Domino is a game of skill and strategy, one that requires attention to detail, patience and careful planning. It is also an excellent way to teach children number recognition and counting. It is the cousin of playing cards, and was probably first used in China in the 1300s. Dominoes can be arranged in straight lines, curved lines, grids that form pictures or stacked walls. They can be used to create a landscape, train track, or even a 3-D structure such as a pyramid. The most exciting part of a domino effect is watching the chain reaction unfold. A domino line of hundreds, or thousands, set up in careful sequence can topple with the nudge of just one. In fact, a whole show can be built around this: domino builders compete to set up the most complex and imaginative domino reactions in front of a live audience.
The pips on a domino tile are numbered from 1 to 6, with 1 being the lowest and 6 being the highest. A domino has to have both ends exposed in order to be played; only then can it be connected to the other end of another domino. This is why the term for a single-ended domino is “single,” or “pip.”
A domino set usually contains a total of twenty-four doublets, each with two opposite numbers on each end. This is sufficient to play most games, but some sets have more than that. Before a domino hand begins, the players draw their tiles, and then shuffle them so that each player cannot see the value of any other player’s tile. A player then places the first domino, either by drawing lots or by choosing the heaviest tile in his hand.
Then, each player can add a domino to the side of the initial doublet or at right angles to it. This may be done to increase the available points on the exposed ends of the next doublet, or simply because it makes the game more interesting. Then, as in the Block Game, each player takes a turn.
Many different types of domino games exist, ranging from simple blocking or scoring games to elaborate games such as bergen and muggins. Most of the games involve emptying a player’s hand while blocking his opponent’s play or scoring by counting the total of the pips in a lost player’s tiles.
Dominoes can be made from a wide variety of materials, including bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony. They can also be manufactured from polymer, such as Bakelite, a type of plastic. Sets made from natural materials tend to be more expensive than those made from polymer, but they are more durable. They also have a more unique appearance and feel to them than those that are made from polymer. Traditionally, the pips on a domino were inlaid or painted, but some sets are now being produced with laser-cut acrylic pips.