Domino games

Build Up

Build Up is a Domino game designed by David Vander Ark and posted on the Internet in November 1999. He said to feel free to copy and play these rules, but to email him if you copy and use the rules, or if you have any questions or comments about them. However, the page (which was at has since disappeared and unfortunately we do not know his e-mail address.


The game uses two double six domino sets of different colors and without a spinner because the tiles are stacked. Each player has his own set.

The Deal

Each player turns his tiles upside down on the table, mixes them, and draws six tiles. These twelve tiles are laid out face up in two lines of six tiles each. How these are placed is not important, although it is easiest if the tiles are not touching each other and are oriented so the long axis of the tiles are on the line between the two players. The remaining tiles form the boneyards, and should be kept separate by color.

The first hand begins with each player drawing one tile from his boneyard. The player who draws the domino with the most total pips will play first. Players then draw five more tiles so each has a total of six tiles for the first hand. When this hand has been played, there follow three more hands of six, six and four tiles each. This should exhaust the boneyards.

The Play

In turn, players place a tile from their hand on top of any stack domino already in line on the table, following these rules for building. Stacks of tiles can be any height, but they are built up according to these rules:

  1. A non-double tile may be placed on any tile as long as the total number of pips on the tile played is equal to or greater than the tile being covered.
  2. A double may cover any non-double tile, even if the covered tile has more pips.
  3. A double may cover another double only if the covered tile has fewer total pips. Any tile may cover a double tile if it has more total pips.
  4. A hand ends when both players have emptied their hands, or when both players can no longer make any plays and the hand blocks.
  5. When one player cannot play in his turn he passes and the other player may then continue.
  6. When the first hand of six tiles is played and scored, a second hand of six tiles is drawn, played and scored the same way. Then the final hand of four tiles is drawn, played and scored the same way.


At the end of each hand, each player scores the total number of pips on the tiles of his own color that are on top of the stacks. A player may have tiles left at the end of a hand that he is unable to play. These tiles are set aside and not returned to the boneyard, nor do they count either for or against his score.

The highest score after the third hand is the winner.

Comments & Strategy

Players should try to cover their opponent's tiles rather than their own, but a player may choose to cover his own tile in order to play a tile he would otherwise have to discard.

Covering a high scoring tile with a low double may allow a player to later rid himself of tiles he would otherwise have to discard. Of course, this also allows his opponent to do the same.


Mr. Vander Ark suggested that Build Up could be played with more than two players using another colored set of tiles per each player.