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Even more clarifying Mexican Train Dominoes rules on doubles and other clarifications

Starting doubles and first round moves are the source of most people's confusion about Mexican Train dominoes. We covered those first-move rule clarifications recently. But plenty of questions come up mid-game during Mexican Train.

What do you say or do on your last domino in Mexican Train?

Question: When playing Mexican Train, what do you say when you’re down to your very last domino?

The situation:

Answer: double knocking on the table, saying "uno", saying "one", or a single audible tap on the table are normal last-move announcements in Mexican Train dominoes.

If you forget, it’s customary to draw from the boneyard if you forget to announce your last move before someone calls it out. House rules vary, but drawing one penalty tile is common. Some house rules call for drawing two. Read more about the Mexican Train "tapping rule".

Note: If the last two tiles begin with a double, you should still announce your last tile in the brief moment before you lay the last one as part of your responsibility to satisfy the double domino.

If I satisfy the double on another player's open train, does that close their train?

Question: "Let's say Player A has an open train and another player sets a double on his open train. Player A has a domino that can satisfy the double once it's done. Is Player 1's train still open or is it closed?"

The situation:

Answer: Yes, Player A gets a lot of benefits by satisfying the double no one else could. They get to close their personal train and move forward with every other player on open trains. But only because they play on their train.

What happens when the boneyard is empty?

Question: "If a double is laid down and that person cannot play and draws the last tile, then the next person cannot play because there's no bone pile left, but the third person can play. What is the ruling on the 2nd person (that only had 1 domino left) that could not play? Is there a minimum score they have to take?"

The situation:

Answer: Once no tiles are left in the boneyard a clock starts ticking on all subsequent turns. The game is over once every player passes. So in this scenario, Player C would cover the double, Player D would either play or pass as play moves clockwise, and Player A gets to go again. Once Player A, B, C, and D all pass, the game is considered over.

Scores are tallied based on the pip count of however many tiles are left in your possession. Remember, the object of the game is to have the lowest score after at least 3 rounds. Always play higher-value dominoes and as many dominoes as you can early in the game.

If you forget to unmark your train, when can you close it?

Question: If you play and forget to take your train down, when can you take your train off?

The situation:

Answer: This comes down to house rules. Some players like to play on a marked train whether it should be marked or not, and if it's open it's considered fair game so long as it’s still marked accordingly.

Since it's unlikely most people thought about this situation in advance, an agreement of players may have to be reached. Technically players can only play dominoes or work with their personal trains on their turn, not in between turns. Unmarking a train mid-turn would constitute working with them when it's not their turn.

However, few players would agree that if a person forgets to add their train marker after failing to make a play they should leave their private train closed until the player plays again. Most reasonable people would argue that personal trains should be marked open because, technically, it was always supposed to be open.

Thus, we recommend a player's marked train be marked open or closed based on the reality of what it should be at all times. If you forget to add or remove train markers, add or remove them as soon as someone notices they're mis-marked, regardless of who is playing.

Where can you play Mexican Train with more than four players?

Question: is there a way to play with more than three or four players?

Answer: Most online and in-app Mexican Train dominoes games max out at four players. This is usually because a solo player watching eleven other AI players would be boring and monotonous. However, playing with friends makes the time between turns pass faster.

To play with more than four players, you might find it handy to purchase Mexican Train sets with larger train station hubs. You don't need a train hub, but it can make the tile organization earlier for people sitting around a table managing multiple dominoes and trains.

For groups of 6 or more you might want to double the amount of playable dominoes by using two double-12 domino sets.

Are you obligated to unmark a player's train?

Question: If a player was unable to make a play, and places his marker on his train and after a few plays the player makes a play on his train, can that player leave his marker on his train thereby inviting other players to play on his train, or is the player compelled to remove his marker?

The situation:

Answer: This could be a house rule, but a valid train is marked or unmarked as the player can or cannot play on their own train. You should place a marker when it's open and remove it once it's not. Leaving a marker on your train to invite others to play in hopes it frees up options for a playable tile you might have left alters the game.

Is my train open if I choose to play on another open train?

Question: "A friend told me that if I don’t play on my own train and choose to play on the Mexican Train or on someone else’s open train, that I must put my train up, thereby opening my train to other players."

The situation:

Answer: No. A player's train does not need to be marked as open unless they cannot play anywhere on the table. So long as you play somewhere—either your train, the public Mexican Train, or another player's open train, your train can stay closed. Playing on other trains is a matter of strategy. Your own train is generally left closed until you simply can't play on it any other way.

If I can't satisfy the double and a drawn tile doesn't either, is my train open?

Question: "A player puts down a double and picks a tile from the boneyard because she couldn’t satisfy it. Is her train now open?"

The situation:

Answer: Yes, the train is open because the double domino played earlier must be satisfied and if a drawn domino still doesn't cover it—even on another player's train or the Mexican Train—that forces their personal train to be open. Reason being they're technically unable to play on their private train, too, so that opens it up.

Ask questions by joining the Mexican Train Facebook group

You can find answers to more questions and ask your own in the Mexican Train Dominoes Facebook Group.

Play Mexican Train Dominoes online or on your phone for free

Ready to get in a little practice or quick solo Mexican Train games? Get started with Mexican Train Dominoes, available free online in your browser or download our iOS, Android Google Play, or Kindle games.

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