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Silence

This game comes from the Celestial Manse, providing an opportunity for quiet contemplation and reflection amongst a people otherwise largely given to constant debate and discussion.

Unlike most domino games, which are played with double-six domino sets, Silence is played with double-nine dominos. It is traditionally played at a square table for four players. Silence has two teams of two partners which play against each other until one team matches or passes the score of 100 points. The two teams usually play three sets -- whoever wins two sets out of three wins the match.

The dominos are placed face down and mixed by sliding them around randomly. Once shuffled, each player takes 10 dominoes each (40 in total), leaving 15 pieces aside. Each player places the 10 dominoes in his "hand" on edge facing away from the other players so that only the player can see them.

In the beginning, a member from each team picks one domino from the 15 that were set aside. Whichever team gets the domino with the highest number gets to go first. The dominos drawn to select the first player are returned to the extras pile. They, and the rest of the extras, are not used in play for that game.

As in most games of dominoes, each player tries to match the dots on one end of a domino from his hand with the dots on an open end of any domino on the board. Only the outermost ends of the line are open for play, meaning that only two numbers are open for matching at any given play.

If a player can make a match from his hand on one of the end numbers, the player places the domino on the board. Each player may play only one domino per turn. Playing a double has no special significance, but a double is traditionally laid perpendicular to the tile it matches to form a "T" shape.

If a player can't make a match from his hand, the player passes his turn to the player on his right. Traditionally, the pass is made by a double knock to maintain the silence of the game.

Play continues until one player runs out of dominoes. If none of the players can make any more plays, the game also ends. Each player counts the value of the remaining dominos in his hand and the person with the lowest total wins -- the team actually wins as the partner "rides along" on the victory of his partner.

Once the winning team is determined (by domino or low score), the losing team (and only the losing team) counts the value of their remaining dominos. This total is awarded to the winning team's score. The first team to reach 100 points wins the set.

Silence is a blocking style of dominoes. Much of the strategy involves counting dominos, guessing what dominos your opponents have in their hands, and playing dominos that put up blocks that prevent your opponents from making a play. General strategy is also to get rid of high-numbered dominos in your hand when possible, because the losing team is penalized based on the total of all dominos remaining in their hands.

Because it is played by teams, you must make your plays complement your partner's hand. In general, the player who leads with the first domino sets the strategy for the game. The partner should then try to follow this lead as much as possible. Avoid hitting the domino played by your partner unless you have no other choice. A major mistake is to kill your partner's leading domino (also called a “salida”) by playing a domino that blocks his next play.

The dominos you play initially provide clues to your partner (and vice versa). Consistency in play helps keep you and your partner on the same page. Once you start playing to a number, you need to repeat that play as much as possible. This also works to "bleed" the player (your opponent) on your left of dominos with that number. If you and your partner continue to control play you will eventually force this player to pass.

Though conversation is allowed at the table that is not about the play of the game, players are often silent through the entire game. It is also a long-standing tradition that one partner may express displeasure to the other for using poor play strategy. Again, this must be done without speaking, so the table must be kept small enough to allow a partner to lean across in order to slap the other partner in the face. In practice, these expressions of displeasure are infrequent, but their possibility does perhaps add some incentive to good play.