Woman holding domino.
Photo by Angie Talaber

When - completed

This event was held on Thursday, September 19.

Results and Records

See the results of the NVSO 2019 Mexican Train Dominoes events.


General Rules
Please go here for rules covering all events.

Mexican Train Dominoes Rules
Competition is open to men and women with no age groups or gender divisions. The rules are based on the original, “official” rules by Roy & Katie Parsons ©1994 and copyrighted by Puremco, Inc. in 2005. NVSO will provide the dominoes.

A) Object of the Game
Be the first to play all of your dominoes, or at least as many high-point dominoes as possible, in each round. The winners of the first game (limited to 60 minutes) will play each other for another 60 minutes. The winner of the final game (lowest score) will win the gold medal, the next lowest score the silver, the third lowest score the bronze medal.

B) Preparation
Begin play by turning up the double twelve domino. Turn the other dominoes face down and shuffle them. Each player then draws 15 tiles. The remaining tiles are gathered into one or more “train yards” or “bone piles” that are used for draws during play. Place the starting double on the table, centered between the players in a centerpiece or hub designed for holding the double and starting the trains, if you have one.

Next, each player uses his drawn tiles—hidden from view by the other players—to form a personal train. Do this by matching the denominations, beginning, if possible, with a domino that matches the double domino in the center, called the engine. (If there is no tile in the hand that matches the engine, formation of the train may have to wait.) Dominoes that do not fit in the personal train remain in the player’s hand as “extras."

C) Starting
A player will be designated to start the game. Thereafter, rotate the starter of each round in clockwise order. If you’re the starter and you have a domino that matches the denomination of the engine tile, you have two play choices: either start your personal train or start the Mexican train—a line of end-matching dominoes that must begin with the same denomination as the engine tile. Once the Mexican train has been started, it is an eligible train for all players. (If you are unable to play, see the section below.)

After you have played a tile, play moves clockwise to the next player. The subsequent players start their play in a similar manner. If the Mexican train hasn’t been started, any player can start it during their turn. Other play options are covered in the next section.

D) Play
With the exception of playing doubles (covered below), you are allowed to play one playable (end-matching) tile during each turn, if you can. Assuming you have one or more playable tiles, the usual “eligible” trains you can play on are: your personal train, the Mexican train, or any train with a “marker” (explained below). If you do not have a playable tile, draw a tile from the bone pile and play it if possible. If you have a playable tile, you must play, even if the playable tile has to be taken out of your personal train line-up in your hand. It is not an option to not play for any reason.

  • Unable to Play & The Marker. If you are still unable to play after drawing a tile, place a marker (e.g. a penny or small train marker, if included in your domino set) on your personal train near the end or where the train will begin, if it hasn’t yet been started. Your turn then ends and play goes to the next player. A marker on a train signifies the train is eligible to be played on by the other players. While there is a marker on your train, you can still play on any eligible train during your subsequent turns.
  • The End of Play. Once the player’s hand has been removed from the played tile, the turn is over and the play cannot be changed.
  • Removing a Marker. A marker on your train remains there until you play on your personal train during a subsequent turn. Once you have played, you are obligated to remove your marker, making your train ineligible to the other players.
  • Double Dominoes.
    • A double tile is placed sideways on the train.
    • Playing a Double. When you play a double, you must also play an additional tile that is not a double, therefore “closing” the double (unless the double is your last domino, in which case the round ends). If you do not have an additional tile to play, draw a tile and play it if you can. If you can’t play the additional tile, place your marker on your personal train. Play then passes to the next player.
    • An Open Double. If, after a player’s turn is completed, the double is open (not played on), all other trains become ineligible for all players until a player can play on the open double, which is to say the double must first be satisfied or closed before any other trains—marked or unmarked—can be played on. If subsequent players cannot play on the double after drawing, they must place a marker on their personal trains. Once a player has “closed” (played on) the double, all players are then free to play on any eligible train.
  • Errors in Play. If a player errs in the rules, e.g., plays a wrong domino on the train (plays a 10 domino on an 11 domino), excuse the first infraction. But if continued errors occur, the player must draw a domino from the bone yard a penalty for each infraction.

E) Ending a Round

  • When there are no more tiles in the bone pile, a player must pass if he/she does not hold a playable tile, and then place a marker on her/his train.
  • When a player has only one tile left, she/he must notify the other players by tapping it on the table.
  • A round ends when a player has “dominoed” (played her/his last tile, even if it is a double), or when the bone pile is depleted and no one can play and the game is completely stalled.

F) Subsequent Rounds
Each new round begins with the double that is one number lower than the engine in the last round (e.g. 12, then 11, then 10, etc.). Find and set aside the double before shuffling the dominoes. All trains, including the Mexican Train, must begin by matching that double. The blank double is the engine in the last round.

G) Scoring and Ties
Each player counts the number of pips (dots) on his/her unplayed tiles and gives the number to the scorekeeper, who at the end of the final round totals each player’s points. The player with the lowest total score wins. In the event of a tie in the final play for first place (gold medal), second and third place will be a one-round play off for third place (bronze medal). There will be no silver medal.

H) Summary of the Rules of Play

1) Playing Non-Double Tiles:

  • During your turn you may play one tile. (Playing doubles is an exception covered below.)
  • Any player may start the Mexican Train during their turn.
  • If you have a playable tile, you must play.
  • If you cannot play, you must draw a tile from the bone pile and play it if you can.
  • If you are unable to play, you must place a marker on your train. A marked train is eligible for play by all players. The marker remains on your train until you play on it.
  • When there are no unsatisfied doubles, the trains eligible for play are your personal train, the Mexican Train, and any marked trains.

2) Playing Double Tiles:

  • During your turn, you may play one double. This double must be satisfied (closed) before play can continue.
  • If you can’t play the matching non-double, draw, play it if you can, or mark your train.
  • The next player must satisfy the double by playing a domino from her/his hand or drawing from the bone pile. If they cannot play, a marker must be placed on their train. This follows until the double is satisfied. If a player shows the other players that all the non-doubles needed to satisfy a double have already been played, then at that point, there is no obligation to satisfy it, and that train is no longer playable. Tiles that were drawn in a prior attempt to satisfy the double cannot be returned to the bone pile. Play continues as usual.