The Basics of Dominoes

Dominoes are small rectangular wood or plastic blocks bearing a number on one face and a blank or identically patterned other face. The number-bearing face of a domino is usually divided into squares (or “pips”) resembling those on dice, and each domino may have either more or less than the total of six pips. Dominoes have been played for centuries and are found in all parts of the world. They are also used in science education to teach children about simple chains, looping events, and the direction of force.

Dominos are also useful for building structures, such as walls and bridges, or for making art. The shapes that can be made with dominoes are limited only by imagination. For example, straight lines or curved lines, grids that form pictures, stacked walls, and 3D structures like towers and pyramids can all be built using dominoes.

The first player to play a domino wins the game. To do so, each player must in turn place a tile onto the table positioning it such that it touches one end of a domino chain which gradually increases in length. If a player places a tile with the result that both ends show the same number (normally a number useful to the player and distasteful to the opponents) the player is said to have “stitched up” the ends.

A basic Western domino game consists of a row of dominoes, with the heaviest pieces at the front. The players draw for the right to go first, generally playing the domino with the highest pip count. The remaining dominoes are left on the table, called the stock or boneyard. The player who plays the first piece can decide to play a lower-valued domino or to play a higher-valued domino, depending on what is needed to set up a winning sequence.

Most domino games are scored based on the number of pips showing on opposing players’ tiles. The player who reaches the target score – 100, 200, or whatever is agreed upon – in a certain number of rounds wins the game.

If a player cannot lay a domino in his or her turn, the player passes instead of placing a tile. When this happens, the opponents can take turns to play additional tiles to the developing chain – if the new domino has a number that is a match for any of the other players’ existing tiles.

Some sets of dominoes have progressively larger numbers of pips on an end, increasing the number of possible matches. This allows more players to participate in a game and leads to more complex domino chains. In general, a domino chain will develop into a snake-like shape, as the players play tiles to adjacent doubles. This can be a major source of entertainment, and players will often “stitch up” the ends of the chain so that all matching tiles are placed together in the same direction. This makes the chain more visible to the other players and makes for a more interesting and challenging game.