Dominoes Variations for Beginners: Beyond the Basics

As you dip your toes into the fascinating world of dominoes, you’ll quickly discover that this classic game comes in many shapes and sizes. Beyond the basic game you might be familiar with, there’s a vast landscape of dominoes variations that add exciting twists and unique challenges to the gameplay. If you’re a beginner looking to expand your dominoes horizons, this guide is your gateway to exploring some popular domino variations. We’ll introduce you to games like Mexican Train, All Fives, and more, providing rules and tips to get you started on your journey into the world of dominoes diversity.

The Universal Domino Basics

Before we dive into the exciting world of domino variations, let’s briefly revisit the universal basics that apply to most domino games:

  • Tiles: A standard set of dominoes consists of 28 rectangular tiles. Each tile has two squares, and each square can have zero to six dots, or pips, representing numbers.
  • Matching Pips: The core rule in dominoes is matching the pips on your tiles with those on the table. A tile can only be played if it matches the open ends of the tiles on the table.
  • Doubles: Doubles are tiles with the same number of pips on both ends. For instance, the double six has six pips on both ends, making it the highest double in the set.
  • Playing Surface: Dominoes are played on a flat and stable surface, typically a table, and the game proceeds in a clockwise direction.

Domino Variations for Beginners

Now, let’s explore some popular domino variations that are perfect for beginners:

Mexican Train

Mexican Train is a fun and social domino game that can be enjoyed with a standard set of tiles. The objective is to be the first player to play all your tiles or have the lowest score when an opponent goes out. Here are the basic rules:

  • Setup: In Mexican Train, the double twelve is typically used as the starting tile. Players create a “train” of tiles, starting from the double twelve in the center.
  • Gameplay: Players take turns matching the open ends of tiles with the same number of pips. If a player can’t make a match, they draw a tile from the boneyard.
  • Special Rules: Mexican Train introduces a fun twist with the “Mexican Train” itself. If a player can’t make a match on their turn, they can start their own personal train or add to the Mexican Train, creating an exciting and competitive element.

Tip: Keep an eye on your opponents’ trains, as you may be able to play on their trains and hinder their progress.

All Fives

All Fives, also known as Five-Up or Muggins, is a domino variation that adds a scoring component to the game. The goal is to score points by matching open ends with a multiple of five. Here’s how it works:

  • Setup: A standard set of dominoes is used. The double-six is often used as the starting tile.
  • Scoring: In All Fives, players aim to score points by playing tiles that make the open ends’ total equal a multiple of five (e.g., 5, 10, 15, etc.). When a player scores, they mark the points on a score sheet.
  • Muggins: This is a unique feature of All Fives. If a player misses an opportunity to score, their opponents can “call” Muggins and claim the points the player missed.

Tip: Pay close attention to the board and look for opportunities to score points. A careful eye can help you accumulate points and outscore your opponents.

Block Dominoes

Block Dominoes is a straightforward variation that focuses on blocking your opponents and creating chains of matching tiles. Here’s how it works:

  • Setup: A standard set of dominoes is used, and the double-six can be the starting tile.
  • Gameplay: Players take turns matching the open ends with tiles that have the same number of pips. The key strategy is to block your opponents from playing by placing tiles that force them to match specific numbers.
  • Winning: The game typically ends when one player empties their hand, and the player with the fewest tiles left in their hand may score points.

Tip: Focus on blocking your opponents strategically, and consider how your plays will impact their options.

Chicken Foot

Chicken Foot is a variation that adds a unique twist to the dominoes game. The goal is to form a “chicken foot” shape with your tiles. Here’s how it’s played:

  • Setup: A standard set of dominoes is used. The double-nine can be used as the starting tile.
  • Gameplay: Players aim to form a “chicken foot” by playing tiles that match the open ends of the chain in a specific pattern. The game can be played as a cooperative or competitive game, and it requires players to follow the pattern closely.

Tip: When playing Chicken Foot, be attentive to the pattern and how your plays fit into the chicken foot shape.


These domino variations offer a taste of the diverse and exciting world of dominoes. As a beginner, exploring different game variations can not only make your domino experience more enjoyable but also broaden your understanding of the game’s strategies and possibilities.

Whether you choose to embark on a Mexican Train adventure, score points in All Fives, block your opponents in Block Dominoes, or form a chicken foot in Chicken Foot, you’re in for a world of fun and challenges. So, gather your tiles, invite some friends, and embark on your journey into the fascinating realm of dominoes variations. Happy playing!

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