Saturday, June 4, 2016

Shut the Box as a piece of history

I have read that Shut the Box started out as a game that fisherman would play when they were out on the ocean, back in the 1700s. There is even some evidence, if you can believe Wikipedia, that the game has its origins in 12th century northern France.

Beyond any doubt, Shut the Box has spent some centuries being a standard pub game. Still, I really like the image of grizzled fisherman playing it on a swaying boat out on the Atlantic.

While you can easily make the game out of a piece of paper and a pencil, and I have read instructions on how to do just that in books about gaming with children, or using numbered chips, the classic Shut the Box is played with an actual box. Inside the box are wooden flippers marked 1 to 9 or 1 to 12, depending on what version of the game you get. Heck, I'm sure there are other combinations.

Play the game, you grab a couple of regular old dice and roll them. If you are using the box version of the game, use that box is your dice tray. You then flip over some of those numbered flippers. The total of the flippers you flip has to equal the total of the dice you rolled. You keep on going until you can't make a legal rule or you have flipped over all the flippers, in which case you shut the box.

In some versions of the rules, if you're down to only the lower numbered flippers, you can choose to just  roll one die.

There are a lot of different ways to keep track of the score. Sometimes, you add up all the flippers you flipped. Other times, you read them like a number, leading to some pretty crazy scores. In yet other versions of the rules, you win by shutting the box.

It has to be abundantly obvious by now that there are a lot of variations of Shut the Box. But, ultimately, they are all fairly mindless exercises of dice rolling.

Yeah, you do get some decisions in what numbers you flip but you don't get any control, like getting rerolls in Yahtzee. The dice control the game. I can't even really call it a push your luck game since you can't even control when you stop.

Despite that, I do have a certain fondness for the game. I like the history behind it, the idea that it was played in pubs and taverns and fishing ships. There's a sense of romance and past to Shut the Box for me.

I no longer have a copy but I got rid of my old copy knowing it would be an easy game to get again.

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