Call it the beauty of the competitive spirit or our propensity towards procrastination, but the Internet offers a wide-range of online games ready to satisfy every coffee break; bouts of boredom or lapse of free time. Yahoo! offers a variety of free online distractions, from Mahjong to Gin Rummy, but for a small subscription fee, you can enjoy the excitement of advanced playing options. Yahoo! has created an entertaining venue for an online community of game freaks to thrive, where users spend their time developing, managing and playing within their own leagues.
The Difference Between Regular Play and League Play
Yahoo offers free dominoes play for whoever possesses a Yahoo ID (which can be obtained through the sign up of their free email services). You may then frequent in a wide-range of venues, from beginner to advanced to social play. You may create your own table or you may join an open table. There are numerous hassles that may be encountered through regular play, including getting booted from a table, waiting a long time for someone to join your created game or connecting with an obnoxious player. With league play, you don’t have to worry about bumping into a pervert or putting up with any rudeness. Leagues also allow you to participate in special tournaments (later explained in the article). Basically, there are a lot more options to benefit from when choosing League Dominoes.
With league play, members compete within a bracket arrangement, where depending on the total number of players signed up for a scheduled game, you may encounter various rounds, including quarterfinals, semi-finals, and then a final game. If you win the tournament, then your name will be recorded in a log for everyone to see. Your game stats are also displayed on your personal profile, which you may choose to decorate, promote or reveal as much as you please.
The Cost of Yahoo League Play
Joining a Yahoo league will cost you, but once you pay the fees, you can join as many leagues as you want in as many different game genres, including Pool and Gin Rummy. Yahoo charges a monthly charge of $7.95. For a 3-month subscription, you will pay $19.95 (a monthly savings of about $4). A yearly subscription costs $59.95 (a savings close to $35).
League Dominoes: Know the Lingo!
Cuban: (also known as Blocking): The most common way of playing dominoes: matching the numbered ends with the same numbers you have in your hand. The count of the remaining dominoes in your opponent’s hand is the number of points you will receive if you dispose of all your dominoes first.
Muggins: (also known as Fives Up): Players earn points from the sum of all open ends of the dominoes game (in multiples of five). So, if all of the domino ends of your game add up to 5,10,15, 20 or more, you will receive that amount of points added to your score. Side Note: When playing a Double Nines game, it is not uncommon to score up to 40 points in one turn.
Spinner: Refers to the first double bone played in a round, where players can play off of all four sides.
No Spinner: When the first double bone is played in a round, players can only play off of the left and the right side of the domino, as opposed to the four-sided play of a “spinner” game.
Moderators: (also known as “mods”): These individuals are players who make sure members are happy with their game play and aren’t getting harassed during games or in the chat room. Moderators are identified by the letter m within an orange circle by their username. If you have any problems with the league or game play, you are supposed to report to a moderator (not Yahoo).
Rung: In each league, you are given a rung, which lets everyone know where you stand (rank) within the league. The best rung to strive for is, of course, #1. You can get closer to the #1 rung by playing games against members with lower rungs. For example, if you have a rung of 100 and you play and beat the #1 seeded member, you’re new rung will be 50. Basically, you will move down half the number of rungs between you and the higher seed. If you lose against the #1 seed, your new rung will be 101. Side Note: Another way to boost your rung is to participate in special tournaments, which allow you to play for the top rungs. The more people who enter a tournament, the more chances to play for higher rungs. Some tournaments will award up to the top 8 rungs to whoever finishes the best in a single competition. Just remember, your glory may be short-lived, these tournaments will continue throughout the day, giving others several chances to win the top rungs.
When I first joined the league, I was kinda like the wallflower at a popular party. You will find that the regulars of the community are friendly and have an uncanny way of drawing you into conversations and helping you to “come out of your shell.” The chat screen is always full and buzzing with the latest news in the lives of your fellow domino players. You’ll meet an array of league members, including soldiers serving in Iraq; housewives from Central America; grandmothers doting on their grandbabies; cowboys; cowgirls; and first-time expectant mothers. They share everything from getting their first job to their anxiety about an upcoming open-heart surgery. While waiting for your next game to play, you can engage in conversation or join in a friendly debate regarding topics in the news. No matter where they come from, all members have at least one thing in common: dominoes.
