Mexican Train first turn rules, tips, and clarifications worth knowing
The Mexican Train Dominoes Facebook group has over 400 members discussing strategy, sharing thoughts, and asking questions about Mexican Train. Most people have questions about playing doubles, how to satisfy the double, and opening first turn or first-round rules. House rules can also introduce fun situations in Mexican Train Dominoes.
The first play sets the tone for the rest of the game, so having clear rules and strategies in place matters.
Which comes first: satisfy the double or start the train?
"On the first turn, as you're building your train and you end with a double—and cannot satisfy the double—does the next person have to satisfy the double before being allowed to build their train?"
House rules can dictate this scenario since the formal game rules rarely specify this situation.
- The starting engine requires matching a 6
- It's the first turn of the first round
- Player A lays a 6|4
- Player B lays a 6|6, but can't cover the double
- Player C must now go, what do they do first?
- Player D has not yet started their train
In this scenario, Player C should first satisfy the double domino by laying one of their own or drawing a domino from the boneyard. This means Player C might not be able to start their train until their second turn. Player D will pick up and play on their train to begin their round.
When do you establish house rules for tapping?
"So, we play the 'tap when you have 1 domino left or pick up 2 rule'. I had two dominos in my hand, a double and a piece I could play on it (double 1 and a 1|5 type thing). So, I went out on this. Played both dominoes on my own train and never tapped. There was a SCENE."
- All players' trains are nearly complete
- Player A is about to lay their final two dominoes—a double and another domino immediately placed, satisfying the double.
- Does Player A have to tap or announce their last domino played in between?
There will always be gray areas and house rules that some players encounter mid-game. Generally, house rules should be established and followed to the letter before the first tile is played
in the first round.
This scenario sounds like a reasonable "single, continuous play" since satisfying the double is technically part of one turn, and there is no need to announce the last domino.
Do you have to play all your matching tiles at the start of the Mexican Train first?
"Say the double 6|6 is the engine, do all tiles with a 6 on them need to be at the start of a Mexican Train? Or can you play them in the personal trains after starting your own train?"
- The starting engine requires matching a 6
- Player A lays a 6|1
- Player B plays a 6|4
- Player C plays a 6|10
- Player D plays a 6|3
- Does Player A have to lay another tile on the second round with a 6? And do they have to start the Mexican Train?
Player A can either play a tile starting with a 1 on their train, or, they can choose to play a starting tile starting with 6 on the Mexican Train to match the engine tile.
Strategically, we recommend players play as many moves with as many dominoes as they can on their train first. Player A can play any tile with a 6 on subsequent turns anywhere in their train so long as it matches end-to-end.
If I play max moves on the first turn and draw, can I then lay multiple dominoes?
"This question is about playing Mexican Train with no limit on the number of tiles you can play on your first turn. During my first turn, the Mexican Train is a 12 and I don't have a 12 in my hand—so I draw a domino from the boneyard. Let's say it happens to be a 12. Can I now proceed to build a train starting with the 12 and lay multiple tiles down as it is still my first turn, or am I limited to just the one tile?"
- It's the first turn, and the engine and starting double domino is a 12|12
- House rules dictate players can play as many tiles as they can on their first turn until they cannot play.
- Player A lays a 12|1, 1|4, 4|4, and 4|9 on their first turn.
- Player B doesn't have a domino with a 12, so they're unable to play and must draw a domino.
- Player B draws one domino from the boneyard, a 12|4. This playable domino is able to fit on their train. Can they lay another tile from their pile?
This is likely another gray area most house rules don't account for. We think if you have to draw from the boneyard on your first turn under these house rules, you forfeit your ability to lay additional tiles. Drawing from the boneyard is your turn's immediate end, whether you can play it immediately or not, and play moves clockwise to the next player.
Which comes first in Mexican Train Dominoes: the double or the first move?
"If a player is not able to start their own train and therefore hasn’t been able to get in the game, can that player back a double that was left uncovered by a previous player, or do they just have to draw again for a starter and pass the uncovered double to the next player?"
- First round with a starting double 10|10 as the engine.
- Player A lays a blank 10|6
- Player B lays a blank 10|1
- Player C lays a 10|4
- Player D is unable to play, must draw a domino from the boneyard, can't play, and adds a marker on their train.
- Player A plays a double 6|6, but can't cover it
- Player B and C are also unable to cover it, draw dominoes, and open their trains with train markers.
- Player D, who does not have a starter tile played yet, can cover the 6|6, but not their starting 10|10. Do they have to draw again for a starter?
Player B must cover the double, either by placing one of their playable tiles or drawing among the remaining dominoes in the bone pile.
Satisfying the double takes precedence over any other move. Once they cover the double, their turn is over. Their personal train is still open. Subsequent turns move to Player A.
Is the double blank any different in Mexican Train?
Does the double blank domino count as a valid starting double?
- First turn and the engine is set as a double blank -|- domino. Is that allowed?
Unless your house rules say otherwise, the double blank domino is treated just the same as all other doubles. Each player plays as if they need to match the blank end of the engine.
Can I play on someone else’s train on the first move?
“If I can't open my train on the first turn, can I play on another open train?"
- Player A must match a starting double nine 9|9 and plays a 9|1
- Player B has no playable tile and draws another unplayable tile from the boneyard. Their private train is now open.
- Player C has a 9|8. Can they play it on their train or the open train?
Player C could play on Player B’s open train if they wish, or on their own train. They can also play on the public Mexican Train. Whether or not they should start their train or someone else’s so early is a matter of strategic debate.
Can someone open a train for me in Mexican Train?
"If a player cannot open, do they have to put a train marker at their spot or can another player open for them?"
- Player A must match a starting double twelve 12|12 engine and plays a 12|4
- Player B has no playable tile and draws another unplayable tile from the boneyard. Can Player C or D play for them on this move? Or gift them a tile?
No, player B's train is now open. Player B would place a marker opening their train, and another player could come along and play on that player's train, the public Mexican Train, or your open train if they wish. If they played on the open, private train, then it would be officially started and you could play on it for your next turn. But another player cannot open a train for you as a "gift" or lend a tile to you—no matter if they're family or not!