Monday, August 7, 2017

Shut the Box...Did your historical hero play this game?

   As far as anyone seems to know, Shut-the-Box originated in France, perhaps in Normandy, and possibly existed as early as the 1100's. 

   Shut the Box, also called, Canoga, Klackers, Batten Down the Hatches, kingoball, Trictrac and Jackpot, is a game of dice for one or more players, commonly played in a group of two to four for stakes.Variations exist where the box has up to 10 or 12 tiles.

Lore tells fables of ancient Norman sailors playing the game in the moonlight as their ship bobbed and swayed across the sea. 
                   "Pay up mate, you lost again!"
    The game involves a wooden box (hence the name Shut-the-Box) characterized by an arena to which dice are thrown and wooden sliders or shutters representing the numbers 1 thru 9. These sliders are closed, or shut, to arrive at the total shown on the dice. Play ends when the either the numbers have all been closed, or when the sum of the dice cannot be achieved by closing any combination of the available numbers. 

Even the upper-class enjoyed a game or two. Trictrac players, in a painting attributed to Léonard Defrance

There is a Chinese version of the game called, " Boc-Tin". It is unclear whether or not Boc-Tin and Shut-the-Box originated from singular or separate ideas.

   Obviously a gambling device, the game is used today for fun as well, and is touted by educators to be a useful game for teaching elementary mathematics to children. Of course, mathematicians have also shown interest for the game. As Shut-the-Box presents an interesting, yet reportedly solvable, model for probability and best-strategy analysis.

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