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Electrum Dominoes

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Contents
The_Game
The_Game_Display
Scoring_All_Fives
The_Game_Menu
The_Game_Tally
The_Settings_Menu
The_Colors_Menu
Strategy
Notes

 

The Game

Electrum Dominoes is a two-player Dominoes game using a 28-piece set consisting of one domino ('bone') with each possible combination of spots ('pips') from 0-0 through 6-6. You can play Draw games, Block games, All Fives (also known as Sniff, Five-Up or Muggins), All Threes, or Fives & Threes. You can play any of these with or without a spinner. The basic way of playing is the same for all of these games.

At the beginning of a new hand, each player draws seven bones. The player with the heaviest doublet leads the hand. (A doublet is a bone with the same number of pips on each side; the heaviest one is the one with the most pips.) The other player must play a bone that matches the doublet on one side. For example, if the double six is played first, the next bone played must have a six on one side, and is placed next to the doublet. It will be turned around automatically if necessary so that the side with the matching number is next to the doublet. The next bone must match either the doublet or the other end of the last bone played. Doublets are placed perpendicular to the direction of play.


If you choose to use a spinner, the first doublet played becomes the spinner.
Once the east and west sides of the spinner have been played, bones may be played to the north or south.

If a player has no bones that match the outermost ends, bones must be drawn from the boneyard until a match is found (and the matching bone is played) or the boneyard is empty and the player passes.

In Block games, the boneyard is emptied after hands are first drawn, so a player must either play or pass.

In All Fives, if, after a bone is played, the sum of pips on the outermost ends (the 'table count') is a multiple of five, that number of points is added to the player's score. If an end bone is a doublet, both sides are counted. The spinner is counted this way as long as it's at one end (or the only bone; the double five scores the player ten points if it is the first bone played in a hand). The same applies to sums that are multiples of three in All Threes, and multiples of either five or three in Fives & Threes.

If a player can Domino (empty his or her hand), that player is said to have won the hand and is awarded the sum of pips on the other player's remaining bones; a new hand is then begun. If neither player has a bone that can be played and the boneyard is empty, the hand is 'blocked'; the pips in each player's hand are added and the player with the lower number of pips is awarded the difference. The game continues until one player reaches 150 points.

In Electrum Dominoes, the hands are drawn and the heaviest doublet is played automatically. If neither player has a doublet after the draw, the hand is void; a new boneyard is built and another draw takes place. Void hands do not appear on the display.


The initial settings are for Draw games with no spinner. Select Settings from the game menu and adjust them to suit your preferences:
For Block games, turn off Draws.
For All Fives, turn on Spinner and Fives.
For All Threes, turn on Spinner and Threes.
For Fives & Threes, turn on Spinner, Fives and Threes.

 

The Game Display

The traditional appearance of a Dominoes game is something like this.

Your hand appears in the foreground, your opponent's at the back, the boneyard to one side, and the played bones in the middle. Handheld devices aren't suitable for this type of display; their screens are too small. Even without the boneyard and opponent’s hand being shown, the possible expansion of the player's hand and the meanderings of the played bones would mean a lot of scrolling or very small bones. And it's even more crowded if you use a spinner.

So we came up with a better way.

 

We collapsed the lines of played bones so that only the ends (and the spinner, if you use one) are seen. We moved the rest of the bones to a panel that also contains the bones in your hand. The played bones are added from right to left, bottom to top; the bones in your hand are added from left to right, top to bottom. The text shows you how many bones are in the boneyard and your opponent's hand, so you have just about the same information available to you as you would if you were playing against a human.

Let's move to an All Fives game with a spinner and a table count so all of the available components can be seen.

 

 

For purposes of explanation, let's say the display consists of a status area, a playing area, and a bone panel.

The status area shows the players' scores, the number of bones in each player's hand, messages indicating scoring, whose turn it is, etc., and the number of bones remaining in the boneyard. Buttons also appear in this area when they're needed.

