- The Deal
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This game is a member of the Fives Family. Dominic C. Armanino states that this game started in Europe, but it is now more popular in the United States. It is also sometimes known as Muggins, Five Up or Single Spinner, but here we use the name Muggins for the game played without a spinner and Five Up for the game in which all doubles are spinners.
The game uses a double six domino set. The game can be played by two to four players, but it is best as a four handed partnership game. A cribbage board is useful for scoring, since scores are totaled as they are made and not at the end of the hand.
The size of the hand varies with the number of players:
- 2 players get 9 tiles each
- 3 players get 7 tiles each
- 4 players get 5 tiles each
The rest of the tiles form the boneyard.
The four handed game is usually played in partnerships.
The first player in the first hand is determined by lot. In the following hands, the player who dominoed in the previous hand plays first. If the last hand was blocked, then the lead is again determined by lot. The lead can be any tile in the player's hand.
The next players must match the ends of the tiles on the table. Doubles are played crosswise and count as the total of their pips for scoring purposes.
The first double, and only the first double, played is used as a spinner. The usual rules for placing tiles on a spinner apply. That is, the first and second tiles played against the spinner must be placed against a side, then the third and fourth tiles must be placed against the ends.
If a player cannot play a tile, he must draw tiles from the boneyard until he has a tile which will play or the boneyard is empty. When he draws a tile which will play, it goes on the table immediately and his turn ends. If he empties the boneyard and still cannot play, he passes and the next player takes his turn.
The hand continues until one player dominoes or until all players are blocked.
After a player has set a tile, the two, three or four ends of the tableau are totaled. If this total is a multiple of five (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 or 35 points), the player immediately scores that number of points. The spinner and turned doubles on the ends of an arm of the tableau score the total of its pips; that is [5-5] is worth ten points in the total, [6-6] is worth twelve points and so forth.
When two tiles are placed against the sides of the spinner, only the ends of those tiles are scored, just as if the spinner was another tile placed in line. This is can be confusing because the ends of the spinner are still open for setting other tiles.
When the hand is finished, either by being dominoed or by being blocked, the pips on the tiles remaining in each hand are totaled and the total is rounded up or down to the nearest multiple of five. For example, a hand with [1-2] would round to five points, while [1-1] would round down to zero points. These points are then subtracted from that player's score.
The game is played for an agreed upon number of points, usually 250 points for two players and 200 points with three or four players.
You will find many local variations as to how to pick the first player for a hand, what tiles can be lead, what score to play to, and the size of the hands. These are not significant changes in the basic game. One European source gives this table for the size of the hands:
- 2 players get 7 tiles each
- 3 players get 5 tiles each
- 4 players get 5 tiles each
The rest of the tiles form the boneyard.
Many play that at the end the winner - the player who dominoes or the player with the lowest pip total in a blocked game - scores the total of the pips held by the opponents, rounded to the nearest five points. If there is a tie for lowest in a blocked game, the total pip count of the remaining players is divided equally among the tied players and rounded to the neartest five.
It is common to divide all the scores by five, so that for example a total of 15 on the ends of the layout scores 3 points. The game can then be scored on a Cribbage board, and the winning target is 61 points.
This is one of the best domino games, because the strategy is complicated, but play is fast. Here are some general hints:
As in any domino game, the player who can count the outstanding tiles has a strong advantage.
Beginning players have trouble doing the required math in their heads. They will tend to think in terms of arms which end in 5, instead of looking for other combinations that give a multiple of five. Also, beginners do not think of reducing the previous total to a multiple of five.
The highest possible score in one play is 35 points, which is obtained by having the [6-6], [5-5] and [4-4] tiles on the ends of three arms of the layout and a tile which shows a 5 on the fourth arm.
When you have the lead, play a tile worth ten points ([5-5] or [4-6]) if possible to score early. Otherwise, play a double that gives you control the arms of the tableau.
When another player draws a tile, you have information as to what was missing in his hand. If he draws one tile and plays it, you know that if you can force the tableau to end in the values he was missing, you will force him to draw more tiles.
The smaller the total you leave to the next player, the smaller the total he can make from it.
You can play to score, to block or to domino. In the scoring game, you attempt to get the largest score without regard to who dominoes. The scoring game is the obvious strategy and it is probably what you will pursue at the start of the game when you do not know the distribution of the tiles.
In the blocking game, you try to force a blocked game with the intent that you will get the lowest negative score. The blocking game is an end game strategy which depends on counting suits to see that there are no tiles outstanding in the suits on the arms of the tableau.
Playing to domino is really a version of the blocking strategy, since you will have the lowest negative score, namely zero. However, it also has the advantage of giving you the lead in the following hand. That lead can be important if you are close to winning the game.
Remember that being the one to domino is not always the same thing as getting the most points in a hand. Look for a suit where you are heavy or have control of the remaining tiles and try to get that suit exposed on one or more of the arms of the tableau to guarantee you have a play on your next turn.
James Yates' Dominoes Strategy page is devoted to the rules and strategy of All Fives dominoes.
MoneyGaming offers Domino Duel, an online two-player game of Draw Dominoes, All Fives or Fives and Threes for fun or money.
You can downlaod a very good shareware computer version of this game for Windows from Curtis Cameron's Windows Dominoes Games page.
Game Colony offers head to head Five-Up games and multi-player tournaments, which can be played free or for cash prizes.
Mike Perry's Allgood Software publishes a Dominoes program for the Macintosh, which plays a wide variety of domino games, including Muggins and All Fives.