Bergen

This is a domino game for two to four players, normally played using a double six set (28 dominoes), though Double Bergen is sometimes played using a larger set. The game has a unique scoring principle of giving points for matching ends of a single train of play. This is also the name of a town in Norway, but I have no idea if there is any relationship between the two of them.

Equipment

The game uses a double six domino set. However, the game can be played with larger domino sets, but the results are poor because scoring is much harder. However, you can play with two (or more) double six domino sets if you have more than four players.

Score keeping can be made easier by issuing every player 10 or 15 chips (depending on the number of players) before the first round of play. As a player scores points, they return that number of chips to the container from which they came; the first player to discard all of his chips is the winner.

The Deal

Each player receives 8 tiles minus the number of players. This means that:

  • 2 players get six tile each, leaving a boneyard of 16 tiles.
  • 3 players get six tile each, leaving a boneyard of 10 tiles.
  • 4 players get five tiles each, leaving a boneyard of 8 tiles.

Two of the tiles in the boneyard are held and not played. As a convention, the two reserved tiles can be stacked on top of each other if your set does not have brass spinners in the tiles.

The Play

The player with the lowest double plays first and play continues around the table clockwise. Other players add to either end of the train. Doubles are played across the line of the train, but are not spinners.

A player not able to add onto the train draws new tiles from the boneyard until he can play or until the boneyard is reduced to the two reserved tiles. There is no limit on the size of his hand. If a player can neither play nor draw from the boneyard, he passes his turn.

Play continues until someone dominoes or the game blocks.

Scoring

A player scores 2 points when his tile makes both ends of the train equal. This means that the lead will always get 2 points for setting the first double. This is called a "double header" because there are two exposed ends from the same suit.

A player scores 3 points when his play makes one end of the train equal to the double on the other end. He may have played either single or double tile. This is called a "triple header" because there are three exposed ends (remember the double is played across the line of the train) from the same suit.

A player within 2 points of winning scores only 1 point for a double header or a triple header.

A player within 3 points of winning scores only 2 point for a double header or a triple header.

The player who dominoes or wins a blocked round scores 2 points.

A game is 15 points for 2 players and 10 points for 3 or 4 players.

A round is blocked when nobody can play and there are at least two dominoes in the boneyard. Special rules apply for determining the winner of a blocked round. Unfortunately, there are several versions of these rules:

  1. The American Rules

    These rules are from Dominic C.Armanino (DOMINOES: POPULAR GAMES, RULES AND STRATEGY; Sterling Publishing Co.; ISBN 0-80694948-1; 1978.):

    1. If only one player has NO doubles in his hand, he wins.
    2. If nobody has a double, the player with the lowest pip total in his hand wins.
    3. If more than one player has a double, the player with fewest number of tiles wins. Pips are not counted.
    4. If everyone has a double, the player with the lowest double wins.
  2. The German Rules

    These rules are due to Reiner F. Müller (DOMINOES: BASIC RULES & VARIATIONS; Sterling Publishing, New York; ISBN 0-8069-3880-3). Apply these test in this order to determine the winner:

    1. The player who has NO doubles in his hand.
    2. The player with the FEWEST doubles in his hand.
    3. The player with fewest number of pips on his tiles.
  3. Simple Method

    Another option for settling a blocked hand given in several older Hoyles and in DOMINOES by Gary M. Grady and Suzanne Goldberg (Gamescape Publications; ISBN 1-887594-01-9; 1995) is simply to use the lowest total number of pips to decide the winner and award a score of 1 point to that player. If two hands tie, there is no score.

Notice the slight difference in these rules and consider a round in a three player game that blocks like this:

  • A = [0-0] [1-2]
  • B = [1-1]
  • C = [2-2]

Under the German rules, we would analyze the hand as follows:

  • Rule (1) does not apply because everyone has a double.
  • Rule (2) does not apply because everyone has the same number of doubles, namely one.
  • Rule (3) applies and Player B wins with a total of two pips.

However, under the American rules, the logic would be:

  • Rule (1) does not apply because everyone has a double.
  • Rule (2) does not apply because everyone has a double.
  • Rule (3) does not apply because two players have one tile each.
  • Rule (4) does apply and Mr. A wins.

Mr. B would win under the simple rules.

It is the author's opinion that the simple rule is common enough and easier to apply than the other options, and therefore should be preferred.

Comments & Strategy

The trick of counting the number of occurrences of a suit on the board is very useful in this game. Remember, each suit appears eight times in the ends of the tiles in a double six domino set, so half of the available matching ends are used up at each double.

Doubles are important, so you should hold them as long as possible to get a triple header.

A blocked game can be important, so know and use the particular rules you have agreed upon.

Since the count of the pips is not used for scoring, Bergen can be played by children with picture dominoes. The rules for a blocked game will need to be changed to suit the pictures and the age of the children. For example, if animals are used on the dominoes, then the player holding the double with the smallest animal is winner. If nobody has a double, the player with the fewest tiles wins.

Variations

The lead goes to the highest double, not the lowest.

The number of tiles dealt at start varies in different parts of the world.

No tile may be played until both ends of the initial double have been played upon.

The game can also be played with larger sets. In these variants, the first double is usually a spinner. See the rules for Double Bergen.

In some variants, the player going domino scores five points.

Other Web Sites

A set of rules of Bergen can be found on the Domino Plaza site.

Joe Celko's rules of Bergen originally appeared on the Game Cabinet site.