The playing area contains the spinner and four end buttons. The table count appears in the lower left corner. The end buttons show which bone was last placed on each end, and you use them to indicate where a bone in your hand is to be played. You can use the end buttons even when you can't see them; that is, when no bone has yet been played on a given end (as long as the play is valid).

The bone panel contains a button representing each bone in your hand. In order to play a bone, tap it; the colors are inverted to indicate your selection. You can tap a different bone if you change your mind. When you're satisfied with your selection, tap an end button to indicate where the bone is to be played. The images below show what would appear if you first tapped the one-six bone, then the north end button (the one with the four-six bone).

        

Note that no bone has been played to the south of the spinner. The south end button is there though, and could be used if you had a bone with four pips on one side that you wanted to play.

When it's your opponent's turn (we call him 'Nestor'), an 'OK' button will appear.
Tap the button to let Nestor take his turn.

If Nestor draws, a message to that effect will appear and you must tap the 'OK' button again to enable him to either play or draw again.

If you don't have any bones you can play on your turn, a 'Draw' button will appear; tap it to draw a bone from the boneyard. If the boneyard is empty, a 'Pass' button appears instead. Tapping it indicates that you are unable to play, and Nestor will take his turn. If he is also unable to play, the hand will be 'blocked' and ended as described above.

 

If you empty your hand, the bones in Nestor's hand are displayed with the colors inverted, and a 'New Hand' button will appear; tap it to begin a new hand.

 

At the end of a game, Nestor's hand will be displayed (if there are any bones in it) and a 'New Game' button will appear. You can probably guess what happens when you tap it.

 

Scoring All Fives

Many people who are new to All Fives find the scoring somewhat confusing. Here are some examples that show how different configurations of bones are scored. The Table count setting has been turned on; the value can be seen in the lower left corner. Note that these are not consecutive views from a single game, but have been selected because they demonstrate scoring principles.

Both sides of the first bone played are counted. 6 + 6 = 12. 12 is not a multiple of 5; no score. The spinner is still on an end, so both sides are counted. 6 + 6 + 1 = 13. 13 is not a multiple of 5; no score. The spinner is no longer on an end. 3 + 1 = 4. No score.

Both sides of a doublet on an end are counted. 3 + 1 + 1 = 5; 5 points are scored. Both east and west have been played, so a play to the north is allowed. The blank counts as 0. 3 + 1 + 1+ 0 = 5. Nestor plays a bone to the south. 3 + 1 + 1 + 0 + 5 = 10.

A new game has begun and Nestor has played the double five. 5 + 5 = 10; he scores 10 points. The Leader of next hand setting is set to Winner and you won the last hand. You can lead with any bone in your hand. This one earns you 10 points. 6 + 4 = 10. Nestor plays the double six, the first doublet of the hand. It becomes the spinner and the four-six is shifted to the west end button to keep the ends matched correctly.

 

The Game Menu

This menu is available from the game display and offers the following choices:
Game tally
displays the number of games you and Nestor have won. *
Undo
lets you undo your last play or draw.
Show my hand
lets you peek at Nestor's hand. *
Show Boneyard
lets you peek at the boneyard. *
Preserve
stores the current game status. *
Restore
restores the previously-preserved game status. *
New game
lets you begin a new game.
Settings
brings up the Settings menu (see below).
Colors
brings up the Colors menu (see below) *
About
displays version information and the end user license agreement.
Help
provides some basic help information and directs you here for more.


Items marked with an asterisk (*) are enabled only in the full version. In the free version, selecting any of these except Preserve or Restore will give you a tantalizing glimpse of the way the function would work if you had the full version.

Some important notes on the Undo function:

Each time you play or draw a bone, the game status is saved before the action is performed. By selecting the Undo function from the menu, you restore the game to the way it was just before that action. This will work even if a new game has started, as long as you have not yet played or drawn another bone.

The Undo function was provided so that, if you should accidentally tap a button, you can undo the action without adversely affecting a good game. It would be possible, however, to use it in such a way as to cause less desirable bones to be drawn into Nestor's hand, to take a random sampling of the boneyard before settling on a pleasing draw for yourself, or to partake of other unscrupulous activities that would taint the outcome of the game. That said, we entrust this tool to you in the hopes that you will use it in an ethical and responsible manner.

