Why Aren’t Dominoes More Popular?

I’ve played a lot of games with cards and dice, but dominoes have mostly eluded me. Even with their rise in popularity thanks to YouTube, they are more popular for their capacity to fall over, than they are as a game device.

Our family tradition over the Memorial Day weekend is to go on the first camping trip of the year, and I’m always on the hunt for games we can play with the kids. This year, I happened to come across a copy of Mexican Train Dominoes and I thought it would be fun to deconstruct what I think the game did right – in the moment, at the store – to convince me to walk out with a copy.

The game Mexican Train Dominoes was recommended to us in the past, and so I was immediately interested. Plus, I’m ashamed to admit that we didn’t own a single set of dominoes… a problem I intended to rectify.

We have a lot of road trips and camping planned for this summer, and (thanks to our kids’ game preferences) our travel games are mostly limited to Uno variants. So this looked like an easy chance to broaden our travel-game repertoire. As a discerning customer, however, the sale wasn’t a shoe-in.


I found the game while poking around a Duluth Trading Company store. The benefit in this case was that there were few other options for me to consider. This eliminated the opportunity for comparison shopping with competing products. In a different scenario, perhaps if we’d been shopping in a local game store, there’s a real good chance that we still wouldn’t own a domino set!


There were a few things I liked about how the game was presented. The travel size was a big component of why we purchased it. The robust carrying case and self-contained nature of the game really appealed to me. I’d be able to throw it in with our other travel-toys and not have to make any special accommodations for it. Our UNO game boxes on the other hand… they’ve seen better days. The company also put age-ratings on the box, which helped us make a decision whether it would be a suitable game for the kids to play.

Another interesting insight was in the copy text of the box: they mentioned that the smaller sized dominoes stand up and handle like larger dominoes. I found this interesting because it’s something that never would have influenced my purchase decision (mostly because I never play with dominoes) but seeing it on the box gave me an impression that this was a well thought-out product made by a company that knows what to look for in quality.

It’s similar to something I noticed on my “paraben-free” shampoo the other day. What the hell is a “paraben”? I don’t know… but the fact that the company thought it was important-enough to call out on the bottle gave me an impression that it was important, and they were invested in making a high quality product.

And so, I’m proud to announce that our blog is now also 100% paraben-free. We’re committed to sustainable quality or something, and it was simply the right thing to do for you, our readers. Just kidding, I still don’t know what the hell a paraben is.


Coming in at $22.95, and after I’d just seen a pair of shorts selling for an eye-watering $100, the price didn’t warrant much additional consideration for me. The store was also running a Memorial Day sale and the game was discounted, which factored favorably into the decision.

A Missed Opportunity

After buying the set, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the instructions came with rules for four types of games to play (of which we spent some time playing one that wasn’t even the Mexican Train Game). To me, this was a pretty significant differentiator that absolutely would’ve influenced our purchase decision. I’m surprised the company didn’t call it out somewhere on the packaging – certainly on the back of the box, potentially even on the front. At the end of the day, they still got me to convert to a sale without it, but it does make me wonder if they are missing any opportunities.

Back at the campsite

The domino set was a hit that everyone in the family enjoyed. After playing a few rounds, our daughter disappeared into the tent for a while only to emerge with her very own game and a rule-set she created from scratch for us to play together.

Look out Uno, you’ve got some competition around the Fink family campfire.

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