Dominoes are a game played by laying tiles on a table so that their ends touch. Each end is marked with a number (normally from one to nine) and the player scores points by arranging the dominoes so that their exposed numbers total some multiple of five.

Each player starts with a certain number of dominoes in his hand. He must play these in turn, positioning them on the table so that their ends match—one’s touch one’s, two’s touch two’s, etc.—to form a chain that grows in length. A player is said to “dominate” a line when he plays all of his tiles, and he can score additional points by matching pairs of adjacent dominoes.

The game can be as simple or complex as the players want. Some games use the whole set; others only require a few tiles at a time, and some can be completed in as little as a few minutes.

Traditionally, European-style dominoes are made of bone or ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony, with contrasting black or white pips (inlaid or painted). More recently, sets have been made from other natural materials such as stone (e.g., marble, granite, or soapstone); other hardwoods (e.g., ash, oak, redwood, or cedar); metals such as brass or pewter; ceramic clay; or even frosted glass and crystal. These sets have a more novel look, and their often heavier weight makes them feel more substantial.

Many different types of domino games have been developed, including blocking and scoring games. These games are often designed to circumvent religious prohibitions against playing cards. Most scoring games involve drawing and discarding dominoes, or a variant of this strategy. The player who wins a certain number of rounds wins the game.

In addition to the games that involve scoring and blocking, dominoes are also used in art projects such as mosaics or mosaic rugs. They can be arranged in straight lines or curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, stacked walls, and 3D structures such as towers or pyramids.

Another way that people have used domino is by building and competing in domino shows. These competitions feature builders creating amazing domino effects or reactions before an audience of fans. Some of these events are televised, and others take place in casinos or other venues where people can see and hear the action. Many of these shows are organized as a fundraiser for a charity or other charitable cause, and they can be quite spectacular. For example, some builds feature hundreds of dominoes lined up in careful sequence, all toppling with the nudge of only one. Other shows are a combination of entertainment and education, with competitors explaining their creations while they are being built. For some competitions, judges may be able to award prizes for the best displays of creativity and engineering. Some of these shows have become popular enough to be featured on cable television.