Games of the Revolutionary War Era

The Game of Shut the Box

The game of Shut the Box is over two hundred years old and it is believed that it originated in the North of France, Normandy, or the Channel Islands (off the coast of France in the English Channel). It was popular in that region with sailors and fishermen. The game is not documented to England in the 18th Century. The reenactor may say that he learned this game from a sailor or sea captain at a tavern or a Frenchman taught it to him.


Board divided and marked with 9 squares each numbered.

Two dice

Nine markers


Any number of players may play. It is decided before the game if one sequence of play will be played to determine a winner or a specified series of rounds will determine a winner. If a series of rounds will determine the winner, the number of rounds is decided and the counts are added from each round to a total score. The lowest score always wins.

The two dice are thrown and the player covers the numbers on the board with the markers to add to the total of spots on the two dice. If an 7 is thrown, the player may cover 7 or 2 & 5 or 4 & 3 or 1 & 6 or 2 & 4 & 1. The dice are then thrown again and the play continues in the same manner. If there are not enough numbers uncovered on the board to add to the total number of spots on the dice the turn ends. If the 7, 8 and 9 are all covered, the player may choose to throw one OR two dice to continue. When the turn ends, all uncovered numbers are added together for the player’s score for the turn. Then the next player’s turn begins. All markers are removed from the board and the player throws the dice and plays.

If a series of rounds have been played then the lowest tally wins the game. If just one play is wagered upon, then the lowest score for that play wins.

If a player covers all of the spaces in his turn, he has "shut the box" and automatically wins the game without further play. This player wins double the stake from each player.

This is a good game to play with children as it builds number and addition skills while having fun! The reenactor may engage a child or the public while playing the game in a period-correct conversation.