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Rules to play Mexican Train dominoes with double six and double fifteen dominoes

Traditionally Mexican Train dominoes is played with a double-12 domino set. This means the set has 91 tiles, starting with one double blank domino all the way up to a domino with 12 pips (dots) on each side. This is how all our apps work and is what most game rules assume.

But there are other physical domino sets that can be used to play Mexican Train Dominoes in a pinch, or if you're looking for an extra-large group or play time. These include:

Standard Mexican Train dominoes rules for any variation

No matter how many players and tiles you're working with, some rules remain the same:

  1. Start by shuffling all the dominoes face down.
  2. Draw dominoes based on your player count and tile count (more on that below). The remaining dominoes remain in the "bone pile" or “boneyard” off to the side.
  3. The player with the highest domino in the set (e.g., a double-six in case of a double-six domino set) starts the game. If no player has the domino matching the highest double domino, then each player draws one domino at a time from the boneyard until it's found.
  4. Everyone’s first play must match the end of the highest double on their train.
  5. Whoever lays the first domino starts the game. Play moves in a clockwise direction and you must play a tile on each turn. There is no "skip" or "pass" in Mexican Train Dominoes.
  6. Each player begins laying out their train, which is just a row of dominoes starting from the initial double and extending out toward the player. Physical sets usually assume all personal trains and the public train start from a central train hub or center of the table.
  7. If a player is unable to play before they start their train, then they must mark their own train as open with a train token.
  8. The ends of each domino played must match the other end of the preceding domino, like 4|5 - 5|9 - 9|2...
  9. Whenever someone plays any double domino, they must satisfy the double by laying another tile. If they can't satisfy the double, then they draw one domino from the boneyard. If they still can't cover it, their turn is over and the next player must satisfy the double, repeating this process until the double is "closed".
  10. If at any time a player cannot play, despite a draw from the boneyard, they place a marker on the end of the train—usually a penny, but it can be anything from a gummy bear to a piece of paper—to indicate their private train is open for other subsequent players to play on. You can "close" your private trains on your next turn when you can lay a matching domino, then remove the train marker.
  11. A public Mexican Train is open from the start of the game for anyone to play on at any time and is always open. There is only one Mexican Train, except for variations recommended for larger double-fifteen and double-eighteen sets.
  12. Continue playing until someone is out of dominoes or there are so few tiles left no one has a playable tile and cannot play.
  13. Your score is the number of pips on all your remaining dominoes. The player with the lowest score wins.

Rules to play Mexican Train with a double-six domino set

Best for: fast gameplay
Recommended players: 2-3
Tiles per player to start: 5 each

Double-six dominoes can be used to play Mexican Train dominoes, but is best used for two players because there are so few tiles available.

You may also decide to pre-pick the starting double-six domino to get the domino immediately on the table.

The object of the game remains the same to keep your private train private and maintain the lowest score.

Playing doubles with a mere 28 tiles available means remaining tiles go quickly. It's also more likely a player lays multiple dominoes on the first round and ends early. In the rare instance a player plays all their dominoes in the first turn, each player still has a chance to make their first move, then the round is over.

Rules to play Mexican Train with a double-nine domino set

Best for: efficient gameplay
Recommended players: 2-4
Tiles per player to start: 7 each

Double-nine domino sets are relatively rare and hard to find, but if you have one, start the engine tile with the double-nine by drawing one at a time until it's found or pre-selecting it at the start of the round. Play moves clockwise.

The final round with traditional Mexican Train rules would be ten rounds long, which may be more than you're willing to play. Agree to a set cap before the first game.

Rules to play Mexican Train with a double-fifteen domino set

Best for: longer than usual gameplay
Recommended players: 3-5
Tiles per player to start: 9 each

With as many dominoes as a double-fifteen set provides, you may consider some different house rules depending on the number of players.

Three players may prefer to draw as many as 12 or 13 dominoes each at the start of the game. Five players may prefer to draw closer to 9. The more dominoes drawn at the start, the more likely players can lay tiles in strings with doubles early on, speeding up game play.

If you only have a few players, you could allow players to have more than one personal train. You may also decide to draw up as many tiles as necessary from the bone pile if someone is unable to play. Think of this as the "Uno rule" that can bring punishment to someone unable to play!

Rules to play Mexican Train with a double-eighteen domino set

Best for: long gameplay or large groups to play dominoes
Recommended players: 6-9
Tiles per player to start: 11 each

A double-18 domino set is almost unwieldy for Mexican Train dominoes unless you have six or more players. IfI you intend to tackle all 190 tiles, consider these rule adjustments:

Traditionally the game has as many rounds as doubles in the set. So if you had a double-twelve set you'd start round one with the double-12 as the starting tiles, then round two would start with the double-11 and so on. That means a double-18 set has nineteen rounds (counting the double blank tile). Which might be more than you're willing to do. Consider capping it at best of three rounds, or possibly six.

Since there are so many players and tiles involved, you may also opt to have more two or three public trains or more than one personal train. These additional trains, combined with everyone's own train or trains can help ensure play passes quickly. Decide on one or the other, though. If you have more than one public Mexican Train, limit each player's personal train to just one.

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