Rules for Playing Mexican Train

By Shawn Candela
Wikimedia Commons

Mexican Train dominoes is one of the most popular dominoes games and can be enjoyed by up to eight players. In the game players put together their own trains, but "jump aboard" other players' trains as well as the Mexican train in order to get rid of their dominoes and win the game.

Getting Started

Give each player a colored marker of some sort to identify his personal train line. If you bought a version of Mexican Train dominoes, it probably came with miniature trains of different colors to use as markers. If not, you can use slips of colored paper or anything else to identify the lines. You'll also need an extra (often black in color) to identify the Mexican Train.

Mix up all the dominoes face-down on the table for the "train yard," and have each player pick up his train cars. For two to four players, pick up 15 dominoes each. For five or six, pick up 11. For seven or eight players, take eight dominoes.

Games are started in a couple of ways, depending on preference. You can let the player with the highest double go first, or you can start with the highest possible double in the set (for example, the double-12). If, in the first option, no one has a double, players take turn drawing from the train yard until someone can lay down a double in the center of the board. In the second, if no one has the double-12, say, then players take turns drawing until someone gets it and lays it down.

The player who placed the double in the center of the board goes first. From that point on, play moves around the table clockwise.

On his turn, each player lays down one tile to build his train. The tile must match the one preceding it on the board. So, if the center double tile is double-12, each player must lay down a tile with a 12 on it, connected to that center tile. Each player builds his tile toward himself on the board, for ease of placement. Players place their colored markers on their train line (or near it) to indicate it is a personal line and cannot yet be used by others.

For example, the first player lays down the double-12, then adds a 12/6 onto it, pointing toward himself. The second player lays down a 12/2 onto the center double-12, pointing toward himself, and so on, with each player taking one turn laying down a tile. If a player has no tile to match the piece he is connecting to, he must draw one tile from the train yard. If the tile matches the connecting piece on the board, he can play it. If not, play passes. If a player has a tile that matches the connecting piece, he must play it. He cannot hold onto a tile that matches.

Jumping Trains and Doubles

If a player has no tiles that match his train line, and if he doesn't match one when he draws, he must remove his personal train marker and allow other players to ride on his train by putting a tile on it if they wish. Once he is able to play a tile on his line again, he can restore his marker to make it off limits to other players.

If a player has a double (9/9, for instance) that he can play on his personal train, he must place it perpendicular to the line (forming what would appear as a T) and then play another tile in the same turn that matches this double (a 9/4, for instance). If he does not have a match, he must draw one tile from the train yard. If it matches, he plays it. If not, the next player must try to play on the double. If he can't, he draws. If he matches, he plays it and play resumes with the next player. If not, the next player must try. This goes on until someone is able to match the double and play resumes with the next player after the one who matched the double.

Mexican Train

On his turn, a player with a tile that matches the center tile (the double-12, for instance) may play it on the center tile and create the Mexican Train. The Mexican Train marker should be placed on or near it, to indicate its status. Any player can then play a tile on this train on his turn, if he has one to match.

Only one Mexican Train is allowed, so once one is begun, no other player can create one, even if he has a tile matching the first center tile.

Final Tiles

As in the card game "Uno," once a player gets down to his last tile, he must knock the tile against the table to let the other players know. If he doesn't, and another player calls him on it, he must draw two tiles from the train yard.

The player who gets rid of all of his tiles is the winner. But if no one gets rid of all of his tiles--everyone has tiles but none match any available train and there are no tiles left in the train yard--everyone must add up the dots on their remaining tiles. A single blank on a tile is an extra 25 points, while a double blank is 50. The player with the fewest dots is the winner.