Fives and Threes

Introduction

This game is a member of the Fives family, in which points are scored for making the ends of the layout add up to certain totals, in this case multiples of 3 and 5. It is a popular pub game in Britain, and is often played in pub leagues and tournaments. It is also the game played in the British National Dominoes Championship, started by Keith Masters in 1985. This page is based on information from Arthur Taylor's "Guiness Book of Traditional Pub Games (1992) and several other sources.

Equipment

The game uses a standard set of Western double-six dominoes - 28 tiles in all. The game can be played by two to four players - four normally play two against two as partners. A cribbage board is useful for scoring, since scores are totalled as they are made and not at the end of the hand.

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 form the boneyard. There is no drawing from the boneyard in Fives and Threes, so these tiles are out of play.

The Play

The first player in the first hand is determined by lot - for example before the deal each player draws a tile and the one with the greatest number of pips starts. In the following hands, the turn to start passes to the left. The lead can be any tile in the player's hand.

Play is clockwise. Each player in turn must play a tile if possible, adding it to one end of the layout, matching the inward end of the played tile with the outward end of the tile it touches in the usual way. Doubles are turned crosswise and count as the total of their pips for scoring purposes.

If a player cannot play a tile, he must knock, and it is the next player's turn. It is illegal to knock when able to play a tile.

The play continues until one player dominoes or "chips out" (plays his last tile) or until all players are blocked. In the partnership game for four players, play continues until both players of one team have chipped out - so a game can be blocked even if only two players - one from each team - still have tiles.

Scoring

After a player has added a tile to the layout, the two open ends are totaled. If this total is a multiple of five, three or both, the player immediately scores the number of fives and/or threes in the total. The possible scoring totals are:

  • 3 - 1 point
  • 5 - 1 point
  • 6 - 2 points (two threes)
  • 9 - 3 points (three threes)
  • 10 - 2 points (two fives)
  • 12 - 4 points (four threes)
  • 15 - 8 points (three fives and five threes)
  • 18 - 6 points (six threes)
  • 20 - 4 points (four fives)

Note that doubles score the total of their pips only if they are at an open end of the layout. So 15 is made by having the [5-5] at one end and a five at the other or the [6-6] at one end and a three at the other. For 20 you need [6-6] and [4-4] at the two ends.

A player who chips out (in an individual game) or a team of which both members chip out scores one point for this. If the game is blocked, no one scores this point.

The score is kept on a cribbage board, and the first player or team to reach exactly 61 wins. A score that would take the player's or team's total over 61 is disregarded. For example if you score 4 points when your score is 58, your score remains at 58.

If you play your last tile and this creates a scoring total, then for the purposes of ending the game, the point for chipping out is scored at the same time as the normal score for the play, and if this takes you over 61, the score is disregarded. So for example if you have 59 on the board and play your last tile to create a total of 6 on the ends of the layout, you have scored 3 points - 2 for the total of 6 plus one for playing your last tile, and this is too many. Your score remains at 59.

Comments & Strategy

As in any domino game, the player who can keep track of the outstanding tiles has a strong advantage. It is also important to take note of numbers on which an opponent was unable to play.

In addition to the tiles which were strong in All Fives, the following dominoes are valuable because they take one scoring position into another: [0-3], [1-4], [2-5], [3-6],[3-3], and [6-6].

Variations

There are variations in the number of tiles dealt. For example Arthur Taylor reports that in championship play, two players take 9 tiles each and four take 6 tiles each.

Games can be played to 31 or 121 points rather than 61.

Some play with no score for chipping out. The last tile scores only if it makes a total divisible by three or five in the usual way.

Some play that the first tile played in a hand cannot be used to win a game. For example if you have 57 points and start with the [6-6] you do not score for this.

Some play that if you score too many points to complete the game, you bounce off the target, scoring the excess points as negative. For example if a player with 59 points were to play a tile that made a total of 15, scoring 8, the player would go forward 2 and then back 6, taking his score to 55.

There are several variations on this game in the literature. The most common changes are a different number of tiles per hand and the additional rule that the boneyard is considered empty when it has two tiles left. However, there are some major rule changes which really give new games.

Odd Primes is a version by G.P. Jellis, author and editor of the late GAMES AND PUZZLES JOURNAL, which was described in issue one of the second series (Sep/Oct 1987). The rules remain essentially the same as for "Fives and Threes", but scores are also counted for multiples of 7, 11, 13, 17 and larger primes. For a double 6 set this does not change the game very much, but for the larger domino sets, it increases the complexity.

Other Fives and Threes web pages

Full rules of All Fives and Threes can be found on the Domino Plaza site.

Here is the web site of the Darlington & District 5's & 3's Domino League.

Software and Online Games

MoneyGaming offers Domino Duel, an online two-player game of Draw Dominoes, All Fives or Fives and Threes for fun or money.