New Games - Dominoes

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Playing Dominoes
Intro to Dominoes  --  -- A quick introduction to dominoes sets
Curse of the Doublet  2Easy Easy to learn, tough to win
39  2Medium Jab your opponent! ... defense counts. Highly recommended.
Tabulus  2-4Easy Fast fun in a racing game
Triangulus  3Easy Fast fun for three in a racing game
Druidica  2-4Medium A more challenging racing game
Scarne-cchia  2Medium Capture tiles from the table by matching plays with those in your hand
Domino Trick-taking Games  -- -- Overview of Fun Trick-taking Games
Domino Whist  3-5Easy Play dominoes to tricks like cards, and hope you make your bid!
The Big Game  4Medium Challenging trick-taking game played with dominoes, based on Texas 42
Tableaux  2Hard Think dominoes can't be as challenging as chess? Think again!
Advanced Tableaux  2Hard Tableaux with the 9-9 set

Introduction to My Domino Games

By Howard Fosdick ©

The standard dominoes set consists of 28 pieces. Each represents the conjoined face of two dice. There is also a blank face, which represents a zero. (Read our article here to learn more about the composition of the set.)

As with playing cards, dominoes originated in China. Their earliest recorded mention dates to the 1200s.

The tiles travelled to Europe by way of Italy in the 1700s, and became quite popular among English adults by 1800.

Yet today, dominoes suffer a poor reputation. Many consider them little more than a "kids' game". Others think you can only play a handful of games with the tiles.

Neither belief could be further from the truth.

Friedrich Sturm Domino Players
Domino Players by Friedrich Sturm (1823-1898)

Like playing cards, dominoes are generic game pieces that can be used to play any number of games. Find an adult game of sufficient strategic interest, and you'll have as much fun with dominoes as with any other gaming vehicle.

The problem with dominoes is that the rules distributed with most sets are limited to just a handful of games. And, should you look up dominoes in a games encyclopedia or online, you'll find many more games -- but the great majority are simply versions of block or draw dominoes.

In both block and draw, players create a layout of connected tiles. In block, if a contestant has no tile to play, he loses his turn, while in draw, he draws tiles from the draw pile until he has a playable domino.

Now there are dozens and dozens of domino games with different names. But in fact, many are based on the same playing principles, with minor rules differences between them.

A few games that are truly different include the scoring games. In these, players accumulate points by matching the open ends of the playing layout in some manner. For example, creating open ends that are multiples of three or five score in some games.

That's what you'll find if you research domino games. The games are certainly interesting and fun, but they're rather limited in terms of variety and strategic challenge.

Given that dominoes are a collection of generic gaming pieces -- just like playing cards -- doesn't it seem that you should be able to play as wide a range of different games with dominoes as with cards?

That's exactly what I set out to create: entirely new ways of playing with dominoes, based on gaming principles as wide-ranging as those that underlie card games. Here's what I've developed over the decades:

Layout Games

I started by creating a pair of games that look like traditional domino games in that players create layouts of connected tiles. But the similarities end there. Play Curse of the Doublet and you'll immediately sense the difference. The rules are easy to learn, yet it can be a knock-down-drag-out fight to win.

39 introduces a new concept: that of the preferred suit. Play a tile that creates a new open end of the wrong suit and you're penalised. Play one in the right suit and you can score. What makes it interesting is that you -- or your opponent -- can change the preferred and penalty suits at any time. This incites jabs and counter-jabs that can be a sight to behold. 39 may be the best domino game I've ever invented.

Fishing Games

In our new game Scarnecchia, you try to collect face-up tiles from the table by matching them in various ways with those in your hand. Tile games based on this "fishing from the pool" principle are popular in Asia; you may be familiar with the concept from such popular Italian card games as Casino or Scopa. Scarnecchia brings this principle to a modern dominoes game you'll enjoy.

Scarnecchia is named after that great card magician and author of games books, John Scarne. He led a fascinating life, tangling with everyone from the famous mobsters of the 1920s to Harry Houdini, FDR, and Castro. You can read his intriguing biography here.

Racing Games

We've also created several racing games in which the racing track is composed of face-down dominoes. The hook is that dominoes are turned over and revealed during play, which dynamically and unpredictably alters the game board.

Tabulus is for two to four players and Triangulus is designed for three.

Druidica -- the "Game of the Sacred Stones" -- is a more sophisticated version of these games. It is also for two to four players.

All three games -- Tabulus, Triangulus, and Druidica -- feature similar rules even though their different game boards make them feel like entirely different games. If you learn one, you can play them all.

Trick Taking Games

What if we played dominoes to tricks, exactly as if they were playing cards?

This very idea occurred to two young middle school students in Texas in the 1880s. Their parents switched them for playing with "the devil's picture book". Cards were under religious taboo.

The savvy kids understood that they could transfer the concept of trick-taking from playing cards to domino tiles. They invented the game called "Texas 42". Most just refer to as "42".

Horrace Pippin Domino Players
Domino Players by Horrace Pippin (1828-1946)

42 is an endlessly fascinating game. Its history is proof. Without any publicity whatsover, the game spread throughout Texas and into neighboring states like Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Today it's called "the National Game of Texas". Every Texan knows about the game, even if they don't play it themselves. Many families hold day-long "42 parties".

Now, 42 is a fabulous game, but the deals are quick. Players slap down but seven tricks in a hand.

We took 42 and created a more challenging variant we call The Big Game. It's a perfect mathematical extension of 42 from a game with 7 tricks to one featuring 11. We guarantee you'll enjoy it. We provide rules for both 42 and The Big Game to get you started.

In both 42 and The Big Game, you try to win special high-value tiles in tricks. What if all tricks counted equally, as in Whist? We provide just such a game for dominoes called Domino Whist.

As with other trick-taking dominoes games, part of the fascination with Domino Whist is that all dominoes are members of two suits (instead of a single suit, as in playing cards.) This is the special appeal of trick-taking tile games. You can read all about trick-taking domino games in this essay on how to play trick-taking games with dominoes.

Arithmetically Positional Games

To counter those who believe "dominoes are childs' play", we offer a pair of games in which you position dominoes based on the mathematical relationships between them. Tableaux and Advanced Tableaux are guaranteed to get you thinking and exercising your mind.

Have fun!