All Aboard the Mexican Train

A popular pastime among émigrés and ex-pats along Lake Chapala is a domino game called Mexican Train. I’ve been told Mexicans call it Cuban Train. I suppose Kenyans call it Tanzanian Train, Uzbekistanis call it Tajikistani Train, and Neptunians call it Uranusian Train.

There are a variety of ways to play the game. But the way I play is the easiest. I know that is true because FOX News has reported that a two-year, 18 million dollar US government-funded study determined that the rules I follow are the simplest and least confusing. It is so easy, the study found, even Trump supporters can understand this version of the game.

Up to seven people can play Mexican Train. That is because at the center of the table—and you need a large table—is a plastic “train station” with eight slots from which the players form their domino train tracks. “Ah,” you are saying, “you just said up to seven people can play but there are eight slots for trains. You might be good at spelling and writing, but you don’t know shit when it comes to numbers.”

Well, you are correct. I am rithmatickally challenged. But I was correct regarding the slots at the train station. The eighth one is for the “public train.”

In addition to the 12,682 dominos, the game set comes with an assortment of tiny colored plastic train engines. The red one is placed at the head of the public train slot. Each player selects a plastic train; this step serves as a revealing psychological test. Some people pick the black one because they identify with its darkness. Many men pick the blue one because it is perceived as a masculine color. Some players favor the pink because it reflects their own beauty. The yellow has appeal to some, I suppose, because it radiates happiness and optimism. People who opt for the clear one, that 18 million dollar government study suggested, are empty-headed and vacuous. I always select the tartan plaid one because I think I am Scottish.

But unlike the public train’s red engine, players do not, and I repeat, do not place their train at the head of their track at this time. If they do, the player to her/his left must chop off the violating player’s right hand with a dull, rusty kitchen knife. See printed instruction sheet enclosed in the game box. Refer to Section 9G, “Dull, Rusty Kitchen Knives.”

To begin the game, each of the players picks 10 dominoes, which are laying face-down on the table. Once selected, players study their tiles. In the first game, they are seeking dominoes with a 12 on it as one will start their train track. But more important, players also are looking for the double-twelve tile. The one who has it will announce in Laotian “I have the double-twelve,” serve the others saltines and liverwurst, and frolic naked around the table. OK. I lied. That person does not have to be naked. But (s)he does place the double-twelve in the center of the train station and plays first. Meanwhile, players are forming their train, matching like-numbers end-to-end as in traditional dominoes.

But, oh Lord, what happens if no one has that all-important 12-12 domino? Well, it may seem dramatic and a bit over the top, but war is then declared on Nicaragua. And all players cower under the table whispering and holding their bladder until a peace treaty is signed. Oh, caught me again. I josh. Let me correct my misleading, FOX News-worthy statement. In the event no one has the double twelve, players take turns drawing added tiles until someone finds it and this can go on for several cycles. Yes, one can end up with more tiles than are in a Mar-a-Lago bathroom. Once found, however, the finder begins the game.

The lead-off player places a 12 in her/his slot; if (s)he has a second 12, (s)he may place it in the public train slot. (I am using the “(s)he” and “her/him” constructs to describe players to avoid being charged with sexism by feminist Mexican Train players. Oh, don’t get me started on feminist Mexican Train players; they are the most annoying, insisting other players refer to the dominos as “she” and “her” and constantly humming Helen Reddy’s I am Woman as they play. But I digress.) Then, going to the left, the players place a 12 in their slot. If a player has no 12, (s)he draws for one. If that is unsuccessful, that player places her/his wee tiny plastic engine at the head of her/his track, announcing (s)he doesn’t have a 12and making that track available. Subsequent players, if they have an extra 12, must give it to said 12-challenged player. I repeat must. If the player fails to do that and is male, his penis will be cut off with the aforementioned rusty dull knife; if female, her pussy hat will be cut up with pinking shears. Oh, this would be a good time to point out that the host or hostess must own pinking shears.

If no one has a spare 12 for the player in need, that player continues drawing dominoes until (s)he has picked a 12. Meanwhile, each player is building her/his train track, adding tiles with matching numbers to it. “But,” one may ask, “what do you do if you can’t add to your train?” That is where the public train comes in. And any train track with a cutesy itty-bitty plastic engine at its head. Players can place dominoes there that don’t fit into their track. Placing a domino on the available track of another player, may make it possible for that player to reclaim her/his track because its new end number may be on one of said player’s tiles. A player who adds to her/his own train when it has her/his plastic train at the head of her/his track can remove that train, thus making it unavailable to other players.

In the event a player plays a double tile, i.e. a double-six or double-ten, (s)he—oh, to Hell with this damn gender fairness crap. It is making it impossible to understand these cockamamie instructions. So, feminist Train players, here’s what I suggest. We, and I said “we,” march on Washington and demand equal pay for professional female Mexican Train players. They are, after all, athletes, too. Yes, I say, let’s stand as one and support the Women’s International Professional Mexican Train Player’s Association (the WIP-Empty-PA) and roar—now, where was I? Oh, yes. Double tiles. When one plays a double-domino, he places the tile across the end of the track, perpendicular to it. But he had better have a match to go with it, to satisfy it. If he does not, that player will be forced to eat the double tile. And I do not mean swallow it whole; I mean chew it until either the domino or the player’s teeth have been ground into a fine powder. Oh. Busted again. You caught me. Making up shit. Actually, if a player cannot match a tile to a double, he draws a new tile, hoping it will be a match. If not a match, the player places his plastic engine at the head of his track. But the game has now hit a major derailment for the next player must match that double, foregoing any plans for building on his own track. If that player cannot match, he draws and if that is unsuccessful places his plastic train at the head of his track. This continues until a player can satisfy that double. This derailing step can create several available temporary tracks on which to play. But remember, once a player plays on his own track, that player removes the plastic train and that track is no longer available to others.

When a player has placed all but one domino on a track, he takes that final tile and taps it twice on the table announcing his possible impending victory. The taps should be loud enough for all to hear, but not so strong as to break the table or startle actress Marlee Matlin, wherever she may be. Victory occurs when a player has placed his final tile.

The next game is played with the double-eleven and people base their train track on 11. The game after that, 10, then 9, and so on. Players work their way down to the double-zero or blank domino. A complete game can last more than two hours or until Trump’s next rude, imbecilic tweet.

So, now, let’s play a full game. Oh, you know what? All that explaining has exhausted me. I need a nap. We’ll play the full game in my next blog post, provided Trump has not triggered a nuclear war between the US and North Korea, China, Russia, or Nicaragua.

2 thoughts on “All Aboard the Mexican Train



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