Zigzag

Contributed by Hans Peter Ahlbach

This is a domino game for three players. In each deal one player is the contractor, against whom the other two players from an alliance.

The recommended version uses a double 8 domino set, which consists of 45 tiles. Each player takes 15 tiles as their hand.

The player who will begin the bidding is selected randomly for the first hand. The players speak in clockwise order, bidding a number or passing. The highest bidder will play alone against the other two players in alliance, and contracts to take at least the number of tiles claimed in the bid. Each player has just one turn to speak, and must bid more than the previous bid (if any) or pass. There is no minimum bid, but if the first bid is low it is easy for a subsequent player to overcall.

The highest bidder, the contractor, begins the play by playing any tile from his hand. Play continues clockwise, each player playing one tile in turn until all the tiles have been played.

A tile covers another tile if the tiles match at one end, and the other end of the covering tile has more spots than the other end of the covered tile. For example the [5-3] covers the [5-1] because 3 is greater than 1. The [6-5] does not cover the [4-2] because neither end matches. The [3-1] does not cover the [1-4] because 3 is less than 4.

There is no restriction on what tile may be played at your turn.

  • If the played tile covers the previous tile, it remains in the centre of the table together with the tiles already played there.
  • If the played tile does not cover the previous tile, the previous player takes all the previously played tiles that were in the centre of the table and stores them face down. The non-covering tile played by the current player remains alone in the centre of the table.

Example. Player A plays the [2-2], player B covers with the [2-5], player C covers with the [4-5], player A covers with the [4-7], player B covers with the [4-8], player C covers with the [6-8], player A cannot or chooses not to cover and plays the [3-5]. Player C therefore wins the first 6 tiles and stores them, leaving the [3-5] alone on the table. Player B decides not to cover and plays the [0-1], so player A wins the [3-5] and stores it. Player C covers the [0-1] with the [1-1], and so the play continues.

When the final tile is played, the player wins that tile together with any tiles that it covers.

If the contractor took at least as many tiles as the bid, he scores that number of points. If the contractor took fewer tiles than the bid, each of the other two players scores the amount of the contractor's bid plus the number of tiles by which the contractor fell short.

A new hand is then played, in which the first bidder is the player to the left of the one who began the bidding in the previous hand.

Further hands are played until some player's cumulative score reaches 100 or more. Then the player with the highest score wins the game.

Alternatively a fixed number of hands can be played. This should be a multiple of 3 so that each player has an equal number of opportunties to start the bidding.

Variants

The game can be played for points rather than tiles. In this case the value of each tile is the number of spots on the lower end, so tiles with blanks are worthless and the total number of points in the 8-8 set is 120. In this case the target score for ending the game could be set at 250.

When a contract fails, the score can be shared between the contractor's opponents. That is, the bid is added to the amount by which the contractor fails, the result is divided by two and rounded up to the next whole number, and that is the amount scored by each opponent. Example: the contractor bids 21 but takes only 19 tiles, 2 short of the bid. The amount to be shared between the opponents is 23, so they score 12 each.

Other sizes of domino set can be used. With a double 7 set each player takes 12 tiles. With a double 6 set each player takes 9 tiles and with a double 9 set each player takes 18 tiles. If playing with a 6-6 or 9-9 set one tile is left over. It remains face down during the bidding (or could be exposed if the players agree) and is taken by the contractor, who then has one more tile than the opponents and will play both the first and the final tile of the hand.

A variant only recommendable to experts is that the contractor can name as high any number from zero up to the maximum of the domino set used, and can also stipulate whether the numbers rank in descending (regular) or ascending (reverse) order. In either case the order will cycle through zero. For example with an 8-8 set if the contractor specifies '6 regular' then for the purpose of covering the rank from high to low will be 6-5-4-3-2-1-0-8-7. In case of '6 reverse' the ranking from high to low would be 6-7-8-0-1-2-3-4-5.