Nos

a domino game from the Netherlands for three, four, or five players

This description was originally drafted by Günther Senst and edited by John McLeod in October 1996. The source for this game is Brethouwer, D.H.G. - Domineren en Nossen - Van Goor Zonen Gravenhage (1967). There are a few places where the rules given in the book seem to us to be ambiguous. These are noted in italics within the description below.

This game has an interesting dimension not found in other domino games: the first player in each deal has the advantage of choosing between a large number of alternative sets of rules governing how the layout is built. The loser of each deal has the compensation of playing first and thus choosing the rules for the following deal.

We would be very interested to know whether this game is still played in the Netherlands or elsewhere. We would like to hear from any players, especially if they can help us to resolve the doubtful points in the rules.

Preparation

Three, four or five people can play. A double-six set of 28 dominoes is used. It is convenient to use chips for scoring; before the start of the game, each player receives 500 units - 4 hundreds, 4 twenties, 4 fours and 4 ones.

The first play of each hand is called the set, and the player who begins is said to be on set. In the first hand this is the player who holds the highest double. In subsequent hands the player on set is the loser of the previous hand - i.e. the player who held the greatest pip value of stones at the end of the play.

The Deal

The 28 stones are shuffled face down on the table - for the first hand anyone may shuffle; in subsequent hands the stones are shuffled by the player to the right of the player on set. Then each player in turn, starting with the player on set and continuing clockwise takes the proper number of stones, which is 8 minus the number of players - i.e. 5 stones if there are 3 players, 4 if there are 4 and 3 if there are 5 players. Each player places his stones on edge so that they are visible to himself but not the other players.

A stock of 12 or 13 stones will remain face down on the table. This is called the boneyard.

The Set

For the first hand the player on set is the player with the highest double, and he has to play this double, double blank counting low. If no player has a double (theoretically this can happen once in 700 games) the stones are put back and there is a new shuffle.

For hands other than the first, the loser of the previous hand is on set. He must play a double. If he has no double, he must draw a stone and play that stone, whether it is a double or not. The "loser" who starts the next hand is the player who has the largest spot value of dominoes left at the end of the play (0-0 counting as 14) - even though in fact some other player may have lost more points on the deal if the various bonuses, penalties and side payements are counted. It is not stated who starts the next hand if two or more players end with equally many points. We suggest that it should be the player among them who has the most expensive single domino, and if there is a tie for this also, the player whose most expensive domino has the largest end (e.g. 5-1 beats 4-2 beats 3-3).

The player on set who plays a double from his original hand is paid the point value of one end by each opponent; if it is the double blank he receives 7 points from each. If he had to draw a stone and it is a double, he gets double the amount of points from each player (for example 8 instead of 4 for the double four). If the drawn stone is not a double, instead of receiving points he has to pay to each opponent the total spot value of the domino (e.g. 9 points each for the 5-4, 2 each for the 2-0).

After playing the first stone, the player on set announces which type of game will be played. There are 17 possible types of game (some of which have further options within them). These are explained below. In all types the object is to play out all your dominoes to the layout before the other players, but the rules vary as to which dominoes can be played where.

Immediately after the player on set has announced the kind of game to be played, players with more than a certain number of doubles can declare them if they wish to, and receive payment from each of the other players. The doubles are placed face up on the table in front of the owner and they remain there until played to the layout. The number of doubles which can be declared and the payment for them depends on the number of players as follows:

Payment for:

3 players (5 stones)

4 players (4 stones)

5 players (3 stones)

3 doubles

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25

50

4 doubles

200

250

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5 doubles

500

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The Play

After the first domino has been set and the game announced, the play continues in clockwise rotation beginning with the player to the left of the player on set.

Each player must if possible play one stone when it is his turn. Before playing this stone, the player is allowed to draw as many stones as he wishes, one at a time, from the boneyard, provided that at least two stones remain in the boneyard.

If a player has no stone that can legally played, he must draw stones from the boneyard until he is able to play, or until only two stones remain. If a player has no legal play and there are only two stones left in the boneyard, that player must pass and the turn passes to the next player in rotation.

A player who plays a double next to the stone just played by his immediate predecessor receives from his predecessor a number of points equal to the number of spots on one end of his double (7 points for the double blank). The player has to ask for these points in order to receive them. The player of a double does not receive payment if one or more players have played stones elsewhere on the layout between the play of adjacent stone and the play of the double. There is also no payment if the predecessor has just won the nos (see below) by playing his last stone.

