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A typical game of Mexican Train with the branching doubles variation
Mexican Train, also known as simply Trains, is a game played with dominoes. The object of the game is for a player to play all the dominoes from his or her hand onto one or more chains, or "trains", emanating from a central hub or "station". The game's most popular name comes from a special optional train that belongs to all players. However, the game can be played without the Mexican Train; such variants are generally called "Private Trains" or "Domino Trains". It is related to the game Chicken Foot.
A double-twelve set of dominoes is marketed as the standard for Mexican Train, and accommodates up to 8 players. Other sets are commonly used as well. The following alternate sets are common, depending on the number of people playing:
- Double-Six (2 players)
- Double-Nine (2-4 players)
- Double-Twelve (5-8 players)
- Double-Fifteen (9-12 players)
- Double-Eighteen (13+ players)
In addition to dominoes, the game also requires:
- One token or marker for each player
- A special spacer, known as the "station" or "hub", used to evenly space the trains around the central domino (optional).
- Pencil and paper to keep score
Many sets of dominoes include a station and special train-shaped tokens for markers, and packaged games with a central "station" and custom tokens are available. However, the station piece is not strictly needed, and anything from coins to poker chips to even pieces of candy or slips of paper can be used as markers.
The object of all Trains games is to be the first player to place all of their dominoes. Dominoes may be placed onto the player's train, onto the Mexican train if available, or on the trains of other players under special circumstances.
At the start of each round, the dominoes are placed face side down, shuffled, and drawn by players to form their hands. Using the standard double-twelve set, players draw dominoes as follows:
- 2-4 players: 15 dominoes each
- 5-6 players: 12 dominoes each
- 7-8 players: 10 dominoes each
Any remaining dominoes are placed to one side, forming the "boneyard".
With a standard double-twelve set, the player with the double-twelve plays first. In each successive round the next lower double is used until all doubles are used. The double-blank is the final round. If no one has the required double for the round, players each draw another tile simultaneously until it is found. The player with the required double opens the station by placing this double in the center as the "engine".
Play continues to the left. Each person lays one legally placed domino per turn, or two if the player's first domino is a double. If they are unable to, they must draw a domino from the boneyard. If they are able to lay that domino, they must do so immediately. Otherwise, their turn is over and play continues to the left, each player trying to place all their dominoes by playing matching dominoes one at a time, end to end.
A train can be as long as the players can make it; it only ends when all dominoes that could match its endpoint have already been played. As a result, trains can become quite long, especially with an extended domino set. It is acceptable to "bend" the train 90° or 180° to keep the train on the playing surface, as long as it does not interfere with the endpoints of other trains.
All trains begin the game as "private", and only the player who owns the train may play on it. When a player draws a domino and is unable (or chooses not to) play it, they must mark their train as "public" by placing a marker on their train. If a player is deemed to have made a strategic error the highest score of that round is added to theirs.
Players have the option, whether they can play on their own train or not, of playing a domino on any train currently marked "public". When a player with a "public" train adds a domino to it, it becomes "private" again and may not be played on except by the train's owner.
The Mexican Train
The Mexican Train is an additional train that anyone may play on during their turn. They can start the train (by playing a domino matching the engine) or add to the train. However, there is only one Mexican Train. It is sometimes marked (usually with a black marker), or left unmarked (it is generally easy to identify, because it is the only train not facing a player).
When a double is played, it is placed perpendicular to the train. Subsequently adding a domino to the double is called "finishing" or "satisfying the double".
The player who played the double must take another turn. This additional turn follows exactly the same rules as any normal turn. They may play anywhere they like, and do not have to "finish the double" on this turn. They may play elsewhere and, provided they make a legal play, do not have to mark their train for not finishing the double (unless the double was played on their own train). Like any other turn, if they cannot (or choose not to) go, they must draw a domino and mark their train as "public".
If a double remains unfinished after it has been played, the train becomes a "public" train. No other train can be added to by any player until someone "finishes the double". Play passes to the next player who can legally play on this train (if the train is theirs, or if they can legally play on "public" trains). If they cannot "finish the double", they must draw a domino, and if they cannot play it on the double, their own train becomes "public". Play continues like this until someone "finishes the double".
Branching on doubles as in Chicken Foot is not allowed.
At the end of each round, the player going out receives 0 points, while all other players receive the sum of all pips (dots) on their dominoes. In most versions, the double-blank is worth 50 points. The person with the fewest points after all thirteen rounds have been played is the winner. In the case of a tie, the person with the most 0-point rounds is the winner. (If this is still a tie, the person with the lowest round total other than 0 is the winner).
