Shut the Box

Shut the box header

Shut the Box is a fun dice game for two or more players, though can also be played by one player as a solitaire game. It's a great game for encouraging number recognition and practicing addition and number bonds.

Traditionally, a counting box is used with tiles numbered 1 to 9, that can be flipped up and down on hinges, though there are also variations with ten or twelve tiles.

Watch our video to learn how to play shut the box - including an alternative way to play with cards if you don't have a custom box - or scroll down for detailed written instructions and some variations.

How to play 'Shut the Box'

To start the game, all tiles are flipped open. Player one roles a pair of dice. Here they have rolled six.

The player can now close any combination of tiles that add up to six. For example 6, 5 + 1, 4 + 2, or 1 + 2 + 3.

The player continues their turn, rolling the dice and closing tiles, until no more moves are possible. In this case, the player has rolled six again, but none of the remaining tiles add up to six. The player's turn is over, and the remaining open tiles add up to their final score, so in this case a score of 20 (4 + 7 + 9).

If all the higher value tiles have been shut, and only the tiles below 6 remain, you can choose to play on with only one die.

A variation on this is, that the single die rule only comes in to force once the total of the remaining tiles is less than six.

Once every player has taken their turn, the player with the lowest score wins. Alternatively, you can set a number of rounds the play, e.g. five rounds, and the player with the lowest score at the end of all five rounds wins.

If at any point a player succeeds in closing all the tiles, they are said to have “shut the box” and immediately win the game.

Playing 'Shut the Box' with cards

If you don’t have a custom box, you can also play Shut the Box with playing cards instead. Using the Ace as a 1, lay out the numbers 1 to 9.

Then play the game as before, but instead of shutting tiles you turn over the relevant cards.


There are many variations for playing Shut the Box. Here are some of our favourites:

    • 45 Out: Instead of playing a set number of rounds, a player is out of the game if they reach 45 points. The last remaining player wins the game
    • Against All Odds: To start the game, all odd numbers are up and evens are down.
    • Even Stevens: This time all even numbers are up and odds are down.
    • 2 To Go: You must close the '2' tile on your first roll, to continue your turn. If you fail to do so, your turn ends (this variation works best when playing a game with more than one round).

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