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
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:
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.
A 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.
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.
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. The player with the lowest total score (sum of all end of round totals) at the end of the game wins.
Multiple doubles that are not satisfied can be closed in reverse.