Your First Dominoes Game: A Beginner’s Walkthrough

You’ve gathered around the table with a set of dominoes in hand, and you’re eager to dive into your first game. Dominoes, with its straightforward rules and intriguing gameplay, promises an exciting experience for players of all ages. In this beginner’s walkthrough, we’ll guide you through your first dominoes game, providing step-by-step instructions on drawing tiles, making plays, and the general flow of the game. By the end of this guide, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the art of dominoes.

Step 1: Setting Up the Game

Before you can start playing, it’s important to have your dominoes set up and ready to go. Here’s how to prepare for your first game:

  1. Gather Your Dominoes: Ensure you have a complete set of dominoes. A standard set consists of 28 tiles. These tiles may be made of materials like plastic, wood, bone, or other durable substances.
  2. Select a Playing Surface: Choose a flat and stable surface, such as a table, where you can lay out your domino tiles. A well-lit area with enough space for all players is ideal.
  3. Invite Your Fellow Players: Dominoes can be enjoyed by two to four players. The more players, the merrier the game. Gather your friends or family members to join in the fun.

Step 2: Shuffling the Tiles

Before you can begin drawing tiles and making plays, it’s essential to ensure that the tiles are well-mixed. This prevents any particular pattern or order in the tile arrangement, ensuring a fair and random distribution.

  1. Place All Tiles Face Down: Begin by placing all the domino tiles face down on the playing surface.
  2. Shuffle the Tiles Thoroughly: Mix the tiles by shuffling them around, ensuring that they are adequately randomized. This step is crucial for maintaining the element of chance in the game.

Step 3: Drawing Tiles

With the tiles thoroughly shuffled, it’s time to draw your starting hand of tiles. The number of tiles each player draws at the beginning of the game depends on the number of players:

  • For a standard game with four players, each player should draw seven tiles.
  • For three players, nine tiles are drawn by each player.
  • For two players, each player draws 12 tiles.

Step 4: Familiarize Yourself with Your Tiles

Before you make your first play, take a moment to get to know the tiles you’ve drawn. In a standard set of dominoes, each tile is rectangular with two squares, and each square can have zero to six dots, or pips, representing numbers. The goal is to match the pips on your tiles with those on other tiles during the game.

Step 5: Determining the First Play

Now, it’s time to determine who will make the first play. In most cases, this is done by each player selecting a tile from their hand and displaying it to the others. The player with the highest double tile, such as a double-six (having six pips on both ends), typically goes first. If no player has a double tile, then the player with the highest overall tile becomes the first player. For example, a tile with a 6 on one end and a 2 on the other is considered higher than a tile with a 3 on one end and a 1 on the other.

Step 6: Making the First Move

The player who goes first, as determined in the previous step, now makes their move by playing their chosen tile on the table. This tile serves as the “starting tile” for the game. In some game variations, a specific tile, known as the “spinner,” may be used as the starting tile. The spinner is typically a double tile that can often be played in multiple directions, creating branching chains of tiles.

Step 7: Subsequent Turns

After the first play is made, the game proceeds in a clockwise direction, with each player taking their turn to make plays. The general rule is to play a tile that matches one of the open ends of the tiles on the table. For example, if there’s a tile with a 3 on one end and a 5 on the other, the next player can play a tile with a 3 or a 5 on one of its ends to connect it to the previous tile. This process continues, with players taking turns to make their plays.

Step 8: Drawing Tiles When You Can’t Play

What do you do if you don’t have a tile in your hand that matches the open ends on the table? In this case, you’ll need to draw a tile from the “boneyard.” The boneyard is a pile of unused tiles, typically placed face down. When you draw a tile from the boneyard, you may have a playable tile that you can immediately play. However, if the drawn tile is not playable, your turn is over, and you must wait for your next one.

Step 9: Ending a Round

The round continues until one player successfully plays all their tiles. This player is the winner of that round. Alternatively, a round can end when no player can make a move because no tiles in their hands match the open ends on the table.

Step 10: Scoring

The scoring in dominoes can vary depending on the game variation you are playing. In some games, like “Block,” players count the pips left in their hands when someone goes out, and those pips are added to the scores. In other variations like “Muggins,” opponents can claim points you missed during gameplay if they notice your scoring errors.

Step 11: Common Mistakes to Avoid

As a beginner, it’s important to be aware of some common mistakes that players can make. One of the most common errors is failing to notice available plays or not recognizing when a player goes out. To avoid these mistakes, it’s crucial to pay attention to the board and your opponents’ moves. Practice will help sharpen your skills and reduce the likelihood of these errors.


Your first game of dominoes is an exciting step into the world of this classic game. As you become more familiar with the rules, strategies, and the flow of the game, you’ll find yourself becoming a more skilled and confident player. Dominoes is a game that offers endless hours of fun and entertainment, and as you continue to play, you’ll discover the layers of complexity that make it such a captivating pastime. So, gather your friends, shuffle those tiles, and start your dominoes adventure today. Happy playing!

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