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 your last, the round ends. If you do not have another tile to play but still have tiles in your hand, 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 playable 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.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 3.20 out of 5)
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76 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.

  4. In scoring for dominoes how do you score the blank tiles? We’ve played they count 50 points is that correct or should they be counted as zero?

    • 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. This came up tonight in our game. I don’t recall it ever happening before. 4 players. 3 have trains the 4th doesn’t. A double is played. The 3 players with trains cannot satisfy the double. What does the 4th player (with no train) do? The 4th player has a domino that can satisfy the double. Do they answer the double? Draw to try & get a domino to start a train? Pass because they have no train started?

    • Hi Brenda, so the 4th player would have to play to satisfy the double. No other tiles can be played or drawn until a player either satisfies the double or takes a token to signify they cannot do so.

  9. Just discovered the game while visiting a friend, who plays it regularly. Bought our own game that evening. Rules in the game box were very limited in scope, leaving lots of questions about various aspects of the game. This page helps tremendously with understanding the rules and procedures. I will say, the number of tiles drawn at the beginning differs from what is in our game box. None the less, we really enjoy the game. I rated it at five stars. 🙂

  10. When playing the game and your train is open for others to play on it, do you have to close your train at your first opportunity or can you leave it open and make a play on another train?

    • Hi Joe, so when you have an open train the next time you play to your personal train it closes. This does not have to happen immediately though, your next turn after having your train opened you may play to an available train, and you are not obligated to closing yours if you have multiple options for play. I hope this helped answer your question.

  11. All tiles are drawn. A double is still on the table, unbroken. Does the game end here? Or do players forget about breaking the double and continue playing their tiles as able?

    • Hi Joan, so in the typical case of doubled they must be satisfied before you can play on other trains. However, in the case of a double where all other tiles of its denomination have been played to the board, the double no longer will restrict play and does not need to be satisfied. This means you may now play on other non-satisfied doubled, or if no other doubles exist any other open train. I hope this helps answer your question.

  12. This question doesn’t pertain to a tile needing to be satisfied. Can a player hold a tile that is eligible to be used if it is not convenient for him? In other words is hoarding allowed?

    • Hi Betty, you must play a tile if able to. if you have multiple tiles you could play, you may choose which you play, but if you only have one you must play it. I hope this helps!

  13. In the game versions Ive been playing, it has the first play of the game having each player using as many of their tiles that can create their first train against the central hub. In subsequent plays only 1 tile is played. My question is we have had many times where one player is out of dominoes in the first play and then round is over. Is this correct? Or is there a way to keep the round going?

  14. When starting your train and you end with a double, you draw a tile from the bone yard and able to satisfy the double which
    enables you to continue with your train, can you play your tiles or does your turn end?

    • Hi Lloyd, if after drawing from the bone pile you can satisfy the double you may play it. Once a double is satisfied you cannot continue to play. Outside of the double rule, you may only play one tile to your train per turn. I hope this helps!

  15. We love this game! During the first round all players start their personal train and use as many if their dominoes as they can to make their train longer. What happens if one of the players are unable to start their train? Do they have to draw until their able to? Or can they put their marker up so so.some else can start it for them in a later round? If its the latter then they would never be able to lay down multiple dominoes like you can in the first round, correct?

    • Hi Ashley, here are the relevant rules for you.
      “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.”
      For your second question, the answer is no, players can only play more than 1 domino on their starting turn and when doubles are played. I hope this helps!

  16. If one player does not have a starter and still does not have a starter after multiple rounds plus draws from the bonepile, can the Mexican Train be started even though that player does not have a personal train started and no one has played on him to start it? In other words can the Mexican Train be started with a player still without a personal train or must someone start them before starting the Mexican Train with their starter?

  17. Hi. My wife plays this game and loves it. When the tiles are counted at the end of the game, should they be turned over/up while counting the points? Some players seem to have low scores many times and others think that maybe they are not counting all the points.

