Shut the box

Muckendorf, Lower Austria, Austria, Oktober 2011

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We got to know Shut the box in Muckendorf by the Danube. Helmut, the barkeeper in a small streetbar, was the one who showed it to us. He offered us a place for the tent close to the bar and we had a beer with him and the other customers. One of the other guests wanted to play a game and Helmut surprised us with Shut the box. It is a simple but sophisticated game to choose who has to pay the next round of drinks for the other player. As an exception we were allowed to play it as a group of four: the bartender Helmut, another customer, Roberto and I. As beginners we were allowed to play without stake. The aim of the game is to collect as little points as possible. Who reaches first the amount of “deadly” points chosen before the start, looses the game. The game is played with two dices and a board. Wooden numbers from one to nine are fixed on the board so that they can still be turned around. One player starts and throws both dices at the time. All pips are counted together and the player flips one or more wooden numbers of the same score. If there is an eight thrown there are several possibilities: one, two and five, three and five, one three and four, two and six or just the eight, depending which number are still left, not turned down yet. Mostly it is clever to close the high numbers first, because they can leave the player with high points. If it is not possible anymore to create a combination of the wooden numbers left, fitting to the number diced then all the numbers left are added together and written down as points. Then all numbers are clapped back and the next player has a turn. Roberto made two zero rounds in the game and I somehow managed to dice a two twice which made me collect the proud number of forty-two points.

If he is part of the game, the barkeeper does not ever lose. In the night he often is the only one still able to add numbers and write them down legibly.

Normally the game is all about paying the next round of drinks, so both of the others are trained in cheating. They changed nines into twelves, sixes into fours and from time to time do a “trainee round” when the dices did not show the expected numbers. Of course with our hawk’s eyes we recognized that but we let them do and were happy with the third and fourth place. It was not about paying this time anyway.

Shortly after when we crawled into our sleeping bags we still had the rattling of the wooden numbers in our ears. That is why in Muckendorf the game is only known as the rattle game.

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