With four, six or eight players, the game can be played in teams of two, with partners sitting opposite each other. Rules are identical except that a player's train and his partner's train are considered one and the same (they will usually extend from opposite sides of the station), and thus a player can play on his own end or his partner's, and neither end becomes public until neither partner can play a tile. Scoring is also handled in pairs, with the player who went out scoring zero for his team (even though his partner will have dominoes remaining) and other teams summing their scores for a team score.
Elements of strategy
- It generally in a player's best interest to keep their train private. By making a train public, the player allows other players to break an impasse in extending the train, but the player loses all other options except to attempt to play on the endpoint of their own train.
- While public trains offer additional options, the player's own private train should be considered first. Trains usually are public because their owners cannot play on them; if that train's endpoint does not change, its owner has no options until they draw a domino they can play on it.
- A player may choose to dump unmatched tiles on public trains first, before starting their own train, to trick the other players into believing that the player cannot start a train.
- If one or more players played on a public train and the endpoint value has changed, play another tile that will change the endpoint value back to its original value or to a value the player is thought not to have.
- It is sometimes advantageous to play a double on one's own train and intentionally leave it unfinished. If the value of the double has been heavily played elsewhere, other players may be unable to finish it, which will cause many players to have to mark their own trains. This is a good defensive play when subsequent players are low on dominoes; they are unlikely to have a matching domino, and must draw and mark their trains until someone can finish the double.
- Because a player playing an unfinished double on someone else's train does not have to mark their own train as public, it is recommended that players play doubles on public trains whenever possible. Not only does this remove a major disadvantage to playing an unfinished double, it does not change the endpoint value of the train meaning its owner probably will not be able to play, and other players do have to mark their trains if they cannot finish the double. However double on another player's train gives that player and everyone else (if public) more options.
There are a number of other versions of the rules for Mexican Train, varying the number of dominoes drawn by each player, the rules for playing doubles, or the number of tiles that can be played during one turn. For example:
Fast Game variation: After the starting double has been placed, turns are ignored, and each player focuses on making their own train as long as possible. Once everyone has made as long of a train as they can, play reverts to turns, using the rules listed above. This speeds up the game, but eliminates some of the strategies of playing doubles.
Delayed First Turn variation: Similar to the Fast Game variation listed above, instead of simultaneously, each person takes turns playing as many dominoes on their train as possible. Any player that is unable to play on their first turn draws a domino, and may then begin their first turn or pass. When a player who has passed finally starts their train, they may play as many dominoes as they can string together. After starting their train, players are only permitted to play one domino at a time as usual, unless playing a double. This version allows a player to save their "first turn" string of dominoes for when they have a chance, instead of being stuck with all dominoes from the beginning.
Branching Doubles variation: Once a double has been satisfied, players may continue to branch off of the double in two more directions, meaning the double will have a matching endpoint on all four sides. Often, players like to angle these branches at a 45-degree angle to accommodate for more room. This variant gives players more choice and speeds up the game.
Swan Drive variation: A player who can play on their own train may also play one tile on each subsequent public train in clockwise order. Each public train must be played on in order to continue in this manner, and only one tile per train may be played (unless a double must be finished). Once a player cannot play on the next public train, or has looped around to their own train, their turn ends. While playing on each public train, the player may choose to play on the Mexican train or skip it when he comes to it, making the placement of the train somewhat strategical. This version makes for a much faster game.
Can you play Mexican Train with dominoes? ›
The Mexican Train starts at anytime with the first tile played by any player who so chooses to play a domino from his “extras”. The Mexican Train must be a domino that has one end that is the same denomination as the engine in the center.Is Mexican Train and dominoes the same? ›
What is the difference between dominoes and Mexican Train? Both Dominoes and Mexican Train, as Americans call them, push players to rid their hand of as many dominoes as possible. In Mexican Train, a special optional train that belongs to all players is played, along with several "branches".How many dominoes do you start with for Mexican Train? ›
Each player should draw dominoes as follows: If 2-4 players, draw 15 dominoes. If 5-6 players, draw 12 dominoes. If 7-8 players, draw 11 dominoes.What is the easiest domino game? ›
Block or "the Block Game" for two players is the simplest basic domino variant and gives its name to the whole family of 'block games'. It requires a double-six set, from which each player must draw seven tiles; the remainder is not used.Can you play Mexican Train with double-six dominoes? ›
Double-six dominoes can be used to play Mexican Train dominoes, but is best used for two players because there are so few tiles available. You may also decide to pre-pick the starting double-six domino to get the domino immediately on the table.How many dominoes do you start out with? ›
1. At the start of a two-player game, each draws a hand of seven Dominoes. For three or four players, each draws five Dominoes.Why do Hispanics play dominoes? ›
Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Cubans consider Dominoes a fun,casual pastime. Dominoes is a way that Latinos bond with their friends, family, neighbors and even strangers. In playing dominoes with their compatriots, they connect to their home culture.What happens when you run out of dominoes to draw in Mexican Train? ›
If you are unable to play and the boneyard is empty, you simply pass and place a marker on your train. (If there is already a marker on your train you just leave it there.) You must play a tile at your turn if you are able to. You are not allowed to draw from the boneyard if you had a tile that you could legally play.What are the official rules for Mexican Train? ›
The Mexican Train is always public, and there can only be one Mexican Train built within each round. Other General Rules: Players must always play if they have an eligible tile. If there are no more tiles in the "bone pile," a player must pass and place a marker on his train.Can your last domino be a double in Mexican Train? ›
If they cannot "finish the double", they must draw a domino, and if they cannot play it on the double, their own train becomes "public". Single and double blanks are considered wilds. Mexican train dominoes can end on a double. Branching on doubles as in Chicken Foot is allowed as an option (see Variations below).
