Almost everyone with a games closet will have a set of dominos buried deep somewhere. If you’ve stopped using them because you overplayed the classic dominos game and didn’t know what to do with them, it’s time to dig them back out and grab another player to join you.
As you read this guide, I would like to broaden your knowledge of dominoes games and show you various new, exciting, and unique ways to enjoy playing dominoes games with two players.
If you still need to get a set of dominos lying about the house, don’t worry; you can pick up many options online now for a reasonable price.
I have a few sets myself, but the one I always go back to is this Pressman wooden domino set, mainly because it always gives me a warming sense of nostalgia; it’s similar to the one my nanny gave me when I was a child and reminded me of many game night’s rounds at her house. Ah, the good old days!
I have also compiled this handy guide to finding the best dominoes set if you still need help finding the perfect ones.
So, now you’ve got your hands on some dominoes one way or another, let’s learn more about them before I introduce you to some of the most famous domino games for two players.
What Are Dominos?
If you need clarification or aren’t even familiar with dominoes, let me tell you a bit about them first.
Dominos are tiles with a specific number of dots (pips) on each one, usually between one and six, separated into two halves. We’re talking about a classic set of dominoes. You can now get various types. For example, suppose you were to be playing Mexican train dominoes. In that case, these need a specific set, you can check some of these out with my guide to the best Mexican Train dominoes sets, but for today I am only going to be talking about the good old-fashioned kind.
Dominoes is a widely played popular game that is loved and enjoyed by people worldwide; it’s not age-restricted due to its simplicity, its low cost, the rules are easy to follow, and once you understand how to play it can be highly addictive and great fun for the whole family.
So, what two-player games can you play with dominoes? I hear you say. Here they are, enjoy!
I hadn’t heard of Bergen, or at least was familiar with the name when someone told me about it a few years back at a party.
To play, one person starts the train, while the other player or players (you can have between two and four) attempt to join the train using their tiles. As we’re playing with only two players, each person starts the game with six tiles each, leaving a leftover pile of 16 tiles, also known as the Boneyard.
If you cannot place down a tile from your stock, you can take one from the Boneyard until you can make a move or until the last two tiles remain. The game is over at this point.
You’ll earn two points if you play down a tile of equal value to that on the other end of the train; this is called a “doubleheader.”
Scoring and How to Win
To score three points, you must play an equal tile to the double on the other end of the train, leaving three exposed ends because the doubles are played across the line, opening another end to the train.
You can win the round in two ways; when the train is blocked or only two dominoes are left in the Boneyard.
The simplest way to score is by adding together the points to see who has the lowest. However, different variants score differently. For instance, if someone has no doubles in America, that person is the winner, or if everyone has a double, the lowest wins. In Germany, the person with no doubles wins, or the person with the lowest number of total pips (marks on the dominos) is the winner.
2. Draw Dominoes
For me, this is the most commonly known game with a dominoes set, and it was the first one I learned to play. You can either play this with two players or two teams of two. Seeing as you’re here, I presume you have two players, so let’s look at that version.
To begin, place all the dominos in a big stack in the middle of the table and give them a good jumble around; then, both of you take seven tiles each from the pile, be careful not to let the other player see your dominoes. Like the previous game, I told you about, the rest of the tiles are now called the Boneyard (I love this term).
Now, whoever has the highest double tile places it in the middle (if nobody has a double, then whoever has the highest domino goes first,) and this kicks off the gameplay.
From here, you need to aim to match the previous domino with one of yours. For instance, if the first domino played was a double five, you must match it with another five (though it doesn’t haven’t to be double). If you can’t match anything, you’ll have to take a tile from the Boneyard and keep doing so until you can make a move. If you run out of tiles, you’ll have to pass.
Scoring and Winning
It’s similar to a card-shedding game, where you aim to eliminate your dominos as quickly as possible, or at least before your opponent. So the winner is the first person to run out of tiles. If this doesn’t happen in a round because nobody can play down a tile, then the person with the lowest value of dominoes left wins.
To score the game, the winning player wins the exact value of points left on all the unplayed dominoes, including those of the loser. Generally, the first player to reach 100 points is the overall winner of the game. Keep a tally of these points to keep count as you play more rounds.
Bingo with dominos is slightly different from the old classic game of bingo, where some guy stands at the front churning a basket of balls while people yell out “BINGO” from the crowd. However, it’s just as entertaining and an excellent way to incorporate a domino set into a good old-fashioned classic.
I love a quick-fire game, and that’s just what this is, with the added pressure of out-smarting your opponent to win.
Start by both taking seven dominoes each, keeping them hidden from each other, then turning over tiles from the scrap pile (or Boneyard again if you like). This domino sets the trump for the game. You will both need to attempt to match the trump with tiles from your hand.
Scoring and Winning
If you both match the trump, the one with the highest value tile takes the wins. So, let’s say the trump title was a three, and you’ve played a three and two, and your opponent plays a double three; your opponent wins.
Interestingly in this game, blanks count as a high score, so if you play a double blank, this wipes out any other tile, and you’ve won.
4. Straight Dominos
Most games involving dominos are suitable for beginners and players of all ages, and straight dominos are precisely that. In many ways, it’s similar to the draw domino’s game I told you about earlier, but perhaps with a bit more skill involved.
Like the other games I’ve described, straight dominos aim to get the least points or eliminate all your dominos altogether before your opponent.
Scoring and Winning
The rules are pretty straightforward. Players take turns to match dominos by the numbers shown on them (or pips, as they’re more commonly called in the domino world). If you use all your tiles, you’ve instantly won the game, but if the train gets blocked, the player with the few pips on their remaining dominos wins.
Okay, so you must buy a slightly different set of dominos for this one. A couple of versions are available, but the Tri Ominos Classic set has proven to be the most popular so far.
The Tri-Ominos game gives an edge to the traditional dominos. Instead of the classic rectangle tiles, these are triangular-shaped. Crazy times, hey!
Okay, so things aren’t that crazy; the shape is pretty much where the differences end. The aim of tri-ominos is similar to any other two-player dominos in that you must match your tiles to previously played ones. The one difference here is that each open side of a tile has two numbers, so you must be able to match both to play your turn.
Scoring and Winning
The game comes to a close when the train is blocked, or a player has run out of tiles, and, like the other games, if nobody has been able to rid themselves of all tiles, then the person with the lowest number of pips on their remaining tiles take the win.
So you see, there are numerous games you can play that will give you a fresh take on the classic dominos games you might be familiar with, so the next time you and your buddy are looking for two-player games to keep yourself entertained, now you’ve got plenty more options.
Once you’ve worked through these, if you’re still hungry for more, you could try out these two-player card games for an even more fun and eventful game night.