Some not quite so important notes on the Preserve and Restore functions:

Like for the Undo function, the game status is preserved, but you get to choose when this happens. Thus when you encounter a particularly challenging point in a game, you can use the Preserve function and try one strategy, then use the Restore function and try something else. You can Undo plays and draws as required and still Restore the game to the way it was when you last Preserved it. You can also Undo a Restore if you select it accidentally.

Because these functions (and the ones that enable you to see Nestor's hand and the boneyard) are limited to full version users, we know that if you're using them you must be a righteous and upstanding individual, so we don't need to remind you about ethics and responsibilities. And if you slip from time to time, we like you well enough not to alert the authorities.

 

The Game Tally

This display appears when you select Game tally from the game menu.

It shows the number of games you and Nestor have won, both as raw numbers and as percentages of the total number of games played.

Tapping the 'Clear' button will reset the counts to zero. If you tap it by accident, you can use the Undo function from the game menu to restore the counts, as long as you don't play or draw beforehand. You can also use the Restore function if you have preserved a game recently.

In the free version, these numbers never change and you can't clear them.

The Settings Menu

This menu appears when you select Settings from the game menu.

The Difficulty setting controls how hard Nestor tries to beat you. Possible choices are Beginner, Easy, Not so easy, Tough, and Brutal. If you're a beginner and are playing All Fives, All Threes, or Fives & Threes, even the Beginner setting might seem hard until you get used to the scoring, and the amount of chance in the game means that you'll beat the harder settings some of the time. In any case, you should be able to find a setting that is challenging enough to make the game enjoyable.

Different people like to play to different numbers of points. You can choose by setting the number of Points to win to 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 305, or 500. If you usually score each five on the table as one point and play to 61, select 305 and the Rounding setting for the same effect.


The Block scoring setting lets you specify how blocked hands are scored. The first value determines which player will be awarded points; Low designates the player whose hand contains the lower number of pips, while Last designates the player who last played a bone. The number of points awarded is determined by the second value; Difference indicates the difference between the hands, Opponent indicates the number of pips in the opponent's hand, and Both indicates the sum of pips in both hands. The number of points awarded will be rounded to the nearest multiple of five if the Rounding setting is used.

The Leader of next hand setting determines which player will play the first bone of a new hand. The choices are Doublet, Winner, Loser and Alternate. Their meanings are as follows:
Doublet: Every hand will be led by the player with the heaviest doublet.
Winner: The first hand of a game or the hand after a blocked hand is led with the heaviest doublet, but each subsequent hand is led (with any bone) by the winner of the previous hand.
Alternate: The first hand of a game is led with the heaviest doublet, and players take turns leading the subsequent hands.
Loser: Just like Winner, except the player who lost the previous hand leads.
If you choose WinnerLoser or Alternate, hands that are not started with the heaviest doublet can be led with any bone, which must be played to the east or the west; if the Spinner setting is on, the first doublet played becomes the spinner. When you lead such a hand, the corners of the east end button are shown to make it easier to find. Of course, you can use the west end button if you prefer (and if you can find it).

Choosing the Spinner setting means the first doublet played during a hand becomes the spinner, and that bones can be played to the north or south after bones have been played to the east and west.

The Draws setting enables bones to be drawn from the boneyard after a hand has begun.

If you select the Fives setting, points are awarded if the table count is a multiple of five after a bone is played.

If you select the Threes setting, points are awarded if the table count is a multiple of three after a bone is played. If you play Electrum Dominoes to keep you mind sharp, try reversing the Fives and Threes settings from time to time.

The Auto-OK setting lets you speed up the game by allowing Nestor to take his turn without your having to tap the 'OK' button. If you select this option, the 'OK' button will never appear; but neither will status messages that would normally appear after your play (e.g. to tell you the number of points you scored). You'll have to keep an eye on the 'My Bones' and 'Boneyard' fields to determine whether Nestor has drawn because the 'I have drawn' message won't appear. We suggest you leave this off until you're pretty familiar with the game.

