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THE BLOCK GAME
The block game is the simplest of all Domino games. Two, three or four may play. With two, each player draws seven bones for his hand. With three or four, each takes five bones.
The player holding the highest doublet sets it-lays it down as the first play. The turn to play then rotates to his left.
Each play is made by adding a bone to an open end of the layout, with like numbers touching. The layout always has two open ends. The two branches are built off the sides of the set, and all doublets are customarily placed crosswise, but this does not affect the number of open ends.
If a player cannot play in turn, he passes. The game ends when a player gets rid of his hand or when no player is able to add to the layout. The one with the lightest remaining hand (which may be no bones at all) wins the total of pips on all bones remaining in the other hands. The amount needed to win a game may be fixed by agreement, as 100 in three-hand play.
All that a Player can do to control his destiny in this simple block game is to try to keep the largest assortment of different numbers in his hand as long as possible. For example, if a player has choice of playing the 54 or 5-3 on an open 5, he should choose according as he has other 4s or 3s in his hand.
Tiddly-Wink is the block game adapted for a large number of players, say six to nine. Each draws only three bones. The player with the highest doublet sets it. There is only one open end on the layout, three sides of the set being forever closed. Bones are played by matching as usual. If unable to play in turn, a player passes. Anyone playing a doublet, including the set, has the right to play a second time, if able. The first hand to "go out" wins, or the lightest hand if play comes to a standstill before any goes out. The winner takes a pool that is formed by equal antes from all players before the draw.
Sebastopol is in effect a block game because there is no boneyard. Four play, and each draws seven bones. The 6-6 must be set, and the turn then rotates to the left of the first player. The 6-6 is open four ways, and the first four plays after the set must be upon it-no branches may be extended until all four have sprouted. In all other respects the rules are those of the Block Game.
THE DRAW GAME
The Draw Game, at its simplest, follows the rules of the Block Game except that a player having no playable bone must draw from the boneyard until he gets one. After the boneyard is exhausted, a hand unable to play passes. The lightest hand, when play ends in a block or a player goes out, wins the total of points left in all other hands. Game may be fixed at 50 or 100 points.
Bergen is a draw game in which the highest doublet is set and the layout always has two open ends. A player scores 2 points for double-header if he makes the two ends alike in number, or 3 for triple-header if in addition there is a doublet at one end. The winner of a deal scores I point. Game is 15 points.
Matador is a draw game in which adjacent ends on the layout do not match, but total 7. An open 6 calls for a 1, 5 for 2, 4 for 3, and so on. A blank is closed to the play of anything but a matador, one of the four bones 0-0, 6-1, 5-2, 43. A matador may be played at any time anywhere, without regard to the numbers, and with either end against the layout. Doublets are placed endwise, thus counting singly. For example, 1-1 is playable on a 6, not on a 5.
Sniff is one of the best of all Domino games, especially when played by two. It may also be played by three or four.
With two, each player draws seven bones for his hand. With three or four, each takes five.
First turn to play is decided by lot, and the leader may play any bone in his hand. As will be seen presently, he may score by his play. Until the first doublet is played, the layout has only two open ends. The first doublet becomes the sniff, and is open to play on all four sides.
The object of play is only secondarily to get rid of the hand. Foremost is to score during play. After each play the total of the numbers on the open ends is noted, and when this is a multiple of 5 the player who made it so scores the total (called muggins points). For example, if the leader sets the 3-2, he score, 5. If the second hand places the 24, and the third plays the 3-3 crosswise, the latter player scores 10.
Because sniff is open four ways, the first doublet may be played either crosswise or endwise. For example, if the set is 3-2, scoring S. the next hand may add the 3-3 endwise so as to score 5 also.
Although the layout is open in four directions after sniff is down, there still may be only two or three countable ends, for the sides of sniff do not count in the total until they have sprouted. A doublet other than sniff must be placed crosswise, and both its ends count in the total until it is canceled by the play of another bone on it. If the ends of sniff (as contrasted to the sides) project from the layout, they count even though they have not yet sprouted. For example, if sniff is 5-5, and branches are built off the sides until 6-6 is played on one side, +4 on the other, the total is 30.
If unable to play in turn, a player must draw from the boneyard until able. Some make the rule that the last two bones may not be drawn. It is well to have agreement on this point before commencing a game. A player may draw from the boneyard even if able to play without drawing-and sometimes it is worthwhile to do so.
The hand that goes out, or has the lightest count if the game ends in a block, wins the total points remaining in the other hands, taken to the nearest multiple of S. For example, 7 counts as 5 and 8 as 10. In two-hand, the first to reach 200 wins a game. With more players, game may be 200, but usually is lowered to 100 by agreement, for there is less opportunity for scoring muggins points (for making the total of open ends a multiple of 5).
Strategy of Sniff
Certain bones are of intrinsic value because they give greatest probability of making a muggins score. The 5-5, 6-4, 5-0, +1, and 3-2 score as the set. The 5-5 5-0, and 0-0 always make a score if played when the preceding hand has made a score. The 6-1 usually has the same effect. The 6-3, +2, 2-1 make a score if played after the previous hand has scored by playing the doublet of the lower number (3-3, 2-2, or 1-1). The bone that matches sniff at one end and has 5 at the other scores if played off a side of sniff after the previous hand has scored.
Especially in two-hand, there is opportunity to save such bones until they can be played to good effect. If the opponent is not too nearly out, it may be worthwhile drawing a few bones to try to avoid having to give up the 5-0 or 6-1 without scoring. Likewise occasion arises for drawing to get a particular bone that will make a score. A player with three or four more bones than his opponent is sometimes able to score in several successive turns, earning more than his investment.
The above was copied from Hoyles Book of Rules. My copy is so old, it doesn't have an ISBN or UPC code on it. March 9, 1999
Dominoes Rules - How To Play