The Basics of Dominoes


A domino is a small rectangular wood or plastic block, blank on one side and marked with an arrangement of spots resembling those on dice. There are many types of dominoes and a number of games that can be played with them. Most of the games are very similar but have slight differences in rules from place to place. There are even games that have different names in different parts of the world and yet play with the same rules.

A single set of dominoes can be used to make hundreds of different combinations. These can be used for various games, or they may be placed in a line to form shapes such as animals or buildings. Some of the more complex constructions are put on display at domino shows, where builders compete to create spectacular arrangements in front of an audience.

The basic domino set is usually made of 28 tiles, called “double-sixes.” A few sets have additional doubles or triplets, increasing the total to 56 or 91 tiles. These larger sets are often used to play the more complex block or scoring games, in which a large number of adjacent tiles are scored for points.

Each domino is marked with a sequence of dots on one face, called its “pips.” These are arranged in groups of three or four and give each piece a unique identity. Some of the pips are arranged in the center of the tile, while others are on opposite ends of the square. The dominoes are connected by a ridge or line across the surface that separates them into two halves. Each half has a different pattern of pips, so that the two pieces can be joined together only where their pips match.

Like a firing neuron in the human body, the first domino topples and begins a chain reaction. Each new domino added to the chain adds energy, and the chains of dominoes grow longer and larger. A domino chain moves at a constant speed and loses no energy as it travels, just like a nerve impulse in the body that can move only forward.

In a game of domino, each player draws a hand of dominoes and places them in front of him. Each player then plays a domino in turn, according to the rules of the particular game being played. There are several ways to determine who will make the first play, including drawing lots or establishing an order of play by seating arrangement. The heaviest double or the winner of the last game may also start the play.

When a player makes a mistake in playing a domino, it is considered a misplay and must be corrected before the next player has a chance to play. This is also referred to as “buying,” “passing” or “byeing.” The player making the correct play is said to have bought it or won it. Depending on the rules of the particular game, the player who bought the misplay may be required to buy back the domino or may be allowed to keep it for his own use.