Every league has their own set of rules and if you don’t obey, you can be banned from league play by the owner of the league, as well as by any moderators. Some bans last 30 minutes, such as the penalty for insulting a member in the chat room. Other bans last 24 hours, whereas repeated transgressions earn you an indefinite ban from the league. A list of what is acceptable and unacceptable within a particular league can be found on their homepage.
Each league will also expect a certain level of etiquette. For example, I belong to the Fishtank league. At the start of each game, you are expected to greet your opponent by saying “hi,” “gl” (good luck), or both. At the end of each game, you are expected to say “gg” (good game). If you do not follow these rules, you will definitely be shouted out in the chat room. Repeated offences and (depending on the moderator), you may be banned for 30 minutes.
Kibitzing allows spectators to view the dominoes of both players in a current game. Depending on the league, this may or may not be allowed by the rules. In Fishtank, kibitzing is not allowed. Not only is it an annoying distraction, but also since you can send private messages to league members, the suspicion of foul play sometimes arises.
The current and future games of a league will be posted on the league calendar, featuring details like game format, start time and sign-up links. Depending on the league, some games are offered every 5 minutes; while others offer games every 7-10 minutes. The league that I belong to offers games every 5 minutes. As a rule, they require that you only play two games at a time so that you don’t slow up play for everyone else.
In addition to regular tournament games, leagues offer special tournaments for their members. For example, the following tourneys are just some of the extras offered at the Fishtank league: Doubles Tournaments: For both Blocking and Muggins. A moderator pairs you with another league member and you play against another doubles teams to compete for the #1 and #2 rung. Round Robin: Members play five games of Muggins (up to 100) against 5 different people. Rung boosts for those who win 4 out of 5 of their games. #1 rung goes to the member who wins all 5 games. Kings vs Queens: Every Sunday, all female members play for the title of “Queen For a Week,” while the male members play for the title of “King For a Week.”
The Types of Domino Games Offered
There are tons of game variations offered for league dominoes, which are played under two different sets: Double Six or Double Nine. The most common version of play you will find throughout the leagues is called Muggins (or Fives-Up). You will find game play as low as up to 50 or as high as up to 500, but the most common games include Muggins up to 100 or 250, as well as Blocking up to 100.
What to Expect As a Newbie
If you decide to play online dominoes through Yahoo, below are a few things to do and expect, as well as how to play the online version:
- Join a league…or two…or three…(There is no limit). This can be accomplished by scanning the list provided to you when clicking on the “Find Dominoes Leagues” on the Yahoo Domino Homepage: http://games.yahoo.com/games/login2?page=do. Every league has a homepage. If you like what you see, you can decide to become a member simply by clicking “Join This League.”
- Once you have joined, browse the league calendar, which will list all of the upcoming games you may sign up for. Some will be regular tournaments, while others are more special, offering chances to boost your rung and climb up the league ladder. Click on the name of a particular tournament that catches your eye and all of the details will load, including time limit, format and sign up link.
- Below the sign up link, you will find a list of all players who have already registered. When you click on usernames, you will be able to view profiles and member game stats.
- At the end of the details list, you will see the name of the league and where the game is being held.
Playing At: Bone Sharks
Both will have links attached to them. When you click on the “Playing At” link, the applet for dominos (the meeting place for all domino games within the league) will load. As a newbie, you may be required to download the software necessary for the dominoes applet to load. This takes a matter of seconds and is not harmful to your computer.
- The applet will load as a pop-up (make sure you have enabled the use of this particular pop-up on your computer). At the top portion of the screen, you will see numbered “tables,” highlighting who is playing against who and which members are watching the game, if any. The bottom left-hand side of the screen offers chat options. To the right of the chat screen, you will see the currently logged-in members of the league, their rung and which table they are playing at.
- Let’s say you have signed up for a 4:15pm tournament. At 4:15, a pop-up will appear. It will ask you: “You have a scheduled game at table __ (you will be assigned a table number). Would you like to join?” Click yes and another pop-up will emerge – this time, it will be your “table.” You have about 15 seconds before the start of your game. This gives you time to reach your table, as well as say your greetings.