    • Hi Jeff, yes it is totally possible for players to count their points up in the open. There is no reason to keep scores private or their score piles private once a round is over. While I do not believe a common practice it may be useful to make sure everyone understands how scoring works.

  18. If I do not have a domino to play on my train but can play on others do I need to declare that I do not have a match for my train and open my train up or as long as I can keep playing I play wherever I can and not open my train up to others?

    • Hi Steve, if you have a playable tile to any train you must play it. you only draw a tile and possibly open your train up when you cannot play any of your tiles at all.

    • Hi David, when you play to the train you are not playing by rank you are playing by match. So, in order to play a tile to the train one side must match the last outfacing number on the end of the train. To play a double 3 the train it’s being played on must have ended in a 3 and to continue playing on the double you must have a tile with a 3 on it as well. I hope this helps!

  19. When I have played before on a first play the player can play all his tiles that form a line. After that only one play at a time except for a double. It seems to help move the game faster.

  20. Please settle this dispute.
    Player “A” cannot play on their train or any possible train draws from the bone pile and is still not able to play, so “A” places their marker on their train to allow others to play on their train. On “A’s” next turn, “A” plays on their train but purposely leaves their train open to allow others to play because “A” cannot play on their train on the next turn. I say this is a legal tactic but others say this is not a legal.

    • Hi Jim, if you play a tile to your train, you must remove the marker that shows your train is open. I hope this helps.

  21. first question:
    On the first round. Player A plays a double at the end of their train and can not satisfy . Player B satisfy the double do they still get to put down as many dominoes as they can for their own train since it is still their first turn?

    Second question:
    On the first round. A plays all their dominoes. Is the game over at that point or do the following players get to put down their dominoes also

    • Hi Trish, if the player is able to satisfy the double, then yes, they may continue their first turn as normal. For your second question, once a player goes out the game is over.

  22. Amber,
    I have played Mexican Train for over 20 years and when we started playing I read the enclosed rulebook and found it completely lacking in clarity and detail. So I went on line and looked at all of the various “RULES” and took the most commonly used rules and here are some thoughts for you to mull over. First off, there are so many ways to start the game. Nobody enjoyed having to accumulate a large number of tiles at the beginning of the game because they could not start their train. Our solution, which is mentioned by some people, is to pull the 12 tiles matching the starting double and have each player take one tile, mixing the unused tiles back into the bone pile before hands are drawn. Each player then lays down as many tiles as they wish to start the round, usually saving 1 tile so they have at least one legal play. Second thought, many groups play “going clockwise around the station” if they are private and they play their first tile on their train, playing on the Mexican Train is optional. There is no 2 tile limit. In fact, this rule is not very common in my searches. No limits on the number of doubles played in a turn either. Satisfying open doubles is required only by the private trains, public trains are skipped. If everyone ends up public, anytime anyone goes private they are required to satisfy all open doubles in order they were played. Again, just some ideas to think about.

    • Hi Ralph, Thank you for sharing your findings! You have shared some very interesting and cool variations. I will be trying them out myself the next time I play Mexican Train.

    • Hi Sandy, I have not seen or heard of such a variation. I did some light research and also could not find anything about multiple Mexican trains in a single game.

  23. This is my situation. The game is locked and there are no available plays left but there are still some remaining in the boneyard. What happens to the boneyard? Does a player have to draw all or do they just leave it and count their points?

    • Hi Lenix, players will draw from the boneyard if they cannot play. The round only ends if a player dominoes, or if the board becomes locked and the boneyard is exhausted.

  24. If a player’s train is open and he can not play on his train but can play on the public or another train, can he close his train or only closing his train by playing on it himself.