What does a blank domino mean? ›
Game Option 1: Blanks can be used as “wild cards” where they are without number in and may join with any tiles regardless of numeral including other blanks. Game Option 2: Blanks count as zero and can be joined only to other blanks, not to any other number.What does a blank domino mean in Mexican Train? ›
Each player's score is tallied by adding up all the pips or numbers on his remaining tiles. A double-blank tile is worth 50 points. At the end of the final round the person with the least amount of total points for all the rounds is declared the winner.Is playing dominoes good for the brain? ›
Dominoes, Trivia Pursuit, Monopoly, Chess – they're all mentally stimulating and can sharpen your brain (especially if you haven't played them in a while). Learning a NEW game is even more beneficial. Even video games can improve logical thinking, spatial visualization, and the ability to resolve emotional conflict.What is the most common domino game? ›
The most commonly played domino games are Domino Whist, Matador, and Muggins (All Fives). Other popular forms include Texas 42, Chicken Foot, Concentration, Double Fives, and Mexican Train. In Britain, the most popular league and pub game is Fives and Threes.How many dominoes do you need for 6 Mexican Train? ›
Depending on the number of players, each player draws a set number of dominoes. Up to 4 players take 15 dominoes each, 5 or 6 take 12 each, 7 or 8 take 10 each. In friendly games, players normally just place their dominoes on edge in a row facing them.Can you play on someone else's train if you haven't started yours? ›
even if you haven't started on your own train.
In fact, many people have won the game without every playing on their own train. This leads us into the discussion of how many tiles you need to answer a double ....
To begin play, the dominoes are shuffled face down and each player takes nine dominoes. The remaining dominoes are placed in the "Bone Yard." The player with the highest double dominoe plays first.What is the first move in playing dominoes? ›
The Shuffle: To begin the dominoes are placed face down and “shuffled.” Players draw one domino. The player drawing the highest double or if no double, the highest domino plays first. Re-shuffle and then begin drawing the first hand. Drawing: Each player then draws seven dominoes for his hand.Can you play off the first domino? ›
The player who draws the heaviest tile will make the first play. If there is a tie, it is broken by drawing new dominoes from the stock. In some domino games, the rules state that the first play must be made by the player with the highest double in his hand.What goes first in dominoes? ›
The player drawing the highest double goes first, or, if no double is drawn, the player with the highest-scoring domino. Each player now draws a hand of seven tiles, with the player who did the shuffling drawing last.
What is considered disrespectful in Mexican culture? ›
Mexicans often "hold" a gesture (a handshake, a squeeze of the arm, a hug) longer than Americans and Canadians do. Don't stand with your hands on your hips; this signifies anger. It is considered rude to stand around with your hands in your pockets.What do you yell when you win dominoes? ›
The object of the game is to be the first player to get rid of all the dominoes in your hand and then yell “Domino!”. If play is blocked and no player can add a tile to the layout then the game is over.Is dominoes a black game? ›
What games does your family play? African American leisure activities have often included playing tabletop games like checkers, dominoes, bid whist, spades, and others. Bid whist, similar to the card game spades, was popular in U.S. military culture and traditionally among African Americans.What do you say when you have one domino left in Mexican Train? ›
Everyone knows that one. But one table rule that often goes unnoticed is the “Mexican Train tapping rule”. The rule says once you're down to one playable tile you must tap the domino or table loudly enough people can hear it. Alternatively, you can say “uno” to indicate you have one tile.Can you start a Mexican Train on your first turn? ›
The other end can be anything at all.) Taking turns in a clockwise direction, the other players do the same. If a player cannot start a train on the first turn, they can draw from the boneyard pile. If they pick the needed domino (in this case the double 12- they can immediately play it.Can you play a double in the first round of Mexican Train? ›
Yes, during your turn you can play two or more doubles back-to-back. As always, after your last double is played you must lay an extra tile that's not a double on any eligible train. And doubles must be satisfied in the order they were played, so the eligible double for the additional tile is the first one played.How do you win at Mexican Train dominoes? ›
Use Doubles To Your Advantage
By placing a double, you are limiting the number of dominoes that can continue the train. Since players are low on dominoes near the end of the game, this makes it hard for other players to finish that particular train. In other words, hold those double dominoes until the end!
