Number of Players: Two to four
Type of Dominoes Required: Muggins uses a Western double-six set of 28 tiles, though scoring may be altered to accommodate a double-nines set.
Muggins is in the same family as Fives-Up, in which scoring is based on the number of “open” or exposed domino ends on the board. Muggins is sometimes called Sniff, though Sniff is also another game in the same family. Muggins and Sniff are played more in Europe and Britain than in the US.
All tiles are turned face-down and shuffled. This is called “washing the dishes” in some circles.
Each player draws a domino to determine the order of play. The player with the highest ranking tile is dubbed the first player, and the tiles are returned, face-down, to the pile and re-shuffled.
If two people are playing, 7 tiles are dealt to each player. If three or four people are playing, 7 tiles are dealt. The remaining tiles are left face-down in the “boneyard.”
Muggins is played almost the same way as Fives-Up.
The first player chooses a domino from his hand as the “lead,” and plays it face-up. Play continues to the first player’s left.
Each subsequent player must play a tile that matches any one of the open ends currently on the board. Doubles are placed with their long side on the matching end, and the total of their points is counted when scoring. However, a player may not play off all three open sides of the double; only the adjacent long side, as in the illustration below.
If a player has no tiles whose number matches an open end on the board, he must draw from the bone yard until he can play. If there are no more tiles in the bone yard, that player must pass.
Play continues until one player gets rid of all the tiles in his hand, known as “dominoeing.” This marks the end of a round, and the tiles are shuffled and dealt for the next round. The player who dominoed is automatically the first player of the next round. If the round was a draw, the first player is decided by drawing lots.
Winning and Scoring
Muggins is scored throughout the game. A cribbage board or a pencil and paper may be useful in keeping score.
A player scores after they have laid down a tile if the sum of the pips on open ended tiles equals a multiple of five. For example, the illustration below shows a five, a four, a six, and a blank are all open ended, totaling 15. If a player had just laid down the 3-4, that player would receive the 15 points.
This illustration shows an example of a non-scoring play. The open ends are four, two, blank, and one, totaling seven. If a player had just laid down the 5-0 to create this, they would not score.
If a player has scored and fails to notice the fact, another player may call “Muggins!” and steal that player’s points. Muggins must be called on the scoring player’s turn, or the points are void.
At the end of each round, the total pips on the dominoes left in each player’s hand is added up and rounded to the nearest multiple of five. For example, a hand with a 1-2, a 3-4, and a 2-2, would be rounded to 15. These points are subtracted from the player’s overall score.
Play continues until one player reaches 200 points, when three or more are playing, or 250 points when two are playing.
The highest score one can make when playing with a double-six set is 20. The highest possible score for a double-nines set is 45.
It is a good idea to try and score a “fast five” early, by playing a 0-5, 1-4, or 2-3, if you can. Later in the game you might not be able to score from these tiles.
This strategy also works well if you are the first player. Or, if you have them, you can lead with the 5-5 or 4-6, to score 10 points on your first turn.
It is not often that you can score right after another player, but there are some tiles, known as “repeaters” that enable you to score when there is a multiple of five on the board. The following combos can be made with repeaters.
- 0-5 on 0-0
- 1-2 on 1-1
- 2-4 on 2-2
- 1-3 on 3-3
- 3-6 on 3-3
- 3-4 on 4-4
- 0-5 on 5-5
- 2-6 on 6-6
Repeaters may give you 30% to 50% of all your points in a game.
All players keep their points, but the winner of each hand receives the sum-total of all his opponent’s pips rounded to the nearest multiple of five and divided by five. For example, if all the other players’ tiles added up to 26, that would be rounded to 25, and divided by five, making five. The winner of the round would receive those five points. If the hand is a draw, the player with the least number of tiles left in his hand is the winner.
Tiles in the boneyard are called “sleepers” and may not be drawn. If a player has no playable tiles, they must pass.
Doubles may be played in line or turned. If it is played in line, only one end is counted for scoring. If it is turned, both ends are counted as usual. For example, a 6-1 and a 4-1 are already on the board. A player may put down a 4-4 turned, to make a total of 14, or he may play the 4-4 in line, to make a total of 10.
The benefit of this variation is an extra level of strategy when scoring.
Google also has a dominoes app for Android, which has a muggins version.