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Try these popular variations of Mexican Train dominoes

Like so many classic domino and card games, family game night evolves games organically through new twists, accommodations, and misunderstandings about the rules. Mexican Train Dominoes is no different from many popular variations of the classic domino game.

We've talked about Mexican Train variations before, usually related to playing double tiles. Inspired by John McLeod's excellent index of games and rules and variations, we gathered up all the known Mexican Train Dominoes variations we've heard of in detail.

"Fast game" Mexican Train dominoes variation

For the impatient, you play this variation of Mexican Train dominoes by ignoring everyone's turns on the first round. Instead of taking turns, each player sets out to make their personal train as long as possible. All using the tiles they have on the first draw.

Play standard rules with one player at a time after each player has exhausted their available domino tiles. Because a double tile is rendered equal to every other tile on the first play, this removes some of the strategy surrounding when to play double tiles. It also adds more luck and chance to the game after the first "fast round" since drawing a double from the bone pile will speed up your play.

Delayed first turn variation

Regular play requires each player to start their train and move clockwise from whoever has the highest double on the first round. In a delayed first turn variation, each player—starting clockwise—takes turns playing as many dominoes as possible.

If a player cannot play dominoes on their first turn, they draw a domino and either begin their first turn with the tile drawn from the bone pile or pass.

When a player who has passed finally starts their personal train, they can play as many remaining tiles as they can string together in a chain. Then, after a player has done so they can only play one domino and play resumes as usual.

This variation allows a player more control when they begin to string together their dominoes on personal trains and leaves more value for the doubles.

Branching doubles variation

Mexican Train becomes a bit more like Chickenfoot in the branching doubles variation. In standard Mexican Train rules, a person who plays a double (like 4|4) must cover that double with a match on one end (like 4|8). Branching off in separate directions gives the double a matching domino endpoint on all four sides instead of just one.

This speeds up the game since trains become more like chains, and playing doubles triples the number of options available to players. Each matching domino can extend for as long as a player has a playable tile to match and Mexican Train Dominoes Rules dictate a player who can't play leaves an open train. This means all their branches become an eligible train for other players. Just make sure you have a train marker for all the open variations!

Swan drive variation

In the swan drive Mexican Train variation, a player plays on their own train and may play a tile on each open public train moving clockwise. So, if you're playing with four players and you play on your personal train and the player to the left has an open train, you can play on theirs too.

You can only play one tile per train except if you lay a double—and you can play a double domino on any of your subsequent player's trains.

Each round ends when you've completed the loop around the table. You can also choose to play on the public Mexican Train or not.

The swan drive variation dramatically increases each player's train strategy in such a way that blocks or enables them to play their own tiles. Like all variations, the round ends when a player has no more tiles to play; regardless of however many are in the bone pile.

Quick-close marker variation

In the quick-close marker variation, any player who plays on another person's personal train closes the train. Traditionally an open personal train stays open until the owner plays a tile on their train. In this variation, any player, not just the owner, closes a train once a tile is placed.

This closes a marked train quickly, and means building trains becomes more challenging, slowing the game down and increasing the number of times you reach for the boneyard.

Additionally, you could play in such a way that removes a marker from your train if you were allowed to play but had to cover a double on someone else's train.

As explained at Pagat.com, the logic here is you should be able to close a train on your turn despite having to cover someone else's double.

Positive scoring variation

Typically the lowest score wins after three rounds. The number of rounds is always up for variation, but ever how many tiles you have at the end typically adds up based on the number of pips. Even on your last domino, the fewer tiles with the lowest pips are preferable.

In a positive scoring variation, the player who runs out of dominoes or holds the fewest tiles at the end scores the total of all remaining dominoes in every other player's hands. If there's a block or tie, winners share those points.

Meaning the player with the highest score at the end of three rounds is the winner.

Play Mexican Train Dominoes online for free with standard rules

If you're starting or want to play Mexican Train Dominoes yourself against computer players, try our free online game in your browser. It works on any tablet, laptop, or desktop right in your browser.

iOS and Android devices can play our free Mexican Train dominoes games right from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store.

These online games play using standard Mexican Train rules.

Share your Mexican Train variations in our Facebook Group

Mexican Train Dominoes comes in all sorts of variations. What are yours? Tell us and hundreds of other Mexican Train fans in our free online Facebook group.


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