The Auto-Draw setting speeds up the game too. When you draw, you keep drawing automatically until a playable bone is drawn (or the boneyard is emptied).

The Table count setting causes the table count (the sum of pips on the outer ends) to be displayed in the lower left corner of the game display.

The 10 points minimum score setting causes scores of less than 10 points made during a hand (when Fives or Threes is on) to be ignored.

If you like to preserve a bit of mystery, use the Bury two bones setting to cause two bones to be chosen at random and removed from the boneyard at the beginning of each hand. This setting is ignored if the No draws setting is used.

The Restrict draw setting stops you from drawing (or trying to pass) when you don't have to; the Draw button (or Pass button) appears only if you have to draw (or pass). Turning this off lets you draw as many bones as you like from the boneyard (as long as it's not empty and the Draws setting is on).


Some people like to begin a hand with seven bones; some prefer five.
Setting the number of Bones to draw lets you choose.

If you find it overwhelming when you draw a hand full of doublets, you can set Max doublets to draw to a value between 3 and 7. If either player draws more than this number of doublets, the hand is void and a new hand is drawn. Void hands do not appear on the display.

The Flicker setting makes it a little easier to follow Nestor's plays. Each time he plays a bone, the end button he plays it on will flicker a little to draw your attention to it.


The Rounding setting causes the number of points awarded at any time to be rounded to the nearest multiple of five. This applies to points awarded at the end of a hand (from pips in the opponent's hand) as well as points earned during a hand while playing All Threes or Fives & Threes. This makes the scoring the same as it would be if you were using a cribbage board with each peg position representing five points.


The Use normal size fonts setting overrides your system setting if you use a font size other than 'Normal'. There isn't a lot of room to spare in the game display, and using large or huge fonts can have some pretty strange effects depending on which device you use and whether you use it in portrait or landscape mode: messages may be hidden behind the bones in your hand, text in the status area may be truncated, and the table count digits might be displayed one above the other instead of side by side. We designed the bone size to fit with a normal size font; perhaps you'll agree that the more space is given to text, the less there is for the bones. That is, if you need to use huge fonts to see the text, you probably couldn't see bones that are small enough to fit into the same display. We'd like you to be able to use large fonts if it works for you; in that case, turn this setting off. If you use large fonts for everything else but normal fonts for Electrum Dominoes, we don't want you to have to go to the system settings to change the font size every time you play the game. Turning this setting on will cause normal fonts to be used in most of the displays regardless of your system setting.

Changes to the Spinner, Draws, Fives, Threes, Leader of next hand, Bones to draw, Max doublets to draw, 10 point minimum score, and Bury two bones settings will not take effect until the beginning of a new hand. If you restore a game after changing any of these, the settings will revert to what they were when you preserved the game and your changed settings will take effect on the next hand.

 

The Colors Menu

This menu appears when you select Colors from the game menu. The full version of Electrum Dominoes lets you use or edit each of three color themes, or to reset the colors of all three themes to their original settings. Below, you can see the colors of each theme, and one theme being changed while another theme is used. If you edit the theme in use, the changes will take effect when you tap the 'Save' button. In the example below, 'Use Theme 2' was chosen from the colors menu after the theme was saved.

When editing a theme, you can change the following colors:
Background (the background of the display)
Text (the text in the status area and the table count)
Your hand (the bones in your hand)
Your plays (the bones you have played)
My plays (the bones Nestor has played)
Pips (the spots on the bones)
Lines (the lines across the bones)
Outlines (the outlines around bones and buttons)
Your hand - selected (the bone you have selected for play)
Pips - selected (the pips on that bone)
Lines - selected (the line on that bone)
Outlines - selected (the outline of that bone)
Buttons (the 'OK' button and other buttons)
Button text (the text on those buttons)

Select which of these colors you want to change by tapping the wide button (marked 'Background' in the examples below), and use the primary color sliders to make the changes.

In the free version, you can edit and save Theme 2 and Theme 3 but you can't use them, and you can edit Theme 1 but you can't save your changes.

