My friends will tell you that I am a game player. I am, but that description is way too broad and must be narrowed. I like social games played after dinner with a friend or two. I like simple games with simle rules and simple equipment. To me, playing a good game will involve a mixture of both luck and skill. If I play against a novice I want him or her to have some opportunity to win just by luck. A few games that I like are Euchre (cards), Cribbage (cards), Backgammon (checkers), Farkle (dice), and Scrabble (letter tiles). But if I had to pick a favorite it would be All Fives (dominoes).
Rules of this game can be found here and many other places as well. Just do a Google search. The game is simple enough to be played by a grade schooler who has learned basic arithmetic. When I introduce this game to a novice they usually say it’s a pleasant pastime but that winning depends simply on the luck of the draw. After I get their attention by winning a few games I start educating them about the properties of dominoes and playing strategies. It is not long before they realize that they have been deceived on the apparent simplicity of this game. A skilled player will normally win the game.
Prove this to yourself by trying Curtis Cameron’s shareware game found here. This game WILL run on a Linux machine with WINE. The game offers four levels of difficulty. At the next to highest difficulty level I can win about half the games, At the highest level I usually lose. This game truly is my training ground. On my iPod Touch I have installed American Dominoes available from the App store. This plays a reasonable game at its highest difficulty level, but it does not compare to Curtis Cameron’s game. It’s good for practice, but I will win a majority of games.
I have a couple of texts on the subject. They’re fine for giving rules but none go into detail on playing strategies. Save your money and learn on the Internet. Here are a few tips of my own that you may or may not find elsewhere:
(1) Know your dominoes. Some are more likely to score than others. Good scoring dominoes include 0-0, 5-5, 1-6. Repeaters will score on a scoring double just played. The 1-2 plays on and repeats the 1-1. Similarly, the 2-4 repeats the 2-2 and the 3-6 repeats the 3-3. The 4-3 plays and scores on the 4-4 and the 6-2 scores on the 6-6.
(2) In a standard double six set, any given pip will appear 8 times on 7 dominoes. If your hand has five or more of any number you hold the majority. Playing one of these will often send your opponent to drawing from the boneyard.
(3) If you are down to two dominoes try to make a play that will guarantee your going out on your next turn. It might not score but you can look forward to all the points in your opponents hand.
(4) In any play consider what dominoes can be played by an opponent to score. All played dominoes are visible so you will often know if a play is safe or unsafe. For example, if I am holding both a 4-4 and a 1-1. I don’t hesitate to play the 4-4 and sometimes the 1-1 will score later. If the 1-1 is not in my hand and has not been played, another dominoe might be a better choice.
Do you have some strategies of your own? Why not comment on this article?