Release Date: 
Wednesday, May 15, 2002
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Play Duration (new players): 
Play Duration (experienced): 
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by Jonathan Leistiko


Score points by stacking dominoes on other dominoes with matching numbers.

You Need

A set of double-six, double-nine, or double-twelve dominoes.
Paper and pencil to keep track of each player’s score.

Setting Up

Place the dominoes face down and shuffle them. Distribute the dominoes evenly among all players. Set excess dominoes aside, face down and out of game.

Look at your dominoes, but keep them hidden from the other players. You may arrange them in any way you see fit.


Setting the Stage
Play starts with you and passes to the left.

If you’re playing the first domino, just pick one and put it in the center of the table. Otherwise, pick a domino and play it, abiding by the following rules:

  • The domino you play must touch at least one other domino. Your domino must be parallel or perpendicular to other dominoes in play.
  • You may not place your domino in such a way that one of its squares is adjacent to more than one square of any other single domino; squares must line up with squares, not dividing lines.
  • The completed base must be a 4×4 grid of squares without empty spaces.

As you place the dominoes, score one point for every square on a domino you played that matches an adjacent square on another domino in play.

Once the 4×4 base is set up, the building stage of the game starts.

Play a domino so that it exactly covers two squares on the level below it. You may cover squares belonging to two different dominoes. Count one point for each square you cover that matches the square covering it. Multiply these points by the level of the ziggurat you’re playing on, then add them to your total score.

You are allowed (but not required) to make plays that make other squares on that level unplayable.

Once all available plays on the current level have been filled (and not before), start a new level. An otherwise valid play that scores no points is still an available play. Tough.

You may not play a domino over a vacant space.


The game ends when all dominoes have been played or if a new level is started with only one valid place to play.

Tally the points for each player. The player with the most points wins. If there is a tie for points, then the player with the least dominoes left wins. Additional ties are shared wins.


Setting the Stage: You may lay dominoes in a way that will cause gaps to appear in the base. You must still keep the base constrained to a 4×4 square.

Origin and Credits

I thought of Ziggurat back in late 2001 or early 2002 and played a game of it with Sharon shortly thereafter. It didn’t have any rules for multiple turns or scoring points on the first level, so games frequently ended in ties. I set it aside and didn’t play it again ‘til 5/4/2002 with Ben. I think Sharon suggested the multiple turns rule, and Ben thought of scoring points on the bottom tier. Through playtesting, we found that multiple turns (after a scoring play) just didn’t work.

Why call the game Ziggurat? A ziggurat is a stepped pyramid, commonly found in ancient mezzo-American and Middle Eastern cultures. Playing this game creates a blocky stack with levels of increasingly smaller size, kind of like a ziggurat.

Some ziggurat trivia:

Thanks to Sharon for editing and to Ben and Sharon for playtesting.