How to Play Dominoes: The Challenge of Dots to Dots

Updated on October 7, 2019
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Char Milbrett is a creative writer and artist from Minnesota. She enjoys sharing recipes, crafts, hobbies, and games from her home state.

Double Three Domino
Double Three Domino | Source

Playing the Game: The Basics

"Do you want to play dominoes?" I was asked.

I walked over and sat down. The gist of the game is to match your dominoes. If you cannot match any, you must stand a domino up. Others can play on your run if you cannot play, which helps them get rid of extra dominoes and helps you connect your dominoes once again.

How to Win: Play Out All Your Dominoes

You want to be the first to play all of your dominoes. If someone else plays all of theirs, then you must count the dots on your remaining dominoes, and that is your score. You don't want a high score. A score of zero is perfect. It will probably never happen, but you wish to keep your points low.

By the end of the game we were playing, everyone had at least three hundred points. One person had four hundred points. The game lasted for several hours. We did not play a second game.

Here are a few pieces in a Double Three line. You have the starter Double Three, and I'm showing an example of two lines started by two players.
Here are a few pieces in a Double Three line. You have the starter Double Three, and I'm showing an example of two lines started by two players. | Source

Differences in Dominoes

We were playing with double twelve dominoes, which (in comparison to double six) means that the domino with the most dots has a twelve-dot matrix on it. The six dominoes only went up to a six-dot matrix on them.

My set of dominoes is a Wooden Dragon set with double six. The ones at the party were plastic with colored dots. Each color was a different number of dots. It made it easier to quickly identify which dots to match to.

This is my initial seven draw. Stand on their sides.
This is my initial seven draw. Stand on their sides. | Source

Setting Up the Game for Four People

  1. We started by placing all of the dominoes face down so we couldn't see the dots.
  2. Then, we all helped move them around the table in a circle, shuffling them.
  3. We each selected seven dominoes and placed them in front of ourselves, standing them on their sides. With the game we were using, there was a plastic wheel to place our starting domino on and notches for each player to start at.
  4. To start the game with double twelve dominoes, we needed to draw until we found the double twelve piece. Once found, each of us had to play a domino to start that had a twelve on it.

Gameplay: Drawing and Getting Stuck

Once play has started, if you draw one and cannot play, you must put one domino on end, signifying that your 'line' is open. Any one of the other players can play on your line at this point. Once you have a domino to play, your standing one is turned sideways once again, and no one else can play on your line.

One person did not have a twelve on any of his tiles, so one person placed a tile for him. He said, "Thank you." The act of placing a domino on someone else's line when their tile is standing benefits both players. The 'stuck player' has a new opportunity for becoming unstuck, and the opposing player is able to dump a domino. It's win/win.

Rules for Placing Dominoes

To play, you must place a domino that has a dot matrix that matches the random matrix on your line.

  • If you have a double domino, you place your double sideways in the line and you get an extra turn.
  • If you have a domino that matches your double domino, you place that next one on your line.
  • If you cannot play on your line, and someone else has a domino standing on end, you can play on their line.

Strategy Tips

You must be aware of all standing and non-standing dominoes as you make your play. Also, you must analyze how many moves you can place in sequence before placing your next domino, since that can affect how many future pieces you can place.

If you place the wrong one, you may be done moving, and you may have a domino standing on end again—at which point you must say, "I'm Up!" Up is bad.

I don't have a Domino that I can play, so I place one Domino on end, signifying that I'm Up and my line is open.
I don't have a Domino that I can play, so I place one Domino on end, signifying that I'm Up and my line is open. | Source

Ending One Round and Starting the Next

When someone plays their last domino, everyone else must count their dots.

For the next round, the next tile that starts is the double eleven—then, the double ten, and so on.

Someone else played all their dominoes, so I must count my dots. My points are 6 + 6 + 3 + 1 = 16. Sixteen is added to my score.
Someone else played all their dominoes, so I must count my dots. My points are 6 + 6 + 3 + 1 = 16. Sixteen is added to my score. | Source

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