Dominoes Revisited


Today we are going to Muse about Dominoes, not the pizza, the game.  If this is your first visit, welcome to Musings. If you have been here before, welcome back. Over time we are going to talk about many things: the past, the present, perhaps the future, travel, art, society and more. Wherever my musing takes me. I hope you will come along with me.

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Domino players jb_progress_faulkner_2_e

Domino players jb_progress_faulkner_2_e

I’ve taken dominoes with me many times when I have travelled.  Easy to pack.  Fun to play.  Someone asked me about them recently.  Said she had never played them.  Got me thinking.  I have written about them before and I guess I will do so again.

Have you ever noticed a group of people, often old guys, huddled around a table in the park or in a café playing some game with tiles?  Probably Dominoes.  It’s a great game and can be played almost any where.

There are many different versions.  I thought I would tell you about the one I play.  You might like it.

Domino set

Domino set

I play Double Sixes with two or three players, Double Nines or Double Twelves if there are more players.


The game has tiles, called bones  Each is divided in half  and marked with spots. In Double Sixes each half can have as few as no spots and as many as six spots.   In Double Nines or Double Twelves the halves can have as many as nine or twelve spots.

Domino tiles

Domino tiles

Here you see the full range of tiles. As you can see there is a blank-blank, a blank/1, a blank/2, a blank/3 and so on.  Then there is a 1/1, a 1/2, a 1/3 and so and the progression is repeated through each number.  There is only one tile for each combination.


These are the doublets.  Each number has one doublet:  double blanks, double ones, double twos and so on.  The first doublet played in a round is called the spinner and has special qualities which I will explain later.

Domino Doubles

Domino Doubles

The object of the game

The object of the game is to be the first player to  score an agreed upon number of points.  This will take a number of turns most likely.  I normally play to 250 points.

The Play

At the beginning of play all the tiles are placed face down and mixed up.

Dominos face down

Dominoes face down

Choosing who goes first

Before the start of the game, each player then chooses a bone and the one that has the most spots plays first, in the case below, the 6/2.  After the first round is played, in each subsequent round the player to the left of the player who started the previous round will start the play.

Dominos choosing who starts

Dominoes choosing who starts

The draw

The chosen tiles are placed back on the table face down and again mixed up.  The player who is to play first then picks seven tiles being careful to not let the other players see what they are. In a clockwise manner the next player chooses seven tiles, and then the next, until all players have seven tiles.  Each person keeps his tiles so his opponents cannot see them.

The remaining tiles are left face down and are referred to as the boneyard.

The play

The first player then lays a bone face up on the board.  It can be any bone.

Dominos first play

Dominoes first play

Scoring points

Points are scored if, when adding the spots on the ends of the domino chain, the total is some multiple of the number five.  If it totals five spots,  you get five points; if it totals ten spots, you get ten points; fifteen spots, 15 points and so on.  The ends of this one tile “chain”,   0 +4.  add up to 4 which is not a multiple of five.  No points are scored.

If the first player had put down a 0/5, 1/4, 2/3, 5/5 or 4/6 the tiles would have added up to a multiple of five: five, five, five, ten and ten .  He would score whichever multiple of five his spots totaled.

The second player must now lay a tile.  One end of the tile he plays must match an exposed end of the domino chain on the board.  In this case he must have a tile with a blank or a four.  The number of spots on half of the tile must match the number on half of the tile already in play.

If he does not have a matching tile to play, he draws a tile from the boneyard.  If the tile drawn does not match the exposed end of the chain, he draws another tile and he continues to draw tiles until he has a match that he can play.

But, for illustration, let’s say he has a playable tile, a six/blank.

Dominos second play

Dominoes second play

Here the blank end is matched to the blank end of the already played tile.  The exposed ends of the chain are totaled: six+ four for ten spots, a multiple of five and the player scores ten points.

The next player must play a tile that matches, in this case one that has a four or a six.  If he doesn’t have one, he draws from the boneyard until he has one or until all  the tiles in the boneyard have been picked.


Dominos spinner third play

Dominoes spinner third play

In this case he had a 6/6,  the Double Six.   Being a “doublet”, it is placed crosswise on the chain and both halves are counted in the scoring.  So we have six + six + four for a total of sixteen.  No score!  Not a multiple of five.  Any subsequent doublet played later is also placed crosswise and both halves are counted when tallying the score.

The Spinner

 The first doublet played in a round is called the spinner and may be played off in all directions.  If you have many of a given number, a doublet of that number being the spinner can be of great advantage.

In this next play, the player lays down the Double Four.  This also is a doublet.  Both halves are counted in the scoring, but it is not the spinner.  It may not be played off in all directions. Only the first doublet played in a round is the spinner. But look at the score: six + six + four + four equals 20 points.  Pretty nice!

Dominos fourth play


The next player must have a tile with a six or a four on it to play.  Those are the only exposed ends.  If the player does not have a number that matches an exposed end of the chain, in this case a four or a six, he must draw tiles from the boneyard until he has one.  In some cases this means the person must draw many, perhaps all, of the bones in the boneyard.  This works against you.

However, in this example the next player had a tile to play, a 4/6..

Playing off the double

Playing off the double

Notice it can be played at either end of the chain.  It is both a four and a six.  Here the player chose to play it as a six.  That removed the score of the spinner.  This round would be scored:  four + four + four for a total of twelve.  No points.  The double six is not counted once it is played off.  With a spinner or other doublet, the first tile played on it must be played in the line of the chain, not off the ends.

Playing off the Spinner

The next player can play a four or a six, even though the ends of the chain only have 4s.  Why a six?  Because the double six is the spinner which means it can be played in all directions.

Dominos playing off the spinner

Dominoes playing off the spinner

So this player places a 3/6 on the spinner and starts a new branch of the chain.  Great play!  All the exposed halves, those of the original chain and that of the new chain,  are scored: four + three + four + four for a total of fifteen points.

Play continues clockwise round by round until a player is out of tiles or until no one is able to play a tile.  If the player cannot play because he does not have a tile matching the exposed ends of the chain, he draws from the boneyard until he gets one.  If the boneyard is exhausted and he still cannot play, he passes his turn and the next person plays.

Occasionally noöne can play.  This can happen when opposing players each have a doublet in their hand but the other tiles of that number have been played, freezing out the doublet. In that instance the hand ends and no one gets the points remaining in the hands.

Going Out

The round ends when a player plays his last tile, and is said to have “gone out”.  When the round ends the player who went out, gets the total points ( to the nearest 5 ) created by adding up the remaining tiles in the opponents’ hand(s).  This can be more than the points scored during the play!

Next round

At the end of a round, the tiles are again placed face down, mixed around and the player to the left (clockwise) of the starting player of the previous round draws seven tiles and the process is repeated.

The game ends at the end of a round in which some agreed upon level of points has been reached.  The player with the most points at the end of the round is the winner.  I play to 250 points, but I imagine others play to other levels.

Dominoes is easy to play, social, quick and it travels well.  If you haven’t tried it, why not?

More to come.

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About Thomas L. Tribby

Professional artist: painter, sculptor, print maker. Maintains a studio in West Palm Beach, Florida
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