A standard first round of play begins with the player holding the highest Double being required to play it immediately to the board. The first Double played to the board in any round is known as the Spinner. The Spinner is unique from all subsequent Doubles played in that future Dominoes can branch off from any arm of the spinner during the round.
It is typically played vertically to the board, as are all Doubles, to distinguish itself from the standard non-double tiles. Players then continue on by connecting Dominoes from their hand to the board dominoqq until the round ends when one player completely exhausts their supply of Dominoes by playing out all their tiles, the board becomes locked with no available legal plays or someone wins the game based on achieving the agreed upon number of points, typically 100pts per game. If neither player has compiled a game-winning number of points when a round ends, play continues on to the next round until a winner is arrived at.
Players score points whenever they play a tile to the board so that the Board Count would then equal any multiple of five. The Board Count (BC) is the sum total of all available open ends on the board. So whenever a player changes the Board count to 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 or 35 by playing a tile to the board, they then score that number of points. However, should a play not result in a multiple-of-five Board Count, the player does not score any points and the turn passes to the opponent.
Basic Scoring and The Spinner in American Dominoes
Players may also score points by playing out all of their own tiles before their opponent. Whenever this happens, the round is considered over and the player who still has tiles left must count up all of the Pips (spots) in their remaining tiles. The player who played out all their tiles then receives that exact number of points and the next round begins. For example, should a player play out all their tiles and the opponent has the 6-6 and 0-2 tiles left in their hand, they would score +14pts (6+6+0+2) and the round would be over. Should the board become locked, with no available plays from either player, both players must then count up the Pips of all the tiles in their hand with their opponent scoring that exact number of points.
Let’s examine the first four moves of an American Dominoes game by following the chart to the right. The first move has the Double-Six Domino being played to the board, which makes it the Spinner. As we recall, the Spinner can now be built upon from all ends on the following plays. Note that below the Double-Six is the caption “BC:12 Non-Scoring”. This is because the total number of Pips on the Double-Six add up to twelve, and no other Dominoes have been connected to the board yet.
If the Spinner would have been a Double-Two, for example, the initial board count would have been Four, since 2+2=4 of course. The second move has Player 2 connecting the 3-6 Domino to the Double-Six, resulting in a new Board count of 15. This is because now both the Double-Six and the three are open scoring ends on the board (highlighted in gray). Since the BC is a multiple of five (12+3=15), the second player immediately scores 15pts.
On the third move, the first player again takes a look at the board and decides to Hook, another term for connect, the 2-6 tile to the opposite side of the Spinner. This results in a new board count of 5 (2+3=5), with the open scoring ends in play again shaded in gray. This is because that once the first player connected their tile as the second arm of the spinner, it was effectively “buried” and taken out of play as far as scoring concerns. Make sure that you understand this important scoring rule, as it has often been described innaccurately in other rules explanations as still being in play.
In American Dominoes, once the second arm has been attached to the spinner it no longer plays a part in scoring. However, the two additional arms can still be played to, but the Spinner is officially dead in scoring considerations after the second arm, including the remaining two playable arms (the North and South branching arms). In fact, on the fourth move above we find the second player hooking the 5-6 onto one of still available arms of the spinner, resulting in a new BC of 10 which scores the player 10pts. The score after these four moves would be 25-5 for the second player and the round with the round continuing to completion.