Mexican Train

OBJECTIVE: Be the first player to play/get rid of all your dominoes, or play as many high-value dominoes as possible on each turn.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS/DOMINO SET: 2-4 Players/double-9 set, 2-8 Players/double-12 set, 9-12 Players/double-15 or -18 set.

MATERIALS: Domino set, center hub, train markers

TYPE OF GAME: Dominoes, blocking

AUDIENCE: Family


EQUIPMENT

Mexican train is most frequently played with a double-12 set of dominoes but double-9 sets are equally effective for gameplay. Details of gameplay for both sets will be discussed below.

double-9 set: 55 tiles, suits 0-9; 10 tiles per 10 suits

double-12 set: 91 tiles, suits 0-12; 13 tiles per 13 suits

Unlike most dominoes games, which just use a set of dominoes, Mexican Train has a couple additional pieces of equipment. The centerpiece hub has a slot in the center for the starting the Mexican train and 8 slots around the edges for personal trains. These hubs may be found in certain sets of dominos or can be homemade using cardboard. The game also uses train markers, like the hub these may be included in a set of dominos or can be a small household item, players most commonly use pennies or dimes. More creative options include candy, flat-bottomed marbles, or pawns for other games such as chess or monopoly.

Here is a photo of the center hub with the engine (highest double) in the center:

PREPARATION

Set the highest double tile in the center slot of the hub and shuffle the remaining dominoes face-down on the table. Each player takes turns drawing dominoes according to the scheme below. The remaining tiles are moved aside in “train yards” or “bone piles” (also referred to as “sleeping piles”) for drawing during play. Personally drawn tiles may be kept secret or placed on the edge of the table face-up.

Number of Players:    2      3      4     5     6     7     8

Double-12 Draw:       16     16   15   14   12   10    9

Double-9 Draw:         15     13   10

Organize dominoes in hand so that they digress in suit from the engine. For example, in double-9 set Mexican Train (engine is 9-9), a hand may be organized as such: 9-2, 2-4, 4-6, 6-1, etc. Other tiles that remain are extras and may be used on the Mexican train or other player’s trains.

STARTING THE GAME

Pick a player to begin the game, play moves clockwise thereafter.

If the first player has domino which matches the denomination of the engine tile they can either:

  • place the domino in the slot on the hub nearest them, matching-end facing toward the engine, to start their personal train OR
  • End match the tile to the slot designated for the Mexican Train to start it. The Mexican train is typically available for all players and can be started by any player on their turn if they wish. After the Mexican train has been started a train marker may be placed it the left to indicate the train is available for play.
  • If the first player is unable to make a play, follow directions below under “Playing the Game”

PLAYING THE GAME

On any turn, with the exception of doubles, a player is only able to place one playable domino on a train, that is a domino that end matches available trains for play (personal train, Mexican train, other player’s trains with a marker). You must play if you have a playable tile, you may not opt out of playing a tile for strategic purposes.

  • if you are unable to play, even after drawing a tile, place your train marker beside the end of your personal train. This marker signifies to other players your train is open for them to play on. Your turn has ended and the play moves on. Your next turn you may play on any available train. You can remove the marker after you are able to successfully play a tile on your personal train.
    • If there are no more tiles in the bone pile and you do not have a playable tile, pass and place a marker by your train.

When a player only has a single tile left they must notify other players by either tapping it on the table or verbally announcing it.

round ends after when one player has “dominoed” or played all their dominoes, including if that last is a double. A round can also end if the bone pile is dry and no one is able to make a play. The following rounds begin with a double that is one digit below the engine of the previous round. For example, after 12-12 round has finished in a double-12 set, the following found will begin with 11-11. The blank double is the final round.

DOUBLES

If you are playing a tile that is a double it is placed sideways on the train you choose to play it on. After playing a double you must play another tile either on the double or any available train. If you do not have another tile to play because the double was you last, the round ends. If you do not have another tile to play but still have tiles, draw from the bone pile and play it if you can. If you are still unable to play, place your marker beside your train.

