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Roman Cats - A Retheming of Shut the Box

Retheming is a fun way to breathe new life into old abstract games. I recently experimented with making wooden Roman numeral dice and that is where the idea began. Shut the Box is an old English pub game that is still fairly popular today. There are many variations and sets available online.
I was thinking about how to make a set without having to construct the actual box. It’s a super simple game that could be potentially played using just a deck of card and set of dice. With this in mind, I made 9 cat tokens, each with a Roman numeral across the top. My 11 year old nephew and his friend assisted me with the cat drawings. Roman Cats, a kitty themed version of Shut the Box was born!

Roman Cats

How to Play

  • Set the 9 cat tokens in a row with the Roman numerals facing up.
  • Determine the first player
  • The 1st player starts by rolling the set of dice
  • The player takes any combination of available numbered tokens that add up to the sum of the rolled dice.

    For example, a player rolls a 4 and 5 (total 9). They may take any available tokens that add up to 9:
    4, 5
    1, 3, 5
    1, 8

  • After the first player takes the appropriate tokens, the 2nd player rolls
  • Players alternate until no more tokens are left to take
  • If a player rolls and is unable to take tokens, their turn is over (no rerolls)
  • If the token with the number 1 is the only one remaining, players may use 1 die to roll
  • The game ends with there are no more cat tokens, each player then adds up there score.

The player with the highest score wins.

Optional End Rules

  • The player who takes the last token receives an extra 6 points
  • If the player who took the last token is winning by less than 6 points, the losing player has a chance to roll both dice again. If they roll exactly a 6, they also receive 6 bonus points.

Using Roman numerals added an additional learning element since you have to know your Roman numerals to play! It might also be interesting to make a Chinese version with Kanji characters. In any event, retheming games is a great way to include family and friends in interacting via board games. My nephew and his friend (who both happen to love cats) approved and enjoyed a game that they may have not otherwise played.

I know not everyone has the equipment to make custom wooden pieces. The wood burning kit itself can be a sizable investment. If you want to try the game out, feel free to download the print and play version.

Roman Cats Print and Play

You can either cut out the cards or place coins to designate which cat number is taken. With this print out and a set of dice, you’ll be ready to play. Happy Gaming!