Domino Basics

Domino is a game of building and stacking pieces on end in long lines. When one domino is tipped over, it sets off a chain reaction that causes the remaining tiles to tip over. The result can be a complex pattern of interconnecting lines or 3-D structures such as towers and pyramids. It’s also a metaphor for how concentrating energy on one activity can cause a whole series of positive events to occur.

The earliest known dominoes were made of wood or ivory with painted pips. Today’s sets are typically made of polymer (e.g., bakelite or acrylic) or of wood or bone, with a contrasting color or inlaid pips. Some sets are designed to be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional, with the upper thickness of the piece in bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), or ivory, and the lower half in a dark hardwood such as ebony.

Dominoes are normally twice as wide as they are tall, making them easy to place and re-stack. The identifying marks, or “pips,” are usually an arrangement of six squares in the shape of a die, but may be other arrangements such as a star or diamond. There are some games that only use the pips on one side of the tile, and other that require all sides to be marked with a number. Most commonly, however, the pips on each end of the tile are used to indicate its value. A domino with more pips on one side is considered heavier, or higher-ranked, than a domino with fewer pips on one or both sides.

Most Domino games are played between two or more players, with the winner determined by the total value of all the pips on opposing player’s tiles at the end of the game. Some games are played using a fixed score, and others use a variable amount of points awarded per round. Whether or not the total is a fixed amount, it should be agreed upon by all players before the game begins. Moreover, the number of pips on the tiles in play is often important for scoring purposes, as some numbers have more value than others, and doubles count as either one or two points.

The most common domino sets commercially available are the double-six set and the double-nine set, although extended sets exist. The most common extended sets increase the maximum number of pips on each end by three, and thus allow for more combinations of ends and more tiles to be played.

Laying out a domino track is often part of the strategy for a particular game, and some players may make their tracks into beautiful works of art. This can include straight and curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, 3D designs like towers and pyramids, and other intricate patterns. When playing a layout game, it’s best to plan out the overall design first, as this will help you calculate how many tiles you’ll need and how they should be arranged.