How to play block dominoes and get the basics down

From Matador to Muggins to Mexican Train, there are endless variations of domino games that people enjoy. For people new to dominoes, probably the best way to learn the basics is by playing Block, a simple version of the game traditionally played in English pubs. You can play with two to five players with double six dominoes. Here’s a quick overview of aspects of dominoes that apply to most games and tips on how you can start having fun playing Block today.

Shuffle and Draw

Domino games start with the dominoes being shuffled face down with the flat of the hand. When playing Block, players draw six dominoes and place them so that the other players can’t see the pips. Put the rest to the side where they are said to be “sleeping tiles.” There are different ways to stack dominoes, but for beginners, it’s easiest to place them on edge in a row facing them.

Here’s how the draw works with different numbers of players:

  • 7 dominoes in a two or three-player game.
  • 5 dominoes in a four-player game.
  • 4 dominoes in a five-player game.

Let’s Play Dominoes

The first person to play holds the highest double domino. The tile played must be the double tile that gave the player the first turn. If no one has a double, the tiles are reshuffled and re-drawn. After the first game, the starting player’s spot rotates to the left. Play also moves clockwise to the left.

Once the double is played, each player takes a turn laying a tile so t touches one end of the domino chain, which gradually grows longer. Players can only lay a tile that has a number showing (or a blank tile) at one end of the domino chain or the other. Keep in mind that there are only ever two open ends.

Each tile must be placed so the two matching ends are adjacent. If the tile is a double, it can be placed square in one of the three directions as long as the two matching sides are fully touching. Doubles are always placed crossways across the end of the chain. Tile played to a double must be placed perpendicular and at the middle of the double tile (think making a T).

If a player can lay a domino, it must be played. When a player can’t place a domino, the turn passes to the next player.

Game over

The game ends when a player “chips out” or plays his last domino. If it reaches a point where no player can lay a tile, the winners are the solo player or partners whose combined pips add up to the lowest number. In case of a tie, the player holding the single domino with the lowest total count is the winner.


You can get creative with scoring dominoes. Some people like to play where the winners score the total of all pips on the losers’ remaining tiles. In games where no one chips out, winners score the difference between their total pips and the loser’s total. Games can be played to 100 points, but a fun variation is to keep the score on a cribbage board and play to 121 points.

Enjoy Plenty of Game Variations

Once you’ve got the hang of Block dominoes, there are endless variations on the game you and your gaming friends can try. It’s fun to discover new ways to play and learn more about how dominoes has evolved based on factors ranging from the country where it’s being played to the domino set that’s being used.

At Crisloid, we craft high-quality domino sets for players at all levels. We’ve seen our dominoes in play everywhere from parks to competitive tournaments. Our sets can be customized and feature stylish durability that ensures they will be enjoyed for generations.

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