Mexican Train

Entertainment, Friends

What the heck is Mexican Train??? It’s a table game played with dominoes by up to eight people. I play with a group at a local restaurant & bar called Big Daddy’s on Wednesday afternoons from 3 until around 5 p.m. Different people show up on occasion, so I get to socialize and get to know them in a smaller group, which is much more suited to my somewhat introverted nature.

The group playing Mexican Train dominoes at Big Daddy’s

The dominoes used in this game have a maximum of 12 spots on each end of the tile, as opposed to the limit of 6 for standard dominoes. Each of the radiating lines of tiles is one the player’s “personal train” that they play subsequent tiles on. The group of dominoes at the far end of the table is the “public train” that anyone can play on.

To start the game, a “double” (same number of spots on each end) is placed in the little central hub (called the “engine”). Each player has to place a domino that matches the central domino in one of the notches of the hub, and the game proceeds from there around the circle. There’s a fair bit of strategy to the game, regarding how you play to maximize the number of moves you have available before having to draw from the “train yard” (bone pile of unused dominoes) because you have no further matches.

The small colored markers on a couple of the personal trains are, in fact, little plastic trains. If someone has to draw and still can’t play, their train goes up and their train becomes public, meaning anyone can play on it. If on the any subsequent turn, they can play on their own train, the little train comes off and it’s private again.

My explanation is probably confusing, but it’s not difficult to learn and a lot of fun to play. I found a web page with more detailed rules, if you are interested. Those are not exactly the rules we play by, but it gives you an idea.

There are other Mexican Train gatherings around town (at least two others that I know of), and I hear that some of them count points (having the smallest number of spots on your remaining dominoes after all hands are played). Others even play for money. Both of those groups sound way too serious. The group I play with just plays for the laughs – and we do laugh a lot!

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