  25. Please clarify a contradiction in you rules. In the PLAYING THE GAME paragraph you say, “A round ends after when one player has “dominoed” or played all their dominoes, including if that last is a double.” Which I take to mean that if the last tile from their hand a person plays is a double, they do not have to draw or close it. In the DOUBLES paragraph you say, ” If you do not have another tile to play because the double was you last, the round ends.” Which also indicates to me that after playing my last tile which is a double, the round ends. But also under DOUBLES, after talking about playing two doubles, you say “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.” Which suggests that I DO have to draw after playing my last tile if it is a double. Which is it?

    Regarding doubles, you also say, “You may also play 2 or more doubles in a turn.” and “You may play as many doubles are available in succession.” But in the following answer you state you can only play 2 doubles in a turn?

    Amber Crook
    December 28, 2020 at 5:23 am | Reply
    “Hi Lloyd, if after drawing from the bone pile you can satisfy the double you may play it. If you play another double you may continue this process again. You may only play two doubles in a turn, and once a double is satisfied you cannot continuing playing. Outside of the double rule, you may only play one tile to your train per turn. I hope this helps!”

    Thanks for your clarifications. I love this game and want everyone to play it with me, but people get mad when the rules don’t jive. 🙂

    • Hi Karen, I would be more than happy to explain a couple of things. Thank you for pointing this out, for the section of doubles where it says, “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.” It should say any remaining playable tiles. I will make the needed adjustments for clarification.
      As for your second inquiry, I am not sure why I stated that he may play only two doubled, that is incorrect and for that, I apologize. I will be updating that information as well. I hope this helps, and let me know if I can help with any other inquires. Thank you.

  26. The group I play with allow for when a double is played that the following players can play off of it to the side of it. This is ok if the train is the players if their train has the train or the Mexican train. This makes that train to have two possible plays. Others I have played with don’t allow for this nor do I find it in the rules. Is this allowable or is it like “house rules”??

    • Hi Carol, i have never heard of this ruling in the base game nor ass any standardized variation. I would definitely classify this as a house rule. I hope this helps.

    • Hi Laurissa, each player has a personal train, and there is also a Mexican train that can be played on by any player. You cannot claim other trains as your own, but in certain circumstances you may be able to play on other players’ trains.

  27. If a player must draw from the bone pile because they do not have a play and they draw a double that they can play, do they draw AGAIN from the bone pile to satisfy the double or does play move to the next player to satisfy the double since the first player has already had their one draw from the pile?

    • Hello Ann, if a player draws from the bone pile and plays a double a few things can happen. If this was their last tile, the round ends. if they still have tiles in hand but none can satisfy the double then another tile si drawn from the bone pile. if the drawn tile still does not satisfy the double then the player will pass their turn and mark their train.

  28. When we play, we play everyone starts their train with all available tiles on first round. My question is if you have 3 to 8 players and say 2 ended their train with doubles and cant not satisfy them, how would you know which double to start satisfying first?

    • Hi Regina, doubles are satisfied in the order that they were played so the first double to appear on the train must be satisfied first.

  29. How do you start the Mexican train? And who is allowed to start it first? Can it be started only if the player doesn’t have a tile for their personal train?

    • Hi Jessica, the Mexican train, which is separate from all players’ trains, can be started by any player on any turn (except the first turn), by placing a dominon with one end tat matches a side of the central domino. I hope this helps.

  30. If I do not have a tile that matches the one in the hub I pick if I do not get what I need I then put my train marker in the slot.
    After going around everyone has put their tile in their slot. When it comes to me again Do i pick again do not get what I need to start playing do we keeping playing around the table or if another player has the number tile I need can they give me their extra tile so I can put it in my slot but leave my train up until we go around the table again and I can begin to start playing the game .
    Sounds very confusing but some players argue whit this rule.

    • Hello Barbara, 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. Another player may never give you a tile. I hope this helps.

  31. New to this game but truly enjoy it. My question: on the initial turn, the person ends with a double that they can’t satisfy. I understand that the next person must satisfy the double, but can they, in the same turn start their train or must they wait until their next turn to start their train?

    • Hi Al, After playing a double you must play another tile either on the double or any available train. So after satisfying the double you could start your train.

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