[Two details here are unclear from the Dutch rules:

  1. If the predecessor has just played his last stone, but did not win the nos, must he pay if the next player plays a double on his stone? Reading the Dutch rules literally, the answer should be 'yes', but in Günther Senst's interpretation the answer is 'no'.
  2. If a player plays a stone, the next player passes, and the player after that plays a double next to the first player's stone, must the first player pay the third for the double? Literally the answer seems to be 'no', because the first player is not the immediate predecessor of the third, but Günther Senst's interpretation is that there is a payment, becuase no stone was played in between.]

In the first round, any player who has a double that fits the first stone can play it out of turn at once, and receive payment as above from the player on set. This is an exception to the rule that doubles are only paid for when played next to the immediately previous stone. Later, when it is the normal turn of the player who played a double ahead of his turn, he must say 'I wait', and wait until the second round to play his next stone. After everyone has played one stone, play proceeds clockwise from the player to the left of the player on set as normal.

[Here again the rules are not quite clear.

  1. Do all the players who can play a double on the first stone get paid, or only the first? Günther Senst's interpretation is that all those who play doubles next to the first stone are paid by the player on set, not just the first.
  2. Does the player to the left of the player on set have to wait before playing to see if the other players want to play doubles? What happens when three or more players want to play a stone on the first domino but there are only two spaces? This last case could arise for example in the 5-player game of ordinary Matador (see below): when the 5-1 is set, the next player has a 2-3, and the other players have a 6-6, a 2-2 and a 0-0. If all four players want to play, who has priority? A civilised solution would be to say that doubles have priority over other stones, and that players earlier in rotation have priority over those whose turn comes later.]

Nos and Blocking

Nos
The first player who gets rid of all his stones declares Nos and receives 5 points from each opponent. In the course of the game other players will get rid of all their stones as well, but there is no special reward for that. They are simply out of the game, and take no further part until the scoring at the end.
Blocking or closing:
A player who has just played a stone and is of the opinion that no further stones can be played in this hand can announce 'I block' or 'I close'. If he is right, each player who is not yet out of the game has to pay 20 units to the player who closed. The next player in turn will then have to draw all the remaining stones from the boneyard, except for the last two. If it turns out during his drawing of stones that the closing was not correct, he need not go on drawing of course. If the closing announcement is wrong, the player who closed incorrectly has to pay 40 units to each opponent, and in that case the game continues. If there are only two players still in the game and one of them closes with his last stone, then the other player need not draw.

End of Game, and Scoring

A game can end in the following three ways:

  1. only one player has stones - after the second to last player has played his last stone, no further stones can be played;
  2. the game is closed;
  3. all players correctly passed in succession - i.e. there are only two bones in the boneyard and no one has a legal play.

When the game has ended, each player counts the number of spots on his remainings stones. The double blank counts 14, but other blank ends count 0. A player who got rid of all his stones has a count of zero. Each player then pays to every player with a lower count than himself a number of units equal to the difference between their scores.

It is customary to play for so much per point, rounding payments down to the next multiple of 20. If a player wants to stop playing in the middle of a session, then he must pay the other players the difference from 500 if he has less than 500 points, and he can collect the difference if he has more than 500. At the end of a session, all players settle up acccording to the number of points they have above or below 500, again rounding the difference down to the nearest 20.

The Possible Games

The following are the types of game which can be chosen by the player on set.

1. Ordinary dominoes.
The layout extends in two directions from the first stone. Each domino played must have an end which matches (has the same number of spots as) the free end of a domino at one end of the layout. The domino is played with its matching end next to the domino it matches, and the other end free to be matched by a future play. Doubles are traditionally placed crosswise, but this has no special significance for the game - for matching purposes a double counts as the number of spots on one end.

Example:
ordinary dominoes

2. Ordinary cross dominoes.
The first stone must be a double. The next four stones played must have one end matching the number of the double; they are played with the matching end inward, so that a cross is built. Only when the cross is full can further stones be played, extending any of the four arms of the cross, according to the rules of ordinary dominoes.

Example:
ordinary cross dominoes

3. Ordinary double cross dominoes.
The beginning is the same as in ordinary cross. After the cross has been built, the next stone played to each arm must be a double matching the free end of that arm of the cross. Once a double has been played to an arm, it can be extended by playing further dominoes according to the rules of ordinary dominoes. An arm can be extended as soon as its double has been played - it is not necessary to wait for the other doubles.

In the following example the top arm requires the 6-6 next and the left arm requires the 4-4:
ordinary double cross dominoes

4. Matador (also known as Russian dominoes).
The procedure is similar to ordinary dominoes, but with a different matching rule. The ends placed together, rather than being equal, must have a total of seven spots (so a 1 matches a 6, a 2 matches a 5, and a 3 matches a 4). There are four special stones, called Matadors. These are the stones which have a total of zero or seven spots: the 6-1, the 5-2, the 4-3 and the 0-0. A matador may be played against any stone. When playing next to a matador, the free end must be matched in the normal matador way - that is making a total of 7 spots. Therefore a player playing a matador should choose carefully which of the two ends should be an open end. Doubles as well as matadors are arranged in a straight line. Notice that on a blank end only a matador can be played. On the other hand you are not allowed to match a blank end to a matador on the layout - thus stones containing a blank can only be played with their blank ends facing outward.

