How to Play Dominoes

Dominoes is thought to have originated in China and made its way to Europe in the 14th century. Many different games can be played with dominoes. The Double 6 standard 28 piece set is the most common for regular use. Double 9 and Double 12 sets are also available and make the same games longer and more complicated. ‘How to Play’ instructions for the standard game and a few of the other more unusual, but easy to learn domino games are detailed below.

The Standard Game

Shuffle the dominoes face down on a table. Each player pulls one domino from the table and the player with the highest double domino plays first. If no doubles are pulled the player with the highest number of spots (or pips) starts play.

Players put down dominoes in turn looking to match the dominoes, for example, a 5 would be placed in a line against another 5. Doubles are, by tradition, placed at right angles across the line of play.

The aim of the game is to be the first player to get all dominoes on the table and have none left to play.

How To Play

Divide out the dominoes so that all players have an equal number to start with and leave the remainder aside. For example, using a standard 28 piece set, if there are 3 players they will each get 9 dominoes and one will be left.

The first player puts down a domino. If that player can add more dominoes they continue until they are unable to match any more. Play then moves to the next player going clockwise around the players and they try to put down as many dominoes as they can.

The winner is the player who puts down all their dominoes first. Play can continue to find second and third place. If players still have dominoes but no one can put any more down, the winner is the player with the lowest number of pips on their dominoes.

Blind Dominoes

Ensure all dominoes are face down (unseen). Divide the dominoes equally between the players (still unseen) and each player places them in a row.

The first player takes the domino from the left of their line of dominoes and places in the centre of the table. The next player also picks up the domino on the left of their line and tries to match it with the first domino. If there is no match that domino is placed back in the player’s line on the right. Play continues until either a player has been able to put down all their dominoes or there is no further play possible and it’s stalemate.


Divide out the dominoes so that all players have an equal quantity. Remaining dominoes form a boneyard. The first player puts down a double. If they don’t have a double they pull from the boneyard until they find one. The second player has to match one end of the double on the table. If they haven’t got a suitable domino they also pull from the boneyard. If there are not enough dominoes in the boneyard play passes to the next player. The third player must match the other end of the first original double domino. Play continues alternating between ends. The first player to put down all of their dominoes is the winner.


For 2 to 4 players.

After shuffling the dominoes, players draw dominoes as usual, but the number taken depends on the number of players – for 2 players each take 7 dominoes, 3 players 6 dominoes, 4 players 5 dominoes. The remainder go into the boneyard.

The player with the highest double starts and players add dominoes to the game as normal matching numbers. Doubles can also be added to on their ends (rather than across) but this can only happen when the doubles have had both sides joined. The pattern of player can, therefore, be long and thin as normal or can branch out to the sides as more and more doubles are joined.

The aim is to get rid of all your dominoes, but if a player doesn’t have a domino to lay down they must draw from the boneyard until they can move. If no domino can be found to put down the player misses a turn.

Scoring is based on players being able to lay down dominoes and for the number of pips on the two dominoes at the end of the line to add up to 5, 10, 15, etc ie divisible by 5. Scoring is 1 point for 5, 2 points for 10, and so on. The player who goes out first scores points from their opponents’ dominoes, 1 point for every 5 pips in the opponent’s hands. By adding scores from each round, the first player to get to 61 points is the overall winner.

Did you know?

* The spots on dominoes are called pips.

* At the start of the game not all of the dominoes may not be taken by the players. The remainder on the table is called the ‘boneyard’.

Check Out

Like to see our House of Marbles Dominoes sets? Click for Dominoes 6s and Dominoes Double Nine.

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