Play Dominoes to Cure Cabin Fever

1 / 8
A running line with two cross pieces. Only the first cross (the fives) can spawn a new line of play. 
2 / 8
Two people is the right number to play dominoes with a basic set, although it could accommodate up to four.
3 / 8
In this line of play the last player has scored five points (the three at the left end plus the two at the right end).
4 / 8
This line returns no score because the two ends (five and one) added together make six.
5 / 8
Accumulated points are recorded using an elegant system of big and little X's, with each slanted stroke equaling five and a completed figure representing fifty. Five completed patterns (250 points) end a game.
6 / 8
Doublets—a piece with the same number of pips on each end—are played at right angles to the line of play Both sides of it count toward any possible score. The doublet on the right has a value of six, so the player scores six plus four, or 10 points.
7 / 8
The game proceeds in a straight line first, and the cross piece no longer counts until its ends are brought into play. This move scores five points.
8 / 8
After one or both ends of the doublet have been brought into the game, suddenly there are three or four numbers to add up as possible points and thus bigger scores to be made. This move scores 20 points.

When the snow piles up to the attic window and every night
seems six weeks long, any activity–work or
play–that can be shared with someone else takes on a
special importance.

And, as most MOTHER EARTH NEWS-type people know, television
isn’t the only way to fill a quiet evening (in fact, TV
rates somewhere below the bottom in most any list of
entertainment possibilities). Games, for instance, have
provided men and women with amusement–and a means of
communication– for centuries. Dominoes is one
of the oldest table games around.

Although many people who learn to play dominoes as a child eventually discard the game, those speckled rectangles
(called “bones” in domino lingo) can be used in some
intricate and challenging contests. And a good domino
game–no matter how complex–will never be so
involved that it gets in the way of conversation. What more
could you ask of a game?

Choosing a Domino Set

Most any toy shop (and many department-type stores) carries
domino games. The prices of these can range from about
$2.00 for a basic set of wooden bones up to a king’s
ransom for the hand-tooled outfits made of ivory. Most of
the latter are unnecessarily fancy, but don’t automatically
eliminate the slightly more expensive dominoes
when you go out to buy. The texture and weight of the
playthings, and the tiny “click” you hear as each
piece is played, are intrinsic to the mood of the

Domino sets are available in three varieties: double-six,
double-nine, and double-twelve. These names indicate the
maximum number of dots on one bone. The double-six set,
with 28 pieces, is standard, but the larger games can
make much of your playing more exciting. Start out with a
cheap box of sixes, and then–once you’re
hooked–you’ll be ready for the big ones.

Muggins, or Five-Point

Muggins is a good beginner’s domino game (those who want to
get adventurous should find a copy of The Domino
by Fredrick Berndt, $5.95 in hard cover from
Thomas Nelson, Inc).

In fact, most people who’ve been exposed to the spotted
blocks have encountered muggins in one of its many
variations. However, few people today have tried the
“formal” rules which make up muggins as our
grandparents might have played it.

The difference between simple dominoes and all-out
five-point shows up in the scoring. Though you do
play by matching the number of dots (also called “pips”) on
a side of one of your bones to those on a domino already at
an end of the “line of play” (the arrangement–on the
playing table–of those pieces already set down),
you can only make points when the sum of the pips on
the outside ends of the series adds up to a multiple of

Play begins with all of the dominoes face down on
the playing surface. Each contestant draws one, and the
person holding the highest number of spots will begin the

Once the bones used to determine the order of play have
been returned to that group sitting spots-down on the
table (this central store of dominoes is called a “bone
pile”), the chosen player draws seven, then his opponent does the same (muggins is usually a
two-person game, though four can play a short version if
they limit the draw to five pieces each).

The opening player starts the game by leading any domino in
his hand (a six-four, two-three, or the like is a good
first play, as it does–since the sum of both ends is
a multiple of five–score points). Either side of this
first bone is then available for the other gamester to work
from. Any time a player can’t match one of the
ends of the line of play he may draw upto two
from the bone pile and then play–if he
can–or pass. (If a contestant is able to lay a domino
down, he must do it. Sandbagging is definitely
not allowed.)

The dominoes form a straight line until the first
doublet–a piece with the same number of pips on each
end–is played. This double is set at right angles to
the line of play, and both sides of it count
toward any possible score.

Any other doublets are played perpendicularly, as was the
first, and have both ends counted for score until their
centers have been played upon … but these latecomers
don’t open up new lines of play. That could get too blamed

When one contestant empties his hand, or when the bone pile
has been used and neither hand can play, the game is

Whichever player has the fewest total pips in front of him
at the end of a match is awarded the difference between
that number and the number of dots held by his opponent,
rounded off to the nearest five.

That’s all there is to muggins. Give it a try, but remember: pocket computers are frowned upon by real domino folks!