The following example was started from the 6-6:
matador (russian) dominoes

5. Matador cross.
The first stone must be a double, but not the double blank. A cross is then built, as in type 2 (ordinary cross), but following matador rules (the inner ends of the dominoes must total 7 with the number of the double - or matadors can be played). When the cross is complete, the four arms are extended according to matador rules.

Example:
matador cross dominoes

6. Matador double cross.
This begins like matador cross. When the cross is complete, the next stone on each arm must be either the appropriate double (using matador matching rules) or a matador. These doubles or matadors are not placed crosswise. The four arms are further extended following matador matching rules - you can add further stones to an arm as soon as its compulsory double or matador has been played, without waiting for the other arms.

In the example, the top arm can only be extended if the 4-4 or a matador is added to it:
nos6.gif - 2.41 K

7. Ordinary cross, then matador.
The first five stones are played as in ordinary cross; then the arms are extended using matador matching rules.
8. Ordinary cross, then matador double cross.
The first five stones are played as in ordinary cross. The next stone on each arm must be a double, matching according to the matador rules, or a matador. Then the arms are extended using matador matching rules.
9. Matador cross, then ordinary dominoes.
The first five stones are played as in matador cross; then the arms are extended using ordinary matching rules.
10. Matador cross and then ordinary double cross dominoes.
The first five stones are played as in matador cross. The next stone on each arm must be a double, equal in number to the free end of the arm it is played on. Then the arms are extended using ordinary matching rules.
11. Ordinary or matador dominoes with conditions.
The special conditions are given by the player on first set when naming the game. These can be:

    a) 'First here and then there', which means that the player first on set determines that the second stone must be played on a particular side of the first stone, and third stone must be placed on the opposite side;

    b) The player on set can determine that a specified number of stones (up to four) must be played on one side of the first stone before any stones can be played on the other side.

    c) As an additional condition, the player on set may if he wishes specify that after the setting of stones in either ordinary or matador manner according to condition (a) or (b), the game should continue in the opposite manner - i.e. matador if the first stones were set according to ordinary rules; ordinary if the first stones were set according to matador rules.

Example: The player on set puts down the 5 - 3 and says 'Matador first here' (pointing to the five) 'and then there' (pointing to the three), 'and after that ordinary dominoes'. These stones must be played according to the rules of matador, the game is then continued following the rules of ordinary dominoes.

12. Volapuk, volapuk cross or volapuk double cross.
In volapuk, ordinary dominoes are played on one side of the first stone and matador on the other side. In volapuk cross or double cross, ordinary dominoes are played on two opposite arms of the cross, and matador on the other two. In announcing this method of play, the player on first set must decide which side shall be ordinary and which matador. In volapuk (but presumably not in volapuk cross or double cross), the player on set may also specify if he wishes that one side (or arm) must be played on up to four times before the other side may be played. (The rules do not mention the possibility of volapuk, first here and then there - presumably this is not allowed).

Example. The first stone is a 6 - 1, and player on first set announces 'Volapuk, first four stones ordinary on the six'.

13. Triangle, also known as colonel cross.
The first stone played must be the double blank. Next to that, the other three matadors must be placed. After these four stones are in place, the three arms are extended according to matador rules.

Example:
triangle dominoes

14. Triangle double cross, also known as general cross.
This begins in the same way as triangle. After the four matadors have been placed the next stone added to each arm must be the appropriate double (matching according to matador rules). The three arms are then extended using matador rules. As in any double cross game, it is not necessary to wait for all three doubles to be played before further extending the arms - further dominoes can be added to any arm which contains a double.

In the following example, the next domino added to the right arm can only be the 1-1:
triangle double cross dominoes

15. Triangle, then ordinary dominoes.
This begins like triangle, but after the four matadors have been played, the arms are continued using ordinary martching rules.
16. Triangle, then ordinary cross dominoes.
This begins like triangle. After the four matadors have been played, a blank end must be played next to to the fourth side of the double blank to form a cross. Once the cross is built, the game continues as in ordinary cross dorminoes.
17. Matador, first here and then there, then ordinary cross or ordinary double cross.
The first stone can be any double. The next two stones must be played next to the double, following matador matching rules. Then the cross is completed with two further stones played according to ordinary matching rules. The four arms are then extended using ordinary matching rules. In the case of a double cross the next stone added to each arm must be a double.