Dominoes must play end-to-end and match based on their pips. Playing a double grants you another turn, but must be “closed” by playing another tile on them before you can play anywhere else. If you can't close the double, draw 1 tile from the boneyard.Do you have to say Uno in Mexican Train? ›
A- When you get down to one tile, you can tap on the table and/or announce "uno". If you don't tap and are caught by another player you have to draw 2 tiles. NOTE:This is the rule used by most train groups but we have never played with a group that actually enforces the drawing of two tiles.What is one domino called? ›
The individual domino pieces of a set are usually called dominoes or tiles.
What is it called when dominoes fall? ›
We have all witnessed on various occasions domino-toppling shows, which consist of creating elaborate patterns and sequences with standing dominoes arranged in a row or rows and then toppling the first one to set off a chain reaction that causes all the dominoes to fall sequentially, the so-called the domino effect.What is it called when all the dominoes fall? ›
Domino toppling is achieved by standing dominoes on end and arranging them in the desired patterns and sequences. Such a sequence is called a domino run.What is double zero worth in Mexican Train dominoes? ›
After someone has gone out, everyone counts up the dots on their remaining dominoes. If you have a double zero (which has no dots on it) when the game ends, it's worth 50 points!! You don't want to be left stuck with that double zero domino.What does Capicu mean in dominoes? ›
A dominoes match is made of several games (manos). “Chuchazo” – When the winning bone is the double-blank (“la Chucha!”) . “Capicú” – When the winning bone can play on either open end of the layout. Doesn't apply when the winning bone is a double.Do you have to satisfy a double in Mexican Train? ›
Satisfying the double takes precedence over any other move. Once they cover the double, their turn is over. Their personal train is still open.Can you play Chicken Foot dominoes with Mexican Train dominoes? ›
This is the complete combination set for playing both Mexican Train and Chickenfoot. This double 12 domino set includes nine glitter train markers and an electronic centerpiece with train and chicken sounds.Can you play Mexican Train with double nine dominoes? ›
We strongly recommend using domino tile racks to make this easier for you and so your dominoes don't fall down. Recommended Tiles: For 2-3 players, use a double-9 set - each player takes 8. For 4-6 players, use a double-12 set - each player takes 12.Can you play Mexican Train without a train? ›
even if you haven't started on your own train.
In fact, many people have won the game without every playing on their own train. This leads us into the discussion of how many tiles you need to answer a double .... Many people answer a double with just one tile.
Shuffle all the tiles face down on the table. Each player takes eight dominoes instead of the usual 18. The rest get placed in the boneyard. Each player needs a coin or marker for their train and one shared token to represent the Mexican Train.What domino goes in the middle of Mexican Train? ›
Mexican train is played in 13 rounds, each round established by the “engine”, a domino which is placed in the center of the train hub. The engine in the first round is the double 12 domino.
Can you have more than one Mexican Train in dominoes? ›
The Mexican Train is always public, and there can only be one Mexican Train built within each round. Other General Rules: Players must always play if they have an eligible tile. If there are no more tiles in the "bone pile," a player must pass and place a marker on his train.What is the difference between double 6 and double 9 dominoes? ›
Domino games may be played by any number of persons from two to ten. Sets in sizes known as Double-Six, Double-Nine and Double- Twelve are manufactured for the Milton Bradley Company, Springfield, Massachusetts, 01101. The Double-Six set contains 28 tiles, the Double-Nine 55 tiles, and the Double-Twelve 91 tiles.Can you play twice off a double in Mexican Train? ›
Yes, during your turn you can play two or more doubles back-to-back. As always, after your last double is played you must lay an extra tile that's not a double on any eligible train.Can someone else start your train in Mexican Train? ›
The player's own train. The Mexican Train (if not yet started, the player can start the train with a domino matching the central Double). Another player's train but only if it is has a marker on it.
If another player notices you didn't tap or announce, you have to draw two tiles from the bone pile. However, if there are no remaining tiles, you still lose your turn but don't have to draw. If one tile is left, you still draw the last one.Why do they call it Mexican Train? ›
The game Americans call "Mexican Train" is originally a variation on a Chinese game called Pai Gow, which means "make nine." Cubans learned the game & called it Longana, & Americans confused them with Mexicans and called the game Mexican Train Dominoes because of the long "trains" of dominoes.