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Mexican Train Dominoes - Rules

The complete rules for Mexican Train Dominoes, also known as Trains

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Despite its name, Mexican Train Dominoes -- also known simply as Trains -- is primarily played in the United States, where it is one of the most popular domino games.

Players

2 to 14 players, best with 4 to 8 players.

Equipment

One standard set of double-six dominoes can work for up to four players. For more players, a set of double-nine, double-12, double-15, or double-18 dominoes may be needed. (See "Setup" below.)

Each player also needs a marker, such as a penny. One additional marker is also needed.

A "station" to set in the middle of the table is optional.

Goal

The goal of Mexican Train is to be the first player to lay down all of your dominoes.

Setup

Shuffle the dominoes, face down, on the table. Each player takes the appropriate number of dominoes (see below) and stands them on edge, so that they can see the faces (the side with the pips) but their opponents cannot.

If you are using a set of double-six dominoes, with 2 to 4 players, each takes 7 dominoes.

Alternatively:

  • For 2-3 players, use a double-nine set and each player takes 15.
  • For 4 players, use a double-12 set and each player takes 15.
  • For 5-6 players, use a double-12 set and each player takes 12.
  • For 7-8 players, use a double-12 set and each player takes 11.
  • For 9-12 players, use a double-15 set and each player takes 11.
  • For 13-14 players, use a double-18 set and each player takes 11.

The remaining dominoes are left on the table face down. This supply is known as the boneyard.

The Start Player and The First Tile

The player with the double-12 starts the first round by placing the double-12 in the center of the table. This domino serves as the "engine" for the round.

Each later round starts with the player who has drawn the next-lowest double. For example, the player who draws the double-11 in the second round starts that round. The 13th and final round begins with the player who draws the double-blank.

If there is a situation where no player has drawn the tile required to begin the round, players take turns drawing from the boneyard until it is found. The player who draws it starts the round.

The First Turn

The start player now starts to build a train (a single row of dominoes) starting from the center domino and moving toward the player. The end of the domino placed near the engine must match the engine's double number. (Example: If the engine is a double-12, the end of the domino placed near the engine must be a 12. The other end can be anything at all.)

Taking turns in a clockwise direction, the other players do the same.

NOTE: For the first turn, and only the first turn, players may place as many dominoes as they wish as long as they continue forming a valid train. (A valid train is formed when the ends of adjacent dominoes match.) If a player is able to play all of his dominoes on the first turn, the round ends after each player has had one turn.

If a player cannot start a train on the first turn, they place a marker where a domino would have been placed to indicate that they could not start a train. (They do not draw any dominoes from the boneyard.) On the second turn and all subsequent turns, any player can play dominoes in marked areas. On the first turn, the only options for each player are to start a train or to pass.

The Mexican Train

Starting with the second turn, any player can start the Mexican Train by starting a new train in the same way that they started their own train (i.e., the end of the domino placed near the engine must match the engine's double number).

Second and Subsequent Turns

After the first turn, play continues in a clockwise direction. However, each player is limited to placing a single domino per turn, unless the domino is a double.

The single domino played may be added to the player's own train, to another player's train if that train is marked (indicating the owner could not play a domino on the previous move), or to the Mexican Train, sometimes called the Caboose. The Mexican Train is always open to all players.

Each domino must always be played so that it continues forming a valid train.

If a player cannot place a domino, he must draw one from the boneyard. He may then play this domino, if a legal play exists. If he cannot play, he places a marker on the end of his train and the next player takes a turn. (If no dominoes remain in the boneyard, the player simply marks his train.)

Doubles

Starting with the second turn, anytime a player places a double tile (both ends have the same number of pips), he must play a second domino. The second domino can be played in any legal position (on his train, an opponent's train, or the Mexican Train).

If the second domino is also a double tile, the player must place a third domino, and so on.

If the player cannot play the second (or third, etc.) domino, he must draw a domino from the boneyard -- if one is available. If the boneyard domino cannot be played, or none is available, he must place a marker on the end of his train and the play moves on to the next player.

If a turn ends with a double being open on the end of a train, the next player to go must "satisfy the double," which means that he must play a tile to that open double. This must be done even if the move would otherwise be illegal. If the next player cannot satisfy the double, he must draw a domino from the boneyard -- if one is available. If the boneyard domino cannot be played, or none is available, he must place a marker on the end of his train and the play moves on to the next player.

Scoring

When one player places his final domino, or when no player has a legal play, the game ends. At this point, scores are calculated.

The player going out receives zero points. Each other player adds the sum of the pips on their dominoes to determine their score, with the double-blank domino counting as 50 points.

Winning

After all rounds have been completed, the player with the fewest points wins.

If there is a tie, the player who scored the most zero-point rounds wins. If there is still a tie at this point, the player with the lowest total in a round, other than zero, wins.

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