When Nestor's hand or the boneyard is displayed, the same colors are used as for bones you have selected for play.

Using Theme 1

Using Theme 2

Using Theme 3

Editing Theme 2 while using Theme 3

Changing the background color of Theme 2

Using the changed Theme 2

 

Strategy

We'd like to discuss All Fives because its scoring is complicated, and it may take new players some time to become familiar with its subtleties. Some concepts apply to Draw and Block games as well, and most apply equally to All Threes and Fives & Threes -- just think of threes or sixes instead of or in addition to fives.

In this display, Leader of next hand is set to Winner and you won the last hand. With which bone should you lead?

At the Beginner level, Nestor's only strategy is to play the bone that yields the highest number of points. He would lead with the blank-five because it's the only bone that will score. If you would choose the same bone, you might beat Nestor about half the time at that level, and that's if you always get the arithmetic right. Here's why: The odds are one in three that Nestor has the double blank and one in three that he has the double five. That means there's a two in three chance that he would match or better your score.

The double four would be a good defensive play. It's the only one that Nestor can't score against, because you have the two-four.

The double two is better still. If Nestor scores five with the one-two, you can come back with the one-six and score ten. If he scores ten with the two-six, you can match that with the two-four. In either case, you'd still have the two-blank in your hand so you'd have a good chance of matching another score if Nestor can make one, and the blank-five could be used if he scores with a five or a blank.

Remember: It's not important to score. It's important to score more than Nestor scores.

Here are a few suggestions:
Try to get each of your plays to set you up with at least two other plays whenever possible to keep your drawing to a minimum.
Unload your doublets (excluding the double blank and double five) as early as you can.
If Nestor draws, note the combination of pips and try to stick him with the same combination again.
Conserve bones (
such as the one-six, the blank-five, the double blank, and the double five) that might be used to score if Nestor scores.
More importantly, conserve bones that match the spinner on one side and have a blank or a five on the other side.
Above all, for each bone you consider playing, think about the bones Nestor might have that would enable him to score on his turn; the more there are, the more likely he is to score.

With any of the games that use scoring during a hand, you should think about which of your bones would score, which bones Nestor could use to retaliate, and which of your bones could be used to counter Nestor's play. You'll have to think two plays ahead to match Nestor when Difficulty is set to Brutal. But here's a shortcut you might like to try to make the process a little easier.

Don't think through each of the bones in your hand, imagine it played at each possible end, add up the pips to see if the sum is a multiple of five, and then go through the process again for each of the bones that might be in Nestor's hand. Instead, look at the table count and think about how you'd have to change it in order to score. In this example, the table count is six; to score, you'd need to add four or subtract one. The east end has one pip; to score, you'd need the blank-one (to subtract one) or the one-five (to add four). The west end has a two; you'd need the one-two or the two-six. North, the two-three. South, the four-six. Of these, only the blank-one is in your hand. If you play it, the same process will tell you what Nestor would need to score: the blank-five (there's a four in twenty chance he has it -- four in his hand out of those four plus the fourteen in the boneyard) or the blank-six (four in twenty, and you can counter with the double blank). The five-six has already been played.

Nestor's greatest advantage is that he can do this without getting tired and without get the arithmetic wrong. We suggest that you start by setting Difficulty so that you can win about half the games you play. When you can win sixty or seventy percent of the time, move up to the next level. If you can beat Nestor more than seven times out of ten at the Brutal level, tell us. We'd like to know if we should make him play harder.

 

Notes

In order to select his play, Nestor has the same information available to him as a human player would have. He 'knows' only the bones in his hand, the number of bones in your hand, the number of bones in the boneyard, and the bones that have been played. Honest. (Don't believe it? Read this.)

Please select About from the game menu and use Electrum Dominoes only if you understand and accept the terms and conditions therein.

If you'd like to translate the game text so you can see it in your native language, let us know.

Questions, comments, and suggestions about Electrum Dominoes may be directed (in English, please) to
support@electrumsoftware.com.
 

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