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How to Play Mexican Train Rules for those who hate the rulebook

I wrote these easy-to-reference Mexican Train Rules to help those who hate rulebooks learn how to play.

What is the goal?

Play all your Mexican Train dominoes and earn the lowest score across 3 rounds.

Setting up the game

In each round, players try to be the first to play all their dominoes or as many of their high point dominos.

Setup the Engine

In the center of the table, place the double-12 dominoes. This is where the trains start. Engine refers to the double-12 in the centrepiece.

Mexican Train game rules - the engine

Shuffle the Deal dominoes

Turn other dominoes face down, shuffle and each player draws the the number of dominoes based on the number of players playing.

  • 2-4 Players: 15
  • 5 -6 Players: 12
  • 7 – 8 Players: 10

Stand your dominoes on edge facing. Make sure they are not visible to your opponents.


Any remaining dominoes are put in a pile and this becomes the boneyard.

Select Starting Player for the Round

  • Players randomly pick dominoes.
  • Player with the highest value is the starting player.
  • Play continues clockwise.
  • In the next round, the player to the left of the starter becomes the new starting player for that round.

Mexican Train Step by Step Rules

The game begins with a double 12 domino. Each subsequent round uses the lower double until all doubles are played. The double-blank marks the final round. Play proceeds to the left.

  • Players take turns playing one domino, or two if their first domino is a double.
  • If they do not have a playable tile, they must draw a domino from the boneyard. If playable, it must be played. If not, their turn ends and play continues to the left.
  • Players compete to place all their dominoes by playing matching end-to-end dominoes each turn.

Start a Personal Train or play onto a Mexican Trains

The hub comprises of slots for each player where they can start their Personal Train of dominoes (typically only a player has access to it) and a slot for the Mexican Train which it is a public line of dominoes that all players can play onto.

Starting a Personal Train

Starting Personal Train in Mexican Train Dominoes

You plays a tile that end-matches the engine’s tile on the slot closest to you. Once started, you have access to your personal train as long as you can place.

Starting the Mexican Train

You end match a tile to the Engine tile on the slot designated for the Mexican Train. Normally, eligible for all players to play their dominoes. A marker may be placed and left on the Mexican Train to indicate it is an eligible train for play. The Mexican train can be started by any player during their turn if it hasn’t already been started.

Playing of tiles

During each turn, you can only play one playable tile, except for doubles.

You can play tiles on:

  • your personal train,
  • the Mexican train, or
  • any train with a “marker”.

Playing of Doubles

Mexican Train Doubles rules
  • Double tile is placed sideways on the train.
  • Play an extra tile that isn’t a double (unless it’s your last domino, then the round ends).
  • Either the double or another eligible train can be used to play the additional tile. 
  • Draw a tile if you don’t have another to play, then play it if you can.
  • Place your marker on your personal train if your additional tile is not playable (your Double is now OPEN).
  • Play moves to next player.

An Open Double (not played on)

When a player’s turn ends and the double is open, their personal train becomes public. No other train can be played on until the double is closed. After drawing, players must mark their trains if they cannot play on the double. Once the double is closed, all players can freely play on any eligible train.

Draw from boneyard if your tile is not playable

  • Draw one from the boneyard and play it if possible.
  • Playable tiles must always be played. Add a marker on your personal train if unable to play after drawing a tile. The personal train now becomes a public train where other players can play their dominoes on it.

Marker on your personal train

  • When a marker is on your train, other players can play on it unless there is an Open Double.
  • You can still play on any eligible train during your subsequent turns while a marker is on your train.
  • Your train marker remains there until you play on your personal train.
  • Once you have played, you remove your marker’

End of Mexican Train Round

Whenever there are no more tiles in the boneyard, a player passes and places a marker on his train. Players must tap their last tile on the table when they have only one left. Whenever a player has “dominoed” (played his last tile, even if it is a double), or when the boneyard is depleted, the round ends.

Scoring Mexican Train Round

At the end of each round, the player going out gets 0 points, while the rest total all pips (dots) on their dominoes.

Begin New Round

Every new round begins with the double that is one number lower than the engine in the previous round (12, 11, 10, etc.). Place the double aside before shuffling. All trains, including the Mexican train, must match that double. In a full-length game with double-12 dominoes, there are 13 rounds since the blank double is the engine.

How do you win?

Player with the lowest score after thirteen rounds is the winner. In the case of a tie, player with the most 0-point rounds is the winner. (If still tied, lowest round total other than 0 is the winner).

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