Block Dominoes with Spinners

This is a variation on the basic game, which also has variations itself, based on the use of spinners.

Equipment

The game uses a double six domino set, but other sets can also be used when you have more players.

The Deal

The size of the hand varies with the number of players:

  • 2 players get 7 tiles each
  • 3 players get 5 tiles each
  • 4 players get 5 tiles each
The rest of the tiles stay in the boneyard and are not used in the round.

The Play

The four handed game can be played in partnerships or as individuals. The player with the highest double places it as the lead for the round. If nobody has a double, all players draw another tile from the boneyard until someone has a double to lead.

Other players take turns placing tiles on the spinner in the usual manner. If a player cannot play, he passes. The hand stops when one player dominoes or when nobody can play. The lead for the next hand passes to the previous leader's left.

The two major variations differ in how to handle the remaining doubles. In one version, the remaining doubles are played across the line, but are not spinners. In the other version, all doubles are spinners.

Scoring

At the end of the hand, each player gets the total number of pips in his hands. The lowest scoring player is the winner and is credited with the sum of the scores of the losers, minus his own total. If there is a tie for lowest score, then nobody gets a score.

The game is played for 101 points in a two player or partnership game, and for 61 points in a three or four handed game. This convention allows a cribbage board to be used for keeping scores.

Comments & Strategy

The best play is to set your strongest suit, preferably with a double, so that you will have more options for further plays when it is your turn again. The better control you have of a suit, the more you should try to leave that suit on the ends of the train.

In a partnership game, you can assume that your partner's lead is his strongest suit and play to it.

Variations include:

1) Different numbers of tiles in the hands

2) Drawing for high tile to determine the lead in the first hand, then rotating the lead for the following hands.

3) Drawing for high tile to determine the lead in the hand after a blocked round.

4) Determining the lead by requiring that the highest double be lead first.

5) The game can also be played with larger sets, such as the double nine game or even the double twelve set. With the double nine set, play starts with tiles added to both long sides and both short sides of the spinner, thus giving four arms. With the double twelve domino set, tiles are added to all four sides and all four corners, thus giving a spinner with eight arms. No tile may be played until all arms of the initial double have been started.

6) In the traditional Dutch variant, a player, when he cannot play, draws one or two dominoes from the boneyard, and passes his turn if this does not give him a playable tile. The last two tiles of the boneyard are not drawn and remain unused. The double zero counts as 13 points.

7) The single spinner version is a playable game with some interest, but the all spinners version simply has too many open ends that you can match to be of much interest. In fact, the table can get so crowded with lines of dominoes that you have to bend them around corners or "chicken foot" them. The expression "chicken foot" refers to placing the tiles on the sides of a spinner at angles pointing away from the center of the tableau so that lines of tiles do not run into each other.