How to play Mexican Train Dominoes with two players
Mexican Train Dominoes is usually played with three players at a minimum, and four or more is recommended. But you can play Mexican Train Dominoes with two people. Here's how.
Before you start to play dominoes
To play Mexican Train with two players, you will need:
A double-9 domino set.
Two markers for each player's train. Two pennies or coins of the same kind work well.
A separate marker for the public Mexican Train.
Differences for two-player Mexican Train dominoes
The standard rules for Mexican Train apply, but you:
Might need to adjust the layout of the table to accommodate the smaller number of players. You can use a single domino as an engine instead of having three separate train lines.
Will use fewer tokens as a train marker.
Will draw fewer dominoes at the start. When you draw from the boneyard, pick up 8 instead of the usual 18.
Use a double-9 domino set instead of a typical double-12 to lighten the remaining tiles and make subsequent turns shorter.
Might end games with two tiles in the boneyard instead of just one.
How to play two-player Mexican Train dominoes
Set the 9-9 double domino aside.
Shuffle all the tiles face down on the table. Each player takes eight dominoes instead of the usual 18. The rest get placed in the boneyard.
Each player needs a coin or marker for their train and one shared token to represent the Mexican Train.
The 9-9 domino goes in the center of the table.
Decide who goes first, either by a coin toss, age, or a quick game of rock-paper-scissors.
On the first round, the first player will play as many dominoes as possible off one side of the starting double (9-9). If Player 1 can't play, they draw one domino from the boneyard and either play it or simply pass.
Player 2 starts from the other side of the 9-9 and lays as many dominoes as possible.
On the third play, (Player 1's second turn), Player 1 can now start the Mexican Train. Do this by laying a tile from an empty side of the 9-9 double. There should now be three trains or branches from the 9-9. Mark the third train as the Mexican Train with with its train token. There is only one Mexican Train.
If Player 1 cannot play on their personal train or the Mexican Train, Player 1 must mark their train with their train marker.
At this point, with Player 1’s train open, Player 2 can play on their own train, the Mexican Train, or their opponent's.
Player 1 may remove the token from their own train by playing only one domino on their train, just like standard Mexican Train rules.
When players play a double, they must satisfy the double and immediately play another turn, either by drawing from the boneyard to cover it or playing a tile from their hand.
If a player can't satisfy the double, the player's train is now open like standard Mexican Train rules. Place a marker on their train to indicate it's open.
If there are only two dominoes left in the boneyard or the boneyard is empty, and no more tiles are left to play, this is a block, and the game is over. Likewise, if a player empties all their available tiles, the game is over.
The score is based on the remaining pips (dots) left on the dominoes, just like standard rules. The lowest score wins.
The next round begins with the 8-8 domino and the winner from the previous round goes first.
You can use a larger double-12 domino set, but the remaining dominoes may make for some longer games.
As with every game of Mexican Train, playing doubles is your best strategy for victory. Try to lay each additional domino with each end matching another playable tile in your hand, stringing together playable tiles and several doubles.
Likewise, try playing on your own train for as long as possible before playing on the Mexican Train. And if you can, avoid playing on your opponent's open train. This ensures the other player is unable to play on their private train, forcing them to draw from the bone pile and slowing down their plays.
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