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Basic Guide to Dominoes

Dominoes is a game that appeals to people of all different ages and all different  skill levels. It’s played by both children and adults and is very popular. Dominoes is commonly played purely for fun, but it can also be played more seriously at a competitive level. There are many competitions and tournaments that take place all over the world.

It can be played for the purposes of gambling too, and it frequently is. You can even play online if you want to, for fun or for real money. There are several variations of the game, the most well-known of which are block and draw. These form the basis for many of the other variants of dominoes, and we have provided the rules for both of them on this page. We have also provided a little information on the origin of the game.

The Origin of Dominoes

It’s widely accepted that dominoes has its roots in China. There are written references of early versions of dominoes being played as long ago as the 12th century. Although these versions were different than many of the versions currently played today, this is ultimately where they evolved from.

The game spread throughout many parts of the world, including Europe and Italy in particular. It became very popular in the United Kingdom too, where it’s still widely played. Games were often used during the 19th century to help settle disputes over land ownership and other matters.

Variations of the Game

There are a lot of different versions of dominoes. Two of the most popular are block and draw, both of which use the modern set of dominoes known as the 28 tile double six set. Each of the 28 tiles in this set is effectively split into two, with a line down the middle. Each half contains a number of dots, known as pips, to show their value.

The number of pips on each half of a tile is between zero and six. A zero is also known as a blank. Tiles that have the same number of pips on each half are known as doubles. For example, a tile with six pips on one half and six pips on the other is a double six. Tiles are also often referred to as bones, because they used to be made out of ivory.

You can find the rules of block and the rules of draw further down this page. Other popular variations of dominoes include Basic Trains, Cyprus, Muggins, Double Fives, and Chicken Foot.

Rules of Block

Block is a very basic form of dominoes, and it’s one of the easiest games to learn. It’s typically played by two players and each game contains a number of rounds. At the start of each round all of the 28 tiles are placed face down on the playing surface, and the two players then draw seven tiles each to form their hand. The other tiles aren’t used for the remainder of the game.

The first player begins by placing a tile of their choice face up on the playing surface. This starts the line of play. The other player then places one of their tiles, face up and adjacent to the first tile. The half of this tile that’s touching the first tile must have the same number of pips as the half it is touching. Players then take alternate turns placing tiles following that same rule.

A round ends when one of two things happen. If a player manages to place their last tile, then they are the winner. If a player is unable to place a tile because they don’t have one with a suitable pip value, then they lose. The winning player then scores the total value of the pips on the tiles left in the hand of their opponent.

A game of block can be a fixed number of rounds, where the winning player is the one with the highest score after all rounds are completed. It can also be played where the winning player is the first one to reach a specified score.

If more than two players are playing block, the rules are slightly different. Each round still ends if one player gets rids of all their tiles, but a player doesn’t automatically lose if they cannot place a tile. Instead that player must pass their turn. The round will also end if all the players have tiles left but none of them can make a move; this is known as a blocked game.

In a blocked game, the player with the lowest total value of pips in their hand wins the round. They score the total value of pips in the hands of all the other players, minus the number of pips in their own hand.

Rules of Draw

Draw shares most of its rules with block. It can be played with two, three, or four players if using a 28 tile set, but larger sets can be used to support additional players. The game starts in the same way as block, with players taking their tiles. If there are more than two players, then they only take five tiles.

Unlike in block, in draw the remaining tiles are used. Once each player has taken the necessary number of tiles, all those left are placed in a pile. This pile is known as the boneyard.

The only other real difference with draw is that when a player cannot make a move they must draw an additional tile from the boneyard. If they still cannot make a move, they must keeping draw tiles until they can. If all tiles are drawn and a player still cannot move, then they must pass at that point. All of the other rules regarding the game ending and the scoring are the same as in block.