There are hundreds of different games that can be played with a set of dominoes. Dominoes are similar to Playing cards and can be used to play an equal variety of games.
A standard set of dominoes (giant dominoes or otherwise) contains 28 tiles or bones. Each tile is rectangular with a line down the centre and each end of the tile contains a number of spots or pips or is blank. Double six is the highest scoring tile and the number of pips vary from 0 (or blank) to 6. Some players refer to the dominoes as being “heavy” if they are high scoring tiles, such as double six, with the “lightest” tile being the double blank (or zero).
Many games of dominoes are blocking games – the aim of the game is to get rid of one's own hand of dominoes whilst blocking the opponents ability to move.
The basic blocking domino game has many regional or local variations to the rules and is a common game played in many English pubs: This game of dominoes can be played by four people either individually or in teams of two. It can also be played by two to five individual players. The game is played identically whatever the size of the dominoes – giant dominoes or otherwise.
If there are three or four players - each player should take six dominoes.
Five players should take five dominoes each.
Two players should take eight dominoes each.
First shuffle the dominoes face down on the table. Each player takes their allotted number of dominoes and keeps their dominoes hidden from the other players by either holding them or standing them on the table. Remaining dominoes are known as sleepers and are left untouched throughout the game.
The player who has the double six tile starts the game by laying this on the table. If no one has a double six, then the next highest double starts and play moves clockwise from the player who lays the first high double. If no one has a double then the dominoes are reshuffled and play starts again.
The game proceeds as each player adds a domino that matches one of the ends of the dominoes already on the table. In this game as in most games of dominoes, only the "open" ends of a chain are open for play. (An end is open when it has no other domino connected to it).
Play follows with everyone continuing to add a domino in turn to the chain. Each tile has to be positioned next to the tile that it matches. It is part of the charm of dominoes to vary the direction of the chain because as long as both the dominoes with the matching numbers of pips are touching, it does not matter which of the three possible directions are taken. The shape of the chain of dominoes is random and up to the whims of the players and the size of the table – and the size of the dominoes! (with giant dominoes it is advised to have a large playing surface)
Any doubles should be positioned crossways, straddling the chain and the following dominoes added at a perpendicular angle.
If a player cannot go he must pass. Passing is indicated to the other players by “knocking” that is rapping a domino on the table. However if it is possible to go, the player must take their turn and not pass for tactical reasons, for example to hold up their opponents play.
The game of dominoes is over when one player “chips out” that is he lays his last domino. If dominoes is being played by four people in two teams some variations of rules require both partners to chip out before the game is over (this should decided upon beforehand!).
If no one is able to move or chip out because the game has been blocked – that is if both ends of the chain have dominoes with numbers of pips that have already been played, or are in the remaining sleepers pile, the winner (or winners if playing in teams) are the players with the least number of pips or spots in their hand.
A game of dominoes can either be played as just one game, but more usually is played as a series of games. The overall game of dominoes ends after an allotted number of games has been played or the first person or team reaches a target score.
Essentially the player who plays all his dominoes and is out first wins the game. One way of scoring can be simply to award a point per game won – this is common method of scoring in pubs and is a very simple way of keeping score of a series of games of dominoes.
An alternative way of scoring has the winners score the sum of all the pips on the losers remaining dominoes and the scores written down. A game can be played up to 100 or whatever is agreed upon by the players in advance, as the target score. In some pubs where team play is common, a cribbage board can be used to record the dominoes scores. In this case the play would go up to the target score of 121.A very simple way to score is that each player adds up the number of pips remaining in their hand and the lowest overall total wins. This can be used over a series of a certain number of games of giant dominoes – 10 games for example.
The draw game is a slight variation on the block game and possibly more familiar to many. The rules, method of play and scoring are identical as in the block game but in this game there are no sleepers.
Two players take seven dominoes each
Three players start with five dominoes
Four players start with four dominoes
Five players start with three dominoes.
The game proceeds in the same way as in the block game but if a player cannot go, then he must pass and pick up one of the remaining dominoes from the spares pile (sometimes referred to here as the bone yard) and add this to his hand each time he has to knock. This continues until all the spares have been used up. The game ends when a player chips out.
The only difference between the draw game and the block game is that the all of the dominoes will be played in the draw game so someone will always chip out. The sleeper pile in the block game brings an extra element of uncertainty because it is impossible to accurately guess which dominoes are being held in the opponent’s hands and which dominoes are remaining out of play in the sleeper pile.
There are hundreds of different games of dominoes to choose from (one of which is giant dominoes of course!), once you get the domino bug.
How about a game of Mexican Train, Chicken Foot, Matador, Fives and Threes, Maltese Cross, Longana, Muggins, Bergen, 42, One Armed Joe, Castle Rock…the list is almost endless!