  • in the event of an open double, which is a double that has not been played upon, all other trains are ineligible to be played upon until the double is closed or satisfied. Players who are unable to play on the double after drawing a tile must place a marker by their train. After the double is closed, players with markers by their trains can begin attempts to play on their own train.
  • You may also play 2 or more doubles in a turn. After you finish playing your doubles you may play your additional tile that is not a double. Doubles must be closed in the same order they are played, so the additional tile can only be played on the first double.
    • If you do not have any remaining tiles after playing doubles, draw from the bone pile and try to play. If you draw a playable double, play and draw again.
    • You may play as many doubles are available in succession. The turn ends after the non-double tile is played or cannot be played. If one cannot be played, place a marker by the end of your personal train. Normal train marker rules apply.
    • If a double remains open, every player – including the player who played the double – must attempt to satisfy it. Multiple doubles must be closed in the same order they were placed. Normal open double rules apply. If it is impossible to close because all other tiles of that denomination have to be played, it does not restrict other eligible trains any longer.

SCORING

After a round has finished, the player with an empty hand receives a score of 0. Other players sum the number of pips (dots) on their remaining dominoes at the end of each round. For dominoes containing double blanks, these are worth 50 points. The player with the lowest total score (sum of all end of round totals) at the end of the game wins.

VARIATION

Multiple doubles that are not satisfied can be closed in reverse.

REFERENCES:

http://www.mexicantrainrulesandstrategies.com

https://www.mastersofgames.com/rules/mexican-train-dominoes-rules.htm

https://www.dominorules.com/mexican-train

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18 thoughts on “Mexican Train”

  1. If a train is up because the person couldn’t play., and I have a double to go out. can I put it on their train.

    • Yes you can.After playing a double you must play another tile either on
      the double or any available train. If you do not have another tile to play because
      the double was you last, the round ends. If you do not have another tile to play
      but still have tiles, draw from the bone pile and play it if you can.

  2. If I have two tiles left to end the game, a double and a tile to satisfy the double, do I have to tap after the double is placed, or can i just go out?

    • Hi William, it is customary to tap, but seeing as there is no way for another player to prevent you from going out I do not think it’s required. I would still tap, considering I have known people to play with their own house rules that penalize players for not tapping.

  3. If a player forgets to remove her marker/train after playing on her own train, what happens if the next person plays on it. If you let that person’s play proceed, when can the person put their maker/train back on the hub?

    • Hi Ruth, penalties and replays are often left up to the players’ discretion. While I would let them player remove their token after the player finishes their turn, I suppose any rule could be set into place before the game for this kind of circumstance.

    • Hi T, You can only play one tile per turn, with the exception of doubles when you can play two. This prevents a player from immediately going out.

  4. What if a double is played and all tiles that match it have been played? Is it just a dead train and play resumes on the other trains or is the game locked and all players count up the pips on their dominoes? This doesn’t happen often, but we have encountered it a few times.

    • Hi Barbara, If a double cannot be satisfied because all matching tiles have been used then the restrictions on play are removed and play can proceed as normal. Players would no longer be able to play on the offending train though.

    • Hi Kathy, If a player is not able to play a tile, even after drawing or if the draw pile is exhausted. That player will pass their turn and place their train token next to their personal train. This means other players may play onto your personal train and this token can only be removed once you have played a tile onto your personal train.

  5. I know how to satisfy doubles, but say you are not out yet and a player has a double to be satisfied and it’s my turn, do I play on the double with one of my tiles or draw to see if I get out before I make any plays??

    • Hi Patricia, hopefully, I am understanding you correctly. In your example, you have a double on the board that needs to be satisfied. If you are able to play to it you must. If not then you would draw a tile to see if you would then be able to satisfy it. If still not able to you would place a marker on the board to signify this.

  6. If I play a double and have both a tile that would cover my double and another tile that plays elsewhere, do I have the option of playing either? Can I leave my double open to force the other players to cover or draw? Also, I assume I would not have that option next turn, where I would be forced to cover the double.

    • Hey Jerry, if there is an unsatisfied double you must play to satisfy it. No other tiles can be played until the double is satisfied. If you cannot, you would need to draw and mark your board to show you could not satisfy the double. I hope this helps!

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