What the Game Screen/ “Table” Looks Like
The far left panel is where you will find the options for your game. The format of the game is stated: (Double 6 or Double 9 Set; maximum required points to win; spinner or no spinner). Below the format information, you will find options that you can control, which will only affect your game screen (not your opponent’s settings):
Color Pips: The standard set of dominoes will appear in black &white;, but you are given the choice to play with different-colored dots on the dominoes. For some, they are able to easily identify the different numbers by color.
Animation: When playing Fives Up, the animation will alert you to any multiple-of-five scoring with simple animation and words. For some, this provides a great deal of assistance during play.
Allow Kibitz: This allows spectators visiting your table to see the dominoes you have in your hand. Many leagues ban this option. In the chat area of your game table, alerts are displayed to tell players when another member is kibitzing. Only those visiting your table and not your opponent can accomplish this.
Sound: Every time it is your turn; you will hear a single chime. This is convenient for managing two games being played at the same time (because depending on the tournaments you have signed up for, they tend to overlap). The chime is also heard when spectators enter and leave your table.
The Forfeit Pop-Up: At the start of each game, if an opponent fails to arrive within three minutes, there is a pop-up that will appear on your screen. It will ask you if you want to force forfeit, cancel the game, or wait. Keep in mind that some leagues have rules about waiting for your opponent for a certain amount of time. When you force forfeit, you will be awarded points towards your rung (if they had a higher one than you) and you move onto the next round. If you wait and they still did not show, you will still receive a boost in your ratings and rung.
The far right panel showcases the details of the game in respect to how many bones each player has and their score. You will always appear in the bottom slot of the game. Your username will be displayed within your own area, alongside your score. The number of bones you have are positioned above this information. When it is your turn, an arrow will point to your area. To play a bone, simply click your cursor on your chosen bone and drag to where you wish to place it. The arrow will then point to your opponent’s side, where their score, username and number of bones are in full sight.
The game in progress can be found in the middle of the screen. Below the game, you will find the board count. This is beneficial when playing Fives Up because it makes it easier to achieve the object of the game, which is to score points by creating a board count with multiples of five.
How to Play Yahoo! Online Dominoes
For Double Six set games, each player will receive seven bones, while Double Nine set games deliver nine bones at the start of the game. The remaining bones of the set are placed in an area on the computer screen, known as the Boneyard. If a player is unable to put a bone into play, they must pull bones from the Boneyard until they are able to. This can be accomplished by clicking the “Draw” button. To move the dominoes into play, all you have to do is click your cursor on your chosen bone and drag it to the end that it matches on the board.
At the start of the dominoes games, the player who possesses the highest double gets the first turn. The computer automatically does this for you. Then, you and your opponent will take turns placing the bones on the “table” that match the end of the outer bones on the game table. For those who are unfamiliar with dominoes, the game is really about matching numbers. For example, let’s say the first bone placed on the table is a double 6. This means you will have to place a bone down with a 6 on one side of the domino. If you place a bone with a 6 and a 4 on it, this means that your opponent can place bones down with either a 6 or a 4 showing. The player who places the last bone on the table will be able to go first for the next round.
Time Limits: There are time limits when playing league games. They are usually as follows: (Blocking (Cuban) up to 50 (15 minutes); Blocking (Cuban) up to 100 (20 minutes); Muggins (Fives Up) up to 50 (5 minutes); Muggins (Fives Up) up to 100 (10 minutes); Muggins (Fives Up) up to 250 (20 minutes); and special tournaments usually last for 20 minutes.
Fives Up: In Fives Up, you receive a score throughout the duration of play, as well as at the end of rounds (if you use all of your bones before your opponent does). At the end of each round, when playing a Fives Up game, your score will consist of the accumulated points for matching multiples of five, as well as the total sum of your opponent’s remaining bones (rounded to the nearest multiple of five). So, if your opponent had a 1/6, 4/6, and 5/6 in their hand, you would receive an extra 30 points at the end of the round.
Blocking: When playing a Blocking game, your score comes at the end of each round, which will reflect the total sum of your opponent’s remaining bones. So, if your opponent had a 5/5, 5/4, and 3/2 in their hand when you played your last bone, you would receive 26 points.
When playing dominoes, you may encounter numerous rounds or hands, but it is not uncommon to win or lose within one round. Once a player has reached or surpassed the required number of points for the game, whether it is 50, 100 or 250, the game is over and your new status will appear: the new rung for both you and your opponent.