Maltese Cross is a member of the Cyprus family played with a double six set. The games takes its name from the tableau that resembles a Maltese Cross.
The game uses a double six domino set and two to four players.
The size of the hand varies with the number of players:
- For 2 players, hands are 7 tiles
- For 3 players, hands are 5 tiles
- For 4 players, hands are 5 tiles
The rest of the tiles go to the boneyard.
The player holding the highest double begins the hand by setting it in the center of the table as the spinner. After he has played, the next player going clockwise around the table must place another tile in the same suit on the spinner. Each of the following players is so obligated until there are four tiles around the spinner. This is the first phase of setting up the tableau.
A player not able to play a tile on the spinner must draw a tile from the boneyard. If the drawn tile can play, he sets it; otherwise, the tile goes in his hand and the turn passes to the next player.
Once all four arms of the spinner are started, each player must add a double to the end of any of the arms. These doubles are turned crosswise and all four arms must be completed before play continues. This is the second phase of the tableau.
After that, other doubles are turned crosswise and non-doubles are played in line from the ends of the arms.
When one player dominoes, he receives the total of the pips on the tile in the other player's hands as his score.
If the games blocks, then the player with the lowest total is the winner. He scores the totals from the other players and then subtracts his own score from that total.
The game is played for 60 points, or more points by agreement.
Comments & Strategy
If you have a double, try to set up an arm in phase one which will let you play it in phase two of the tableau. For example, given a tableau that starts with [6-6], if you hold the [5-6] and the [5-5], try to place the [5-6] on the spinner to guarantee that you will play the [5-5] on next turn.
One of the best situations in the game is having the lead so you can set the spinner when you hold a lot of tiles in one suit and the double. This means that you will lay the tiles for all or most of phase one and force the other players to stuff tiles into their hands early in the game.