Domino Basics

Domino is a game played with tiles that feature a number of dots called pips, or spots. These dots are normally arranged in a circle, with each domino having two opposite sides, or “ends.” The value of a domino may be described as its rank or weight. In general, a domino with more pips is higher in rank than one with fewer pips. Dominoes are typically twice as long as they are wide, and they are stacked in a line to form a chain or string of play.

The first domino played in a game is usually called the “set,” “the down” or “the lead.” This domino establishes a pattern of play, and any player who follows it must build upon that pattern in order to win. Each player must also keep track of his own score and that of his opponents.

A domino may be a single tile or a set of tiles that are linked together in a line and flipped over to form a chain. Several different types of games can be played with these, and the rules vary from place to place. Dominoes are often used to create patterns that form lines, curved shapes, grids, pictures and other 3D structures. This activity is sometimes referred to as domino art or domino sculpture.

Dominoes are typically achromatic, that is, they have white or black pips. Some sets, however, contain a variety of colors, including multi-colored pips. Such sets are usually more expensive than monochromatic sets. Some sets are also made from natural materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl) or ivory; and dark hardwoods such as ebony. These sets are more durable and have a more elegant appearance than polymer-based dominoes.

After a domino set has been shuffled, the player with the highest double begins play. If there is a tie, the player with the highest single is permitted to make the first play. Alternatively, the rules for some games specify that the player with the heaviest hand begins play.

During a game, players build up a line of play by matching their tiles and placing them on the table in a specified pattern. This configuration is known as a string, layout or domino line. Each player then plays a domino in turn, positioning it so that it touches a previous tile. If a tile is placed on the edge of the string and causes the other end to show a number, it is said that it has “stitched up” the ends.

Several types of domino games exist, and they generally fall into four categories: bidding games, blocking games, scoring games and round games. The most popular type of domino game is probably the layout game, and it can be played with either small or large sets of dominoes. Larger sets are often preferred for larger groups or for more challenging games. The most common commercially available sets are the double six and the double nine, although many smaller sets are sold.