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