facebook pixel
players playing mexicain train dominoes

How to start a game of Mexican Train Dominoes

All your questions answered on how to start with or without doubles, round doubles, engine layout, and more

We've written extensively about how to play Mexican Train Dominoes before, including several strategies for winning, the best times to "satisfy the double", and popular Mexican Train variations. But perhaps the most confusing part for new players is, "How do I start a round of Mexican Train Dominoes?"

Understanding rounds based on your domino set

A traditional game of Mexican Train has ever how many rounds as your domino set has doubles.

The most common sets are usually a double-9 or double-12 domino set. Meaning the highest pip-value domino in the pack has 12 dots on each end (12|12). For this and other examples on this page, we'll assume you have a double-12 set.

  1. A double-12 domino set means you'll be playing 13 rounds.
  2. The first round starts with the double-12 as the "engine". This domino should be drawn from the boneyard first and set aside.
  3. After the first round, the second game begins with a double-11 domino.
  4. Play continues through each round with the next decreasing double domino drawn from the boneyard first.

How to lay your first round dominoes and "connect" to the train engine

  1. When laying out all the dominoes on the table, find the double-12 domino and set it aside. This will be the starting "engine".
  2. Once players have drawn as many tiles as necessary for their player count, the first domino set in the middle of the table is the double-12.
  3. Whoever is to the right of the dealer starts first. Play moves clockwise.
  4. Each player's own train must "connect" to the double-12 "engine tile" with a 12 on one end.
  5. If a player cannot play on their first round, they can draw from the boneyard of excess dominoes. You only draw one domino from the boneyard per turn.
  6. If you still cannot play, you place a train marker on your own train to indicate it is "open". This applies even if you haven't laid a starting tile yet.
  7. Each player plays through their turn, attempting to connect to the starting double domino.

The unfortunate side effect of going early and not having a playable tile to start from the train hub is other players can play on your open train. This isn't a big deal early in the game before each person has started their personal trains. After all, everyone is attempting to connect to the starting 12 on the engine. But if you're still unable to play after a second or third round, your private train can get blocked for a while if no one frees you up to lay a domino.

Remember, the object of the game is to play all your remaining dominoes before your opponent, including the remaining tiles in the bone pile.

First moves and plays to start the public Mexican Train

The public Mexican Train must also start with a connecting double domino to the engine. In our first-round example of connecting to a double-12, someone must first lay a playable domino beginning with a 12 to start the public Mexican Train, just like everyone's own personal trains.

Playing multiple dominoes on a single move to satisfy the double

If you play a tile at a time each turn, you'll never get ahead. Instead, you want to play as many dominoes as possible in a string. However, this is unlikely to happen on your first turn unless someone else has laid a favorable tile elsewhere before you. Instead, expect that your second domino of the game is where you can strategize.

  1. Play a tile on your second turn so you can lay two tiles, like: 12|12 - 12|2 - 2|2 - 2|3
  2. dominoes in a line
  3. The 2|2 on your second round allows you to play another tile from your stock of dominoes immediately. This is called "playing doubles". Because you need to satisfy the double domino, you can draw from the boneyard, but you risk not being able to satisfy the double if you still cannot play. That means you risk having to place a marker on your own train and opening other players to play on your train in subsequent turns.

If you organize your tiles drawn at the start of the game in an approximate order you could reasonably play them. You're almost guaranteed to win if no one else is thinking ahead.

Each time a player plays a double domino immediately followed by another is one more step to releasing all their dominoes.

More common FAQs about starting rounds and first Mexican Train moves

The double blank is really the "double zero" domino and should be treated like any other double.

Yes. This is applicable only to later players, like players 3 or 4, in the first round. But, if on your first play someone else is unable to play, there is a marker on their train to indicate it is open, and a domino played before you allows you to, you can play on another player's train before your own.

However, some house rules require people to play on their own train first and if they fail to do so, they must place a marker on their train and the next player can play on your train. Agree to these rules before starting.

Players can agree to shorter rounds. Traditional rules say if you have a double-12 domino set you'd play all 13 rounds (including the “zero” round). But you can also agree to play best of three or five rounds. Just choose an odd number to ensure someone is a winner.

The winner is always determined by whoever has the lowest pip count after all agreed-upon rounds. Some house rules always set the max at three rounds. This is how our Mexican Train Dominoes apps and free online Mexican Train games*** work. It helps speed up the game for more casual play.

You'll be able to eventually, but it might take a few turns.

There is only one Mexican Train and it starts like all other trains, with a matching end connected to the engine hub that started the round.

Players simply pass until they can play a domino from the boneyard or their inventory.

Play continues with each player drawing from the boneyard until a tile played connects to the engine. This means each personal train might have a train marker for the next player to play on, but eventually, someone will draw a domino from the boneyard.

It's not impossible if one player has a string of bad luck that prevents them from laying even one domino after several turns. They must still start their train with a connection to the engine, so perhaps a forgiving opponent might legally play a spare tile satisfying the double for their friend's engine-less marked train.

Yes. The game ends when a player is out of all their dominoes, even if the player plays a double as their last move that sits unsatisfied. Just don’t forget the tapping rule or else you might have to draw before your grand finish.

You can download our free Mexican Train apps or play free online in your browser right now.

Each game is set at three rounds and all the train markers and rules around playing doubles are covered for you. It's a great way to play out strategies before playing against your friends with a physical set.

Copyright 2019 DillyDallyGames. Terms of Service | Privacy Policy