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Genre: Board & Card
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: Any CPU    Hard Disk: 3 MB

July 12, 2007 | Richard Hallas

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Several different styles can be set up for the dominoes
Last year I reviewed World Domino Championship (WDC) for IMG and remarked that it was the single most disappointing and poor-value release I've ever examined for this publication. At the end of the review I suggested that anyone who fancied playing dominoes on their Mac should investigate the similarly-priced but much more capable Dominoes from Allgood Software.

Ever since that review was published, I've been plagued by vague feelings of guilt. Allgood Software's Dominoes has been around for many years (right back to Classic Mac OS days, long before anyone had heard of Mac OS X), and it has been a worthy and steadily improving shareware title for all that time, but it has never been reviewed by IMG. Yet the moment the glitzy, flashy and profoundly disappointing WDC comes along, it gets a review here right away, despite the fact that it's one of the most half-baked releases ever issued for the platform. Is there no justice?

Well, to try to set the record straight, I thought it was only fair to give Dominoes a belated share of the IMG limelight, and the recent release of a new version 4 of the game has provided suitable impetus to get this review out into the open. The new version of the game is functionally almost identical to the previous version 3; the major changes are that it is now a Universal Binary (great news for owners of new Intel Macs) and that it boasts a new Quartz-based graphics engine.

It should be mentioned, incidentally, that version 2 of Dominoes remains available for people who are still clinging to the Classic Mac OS.

Gameplay: Variety is the watchword
Dominoes offers no fewer than sixteen basic types of domino games, and each one of them has multiple options available. Although I don't intend this review to be a direct comparison with WDC, I can't resist pointing out that WDC offers a mere five games with no variable options at all, so the contrast between WDC and Dominoes couldn't be more marked.

For each available game, Dominoes offers a choice over the number of players (from two to four), the computer players' difficulty level (Easy, Medium or Tough), a choice of whether to play with double-six, double-nine or double-twelve domino sets, and (for most games) a range of options that are particular to the game in question. For example, there may be options to use inverted scoring, determine whether doubles should block play until matched, and so on. Each game, therefore, has ample variety in terms of rules that can be tweaked, and there are sixteen quite different games in total.

Having said that, there's only so much variety between domino games (dominoes are much less flexible than cards in terms of what you can do with them), so some of the sixteen games are quite similar. Overall, they break down broadly into scoring games and drawing/blocking games. Here's a quick run-down of the games that are available.

Draw/Block games
Draw: Basic dominoes; draw until you can play.
Block: Basic dominoes; pass until you can play.
Sebastopol: Like Block, but with a four-way spinner.
Doubles: A domino value can only be placed if the double of that value has already been played.
Tiddle a Wink: Playing a double gets you an extra turn.
Cross: All four sides of the initial spinner must be matched before play can continue.
Fours: Keep placing dominoes until you have to pass.

Special draw/block games
Matador: Matching ends of dominoes must add up to 7; matadors (dominoes with a total value of 7, and the double-blank) are wild-cards and can match anything.
Mexican Train: An unusual game in which each player builds onto a personal 'train' of dominoes or a shared 'Mexican Train'; the interest comes from the behaviour when a player must pass, as this allows another player's train to be 'hijacked'.

Scoring games
Muggins: Score when ends are multiples of 5.
All 3s: Score when ends are multiples of 3.
3s & 5s: Score when ends are multiples of 3 or 5.
Bergen: Score points for matching both open ends of the chain with the same value.
Merry-Go-Round: Like Cross, but with the Muggins scoring system.
Seven-Toed Pete: Score points for multiples of 5 (5=1 point, 10=2 points etc.) and get an extra turn for a double or a scoring domino (value a multiple of 5).
Add 'em up to 50: Score the value of the open end of the domino just played; first to 50 wins.


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