Muggins

Introduction

This member of the Fives family of games is also sometimes known as Five Up or All Fives, but is called Muggins here because the names Five Up and All Fives are also used for other games in which one or all doubles are "spinners" (can be built from in all four directions). Muggins and Sniff are played more often in Britain and Europe, while All Fives and Five Up are played in the United States.

In Muggins, dominoes are played as usual so that the touching ends match in number. Players score for making the two ends of the layout add up to a multiple of five, and also whoever runs out of dominoes scores for those remaining in the other players' hands.

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. A cribbage board is useful for scoring, since scores are totaled 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.

The Play

The first player in the first hand is determined by lot. In the following hands, the player who won or 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 in the usual manner. Doubles are turned crosswise and count as the total of their pips for scoring purposes.

All doubles are turned crosswise, but are not played as spinners. 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.

Scoring

After a player has set a tile on the tableau, the two open ends of the layout are totaled. If this total is a multiple of five (5, 10, 15, or 20 points), the player immediately scores that number of points. The turned doubles on the end of the layout score the totals of their pips; that is [5-5] counts ten points, [6-6] counts twelve point and so forth.

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 up 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 200 points with three or four players and for 250 points with two players. With four players, you can make two partnerships and play for 250 points. Pen and paper are probably the most common scoring device.

If you use a cribbage board for scoring, then one player should be designated as the scorekeeper. Each player should announce the total of the two ends of the tableau at the end of their turn so that the scorekeeper can peg it. Each hole counts five points, so a single trip up the side of a cribbage board is 300 points, so a player wins when his peg gets to the last group of five holes on the broad.

The abacus style scoring device used in the Fives Family (see the section on equipment) is operated by one player for his own score. The abacus has five columns of ten beads each. Each bead counts five points, so when all 50 beads have been moved from one side of the frame to the other, the player has scored 250 points.

Comments & Strategy

Muggins is a good, quick two player game.

The highest score in one play is 20 points, which is obtained by having the [6-6] tile on one end and the [4-4] tile on the other. However, you will find that when the [6-6] is exposed, you can often get 15 points by setting a tile that makes the other end a 3.

Variations

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.

Some play Muggins as a block game - the tiles in the boneyard (the sleepers) are not drawn - a player unable to play simply passes.

Some score 1 point for each 5 contained in the total of the layout ends (so 2 for 10, 3 for 15, 4 for 20) and give 1 point to a player who dominoes or "chips out" by playing his last tile. Alternatively, in the version, the total pips on the other players' remaining tiles may be rounded to the nearest five and the result divided by five: each loses that number of points. Another possibility is that the player who has most pips remaining rounds this number to the nearest five and divides by five, and the winner scores this number - for example 3 points if the player with most unplayed pips had 13 pips.

There are some major rule variations which really give new games.

All Threes
This is the same game as Muggins, but using multiples of three rather than multiples of five, and scoring 1 point for each multiple of three. So the maximum score for a play is 6 points, when the total of the ends is 18 (for example a 6-6 at one end and a 6 at the other or a 5-5 at one end and a 4-4 at the other). The player who runs out of dominoes scores an extra point for this - or alternatively scores one third the number of pips held by the player with most pips unplayed, rounded to the nearest whole number.
Fives and Threes
This is a similar game, popular in Britain, in which a player scores points not only for making a multiple of 5, but also for making a multiple of 3.
Sniff
Fredrick Berndt (THE DOMINO BOOK; Bantam Books; ISBN 0-84-07601-4; 1975) gives a version of Muggins under the name Sniff. There are other games with the name Sniff in the Fives Family, so this can be confusing.
The sniff is the first domino played and it can be set either in line or turned. If it is played in line, then only one end is counted in the total. If it is turned, then both ends are counted in the total in the usual manner. For example, assume that the table has [6-1][1-4] on it as the tableau. The [4-4] can be turned and the total will be (6 + 4 + 4) 14 points, or it can be played in line and the total will be 10 points. Once the sniff is played, the game is just like Muggins.
Odd Primes
This 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, this adds additional complexity.

Other Muggins web pages

Rules of Muggins can be found on the Domino Plaza site.

Software and online games

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.

Rubl.com offers a two-player online domino muggins game for prizes.