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A pair of hands holding two dominoes.

How does Mexican Train Dominoes end? There are 2.5 ways

There are two-and-a-half ways a game of Mexican Train Dominoes ends:

1: When one player lays the last tile in their hand, regardless of how many are left in the boneyard.

2: When no more tiles are left in the boneyard and all players cannot play a tile in a round.

2.5: Related to #2, the game is over when everyone's private train and the Mexican Train is blocked and the boneyard contains no tiles.

Mexican Train Dominoes is a relatively simple game, but this question of how a game of Mexican Train ends comes up when people run into edge cases that feel like there should be a different result. Here are some of those cases and what to do.

What if someone lays a double, and then no one can play a tile?

When playing doubles, Mexican Train rules dictate "covering the double," but if someone lays a double and can't cover it with their remaining tiles, they have to draw a domino from the boneyard. If that tile cannot play, play moves clockwise. If that player can't cover the domino, play moves to the next until all players (sometimes up to eight players) move.

If a player draws a double that can cover the open domino, play continues. But if all players fail to cover the double, the game is over.

Remember that failing to cover the double will result in everyone's private train being marked as open.

What if someone lays a double-blank domino at the end as their last tile, but the tiles are in the boneyard? Do they have to cover the double?

This edge case results in a player holding one tile, a double blank, and they lay that double tile as their last move. The Mexican Train rule ending the game is applied since all their dominoes are played. The fact the double blank is uncovered doesn't matter.

Double blanks, like any double, are not treated any differently simply because they're a blank.

Can you end a game of Mexican Train Dominoes on a double domino?

Yes. Though some house rule variations may suggest that all double domino tiles played must be covered — even at the end of a game with all remaining tiles played — standard Mexican Train Dominoes rules would call this the end of the game.

If your house rules require a person who plays a double to close it, even if that's their last tile, they would have to draw from the boneyard. This would lengthen the game to whenever all boneyard tiles are drawn.

The remaining dominoes left add to your score, so unload the high-value dominoes

Unload high-value dominoes as soon as possible since every pip (dot) on all the dominoes left at the end of the game adds to your score. Like golf, Mexican Train Dominoes rewards the lowest score, not the highest. Zero is best.

Unless you draw a double domino sometime late in the game, it's generally not a great strategy to hold on to double domino tiles for very long. You want to play as many tiles as possible early on, so immediately play a double whenever and wherever you can. This also helps you unload more tiles before opponents since you'll string together turns.

Play with your own train online anytime

Remember you can play Mexican Train Dominoes online anytime with our free browser-based game. No downloads are required, though you can also play on iOS, Android, and even your Kindle.