[It would be possible to think of many further variations along the lines of those listed above - for example 'ordinary, first here and then there, then matador cross'. Presumably these are not allowed, and the choice is restrictricted to the 17 types listed above.]

Procedures and Penalties

The penalty for drawing too few stones at the start of the game is to pay 40 points to each opponent and draw additional stones until you have the correct number. This penalty can be exacted by the other players any time after the offending player has set his stones on edge in front of him, but before the first stone is played. If the offender is on set, the penalty can be demaded any time before the second stone is played. Once a player other than the offender has played a stone, the penalty lapses, and the offender no longer has to draw stones to make his hand up to the correct number of stones.

There is no penalty for taking one or two stones too many at the start of the game. The offender can return the extra stones to the boneyard if he has not yet looked at them (otherwise he must keep them). A player who took more than two stones too many pays a penalty of 40 points to each opponent.

If the player on set has a double, but draws from the boneyard instead of playing the double, the penalty is again 40 points.

Once a player has played a legal stone and let go of it, the play cannot be changed.

If a player who has played a double ahead of his turn in the first round forgets to say 'I wait' when his proper turn comes, but instead tries to play another stone, he has to pay 40 units to each opponent.

If a player opens the game with a double, there is no obligation for the other players to pay for the double if the first player had too many stones at the beginning of the game. A player who wrongly asks for payment for a double has to pay 40 units to each of the other players. Similarly, there is no obligation to pay a player who declares doubles, if that player took too many stones at the beginning of the game.

A player who tries to draw from the last two stones in the boneyard, or who passes when there are more than two stones in the boneyard, has to pay 40 points to each opponent. In addition, a player who passed illegally has to draw until he can play a stone or there are only two stones left. If after his play it is discovered that he had passed while able to play a stone, the penalty is 80 points to every player.

A player who declares Nos while he has still stones, pays a penalty of 40 points to each opponent.

Players who have no stones left must not give advice or hints as to the play, but they are allowed to point out mistakes in play. The penalty for breaking this rule is to pay 40 points to each other player.

If the game was closed correctly, the player next in turn has to draw all stones remaining in the boneyard except for the last two. If he does not draw and it is noticed, he has to pay 40 units to every player.

Other penalties of 40 units to every player in addition to the cases mentioned above:
a) playing a stone which does not follow the rules of the announced game,
b) playing the first stone if you are not on first set,
c) playing a stone out of turn, (except the playing of a double on the set stone in the first round),
d) playing a stone instead of saying, 'I wait' when you played a double out of turn before,
e) asking for payments which you are not entitled to,
f) if a player covers one or more stones with his hand or otherwise so that one or more opponents cannot see this stone or these stones,
g) displaying ones stones face-up on the table (except when declaring doubles of when required to as a penalty)

In the cases (a) to (d) the incorrectly played stone must be taken back and lie face-up in front of the player until legally played. In case (a) the player must take back the stone and play another stone.

Summary of Nos

List of possible games

  1. Ordinary dominoes
  2. Ordinary cross dominoes
  3. Ordinary double cross dominoes
  4. Matador
  5. Matador cross
  6. Matador double cross
  7. Ordinary cross (the first five stones) and then Matador
  8. Ordinary cross and then Matador double cross
  9. Matador cross (the first five stones) and then ordinary dominoes
  10. Matador cross and then ordinary cross dominoes
  11. Ordinary or Matador construction with condition and then change
  12. Volapuk - ordinary, cross, or double cross
  13. Triangle
  14. Triangle double cross
  15. Triangle (the first four stones) and then ordinary dominoes
  16. Triangle and after the playing of a blank end to the double blank ordinary cross
  17. After any double, Matador "First here and then there", and then ordinary cross or ordinary double cross

Payments

  • First stone a double played from hand - receive the spot value of one end from all players (double blank is worth 7);
  • First stone a drawn double - receive the spot value of both ends from all players;
  • First stone drawn and not a double - pay total spot value of both ends to all players.
  • Double placed on the stone played by immediate predecessor, or out of turn on the first stone - receive spot value of one end from the player of the previous stone.
  • For declared doubles you receive from every player:
    • 50 points for 3 doubles out of 3 stones,
    • 25 points for 3 doubles out of 4 stones,
    • 250 points for 4 doubles out of 4 stones,
    • 200 points for 4 doubles out of 5 stones,
    • 500 points for 5 doubles out of 5 stones.
  • Nos - the first player who gets rid of all his stones receives 5 points from everybody.
  • Declared blocking or closing of the game - the player who closes receives 20 points from all the players who are not yet out of the game.