Dice and Dominoes
Joe Celko writes:
I once proposed that there ought to be games which use dice and Western dominoes on the Game Cabinet website. This novel game was designed in response to that request. There is a strong element of luck, but also of bluffing and strategy.
The principle of discarding multiple tiles in one round is seen in many Asian playing card games.
I will describe the single domino set version, then give additional rules for playing it with multiple Double Six domino sets.
The game uses a double six domino set, a pair of dice and some poker chips. Large dice are better because they are hard to knock off the table and easier for all players to see. It is also a good idea to have some device for hiding a pair of tiles from view. A coaster, index card or a small box lid will do.
The game can be played by two or more people, however, you might want to add more Double Six domino sets for a larger number of players.
Each player gets a hand of four tiles.
Each player puts an ante into the pot to start the game, then draws his hand from the boneyard. One player starts the hand by tossing the dice and leaving them face up on the table where all players can see them. The pair of faces on the dice are called the Match Points for the round.
Each player then selects two tiles from his hand and places them either both face down, both face up or one facing and one facing down, hiding the pair from the other players with his physical hand or other device, such as a coaster, index card or even a small box lid. If a player has only one tile remaining, he follows the same procedure for this tile.
When all players have their pair (or single tile) in front of them, then all tiles are then exposed at the same time. The non-playable tiles are face down and are returned to the player's hand. The playable tiles are shown face up and are moved to a discard pile, if they are qualified by the following rules.
- If a player attempts to discard no tiles, either because of his own choice or because he has no tile whose suit matches either of the dice, his turn is finished and he proceeds to draw a new tile for his hand from the boneyard. He should wait until the round is complete before drawing a tile, however.
- If the suit on a player's tile matches the face of one of the dice, that tile is then discarded, face up in a discard pile. He then proceeds to draw one new tile for his hand from the boneyard. That is, unless there are special tiles discarded by one or more of the other players, which we will discuss shortly.
- If the suits on two of a player's tiles each match the face of one of the dice, both tiles are then discarded, face up in a discard pile. He then proceeds to draw one new tile for his hand from the boneyard. That is, unless there are special tiles discarded by one or more of the other players, which we will discuss shortly.
The special tiles:
Playing one of three special situations can interrupt the normal flow of play.
- If a player holds the [0-0] or Wildcard, he can discard it at any time although it does not (and cannot!) ever match the faces of the dice. All other players must return their exposed tiles to their hands and he does not have draw a replacement tile in this turn.
If the Wildcard is played with another tile, the second tile is discarded. The second tile must follow the suit matching rules.
- If a player has the single tile which matches both of the dice, that tile is discarded, face up in a discard pile. This tile is known as the "Perfect Match" or just the "Perfect" for short.
All other players must take their exposed tiles back into their hands without being allowed to discard them and then they draw a replacement tile for their hands. The player who discarded the Perfect Match does not draw a new tile for this round. If the Wildcard was played in the same round, then the Perfect takes priority and the player of the Wildcard must return it to his hand and draw a new tile, like all the other players.
If the Perfect is played with another tile, the second tile is discarded. The second tile must follow the suit matching rules.
- If a player has the two doubles which matches both of the Match Points, those tiles are discarded, face up in a discard pile. This pair of tiles is known as the "Double Perfect Match" or just the "Double Perfect" for short. For example, if the toss is 2 and 6, then the Double Perfect pair is [2-2] [6-6].
Again, all other players must take their exposed tiles back into their hands without being allowed to discard and they then draw a replacement tile for their hands. The player who discard the Double Perfect does not draw tile for this round.
The player of the Double Perfect also has another option. He can toss the dice again for a new pair of Match Points to be used in the next round of the game or leave the current Match Points as they now stand.
If the Perfect and/or the Wildcard are played in the same round as the Double Perfect, the Double Perfect has priority and the player(s) who attempted to discard the Perfect and/or the Wildcard must take their exposed tiles back into their hand without being allowed to discard and then draw a replacement tile like all the other players.
When the boneyard is empty, players are no longer obligated to draw new tiles and the game continues until there is a winner.
The basic principle of the game is that each discard tile must match to the topmost face on one particular die. For example, given a starting toss of 2 and 6 and the hand [0-2], [1-6], [2-3] and [5-5], you could discard either the [0-2] [1-6] pair or the [1-6] [2-3] pair. But you could not discard [0-2] [2-3] by playing both deuces against the single two. If the toss had been a pair of twos, then that would have worked. After this basic principle, the priority rules come into play. However, a player is never obligated to make a discard.
If no player attempts a discard in a round (i.e. all exposed tiles are face down), then all players draw a tile from the boneyard, the dice are tossed again and play resumes with this new toss as the Match Points for the next round.
The winner collects the pot, as you would expect. However, determining the winner has the problem that all plays are made concurrently. In order of precedence, the winner is:
- The sole player who dominoes. This is the easiest case.
- If more than one player dominoes in the same turn, then winner is the player who dominoes by discarding the Double Perfect pair.
- If more than one player dominoes in the same turn, but none of these players used the Double Perfect pair, then winner is the player who dominoed by discarding the Perfect tile.
- If more than one player dominoes in the same turn, but none of these players used the Double Perfect pair or the Perfect, then winner is the player who dominoed by discarding the Wildcard.
- If more than one player dominoes in the same turn, but no player used either the Double Perfect pair, the Perfect tile, or Wildcard then the pot is split among the players who dominoed.
- If all players domino in the same turn, the pot stays for another hand.
Comment & Strategy
Some players like to require another ante after each player has drawn from the boneyard to build the pot. This also means that staying in for an extra round has a payoff over calling domino as early as possible.
A lot of this game is luck of the toss of the Match Points and the deal. The reason for the elaborate hiding and revealing of the tiles is that the number of playable tiles is useful information to other players.
Likewise, you will see a lot of the tiles returned to the hands of the other players in each round so you know part of what they are holding and what suits they probably do not have. The discard pile is also kept face up, so you can count the suits as they are played.
Blanks and doubles are dangerous to hold because they both effectively belong to only one suit. However holding doubles is tempting because the Double Perfect has a great deal of power. The Double Perfect, in effect, gets rid of three tiles and can be very useful in blocking another player who is about to domino by changing the Match Points.
Likewise, it is very tempting to hold onto the Double Perfect, the Perfect and Wildcard instead of playing them immediately in the hope of getting the entire pot without having to split it with another player. This is not always a good idea, since the Match Points can change and leave you holding tiles which are hard to discard later.
The shortest possible game is two rounds. This would be done by a player who first played the Double Perfect, leaving him with a hand of two tiles, then discarded his last two tiles the next round.
Remember that you are not obligated to make a discard, so you might find that all the players have decided not to discard, and this will change the Match Points somewhat unexpectedly.
Another version of the game uses two (or more) Double Six domino sets with the following additional rule.
If a mix of Double Perfects, Perfects and Wildcard are played in the same round, the usual priority rules hold, with the following modifications:
- If two (or more) Double Perfects, two (or more) Perfects or two (or more) Wildcard are played in the same round by two (or more) players and they are the highest priority tiles on the table, all players who played those tiles get to discard their tiles and are exempt from drawing a new tile at the end of the round and all other players are not.
- If two or more Double Perfects are played, However, all players of a Double Perfect must agree to exercise the option to set new Match Points.
- If one player discards two Perfects or two Wildcard in the same round, he is exempt from drawing a new tile for this and the following round.