Domino is a flat, thumbsized rectangular block bearing from one to six pips or dots and used in playing various games that involve laying dominoes down in lines and angular patterns. There are many variations to the basic rules, but all have the same fundamental structure. The game ends when one player cannot play a domino; he or she “knocks,” or raps the table, with his or her hand, and passes play to the opponent. The winning player is the one whose total sum of all spots on his or her dominoes is lowest.
The first domino is set up on the table, and each subsequent player places a domino edge to edge against the previous piece in such a way that the adjacent faces are either identical (e.g., 5 to 5) or form a specific total. The last player to do so wins the game. The term “domino” also refers to the entire series of pieces that have been laid down, which is sometimes called a set.
In the past, domino sets were made from natural materials such as bone, silver lip oyster shell (“mother of pearl”), ivory or a dark wood such as ebony, and some had contrasting black or white pips. More recently, domino sets have been made from polymer materials, such as a type of resin or plastic, and from ceramics. Some contemporary sets feature the upper half thickness of MOP, ivory, or a dark hardwood, with the lower half being a lighter material such as ebony.
Some domino players prefer to use a scoring system that involves counting the pips on all of the tiles remaining in a losing player’s hands at the end of a hand or game and adding them to the winner’s score. This is an alternative to the more common method of counting only a domino’s own pips, and it is a rule that is often agreed upon before play begins.
There are several methods of determining who will make the first play, including drawing lots or starting with the heaviest domino. Once play begins, players may choose to proceed in a clockwise direction, although some players favor a counter-clockwise rotation. A seating arrangement can also be determined before play starts, and this will determine the order in which the players will make their plays.
Besides blocking and scoring, domino can be used to construct intricate structures that illustrate geometrical shapes or to create art works. These are often displayed in museums and exhibitions, but there are also books, videos and websites where people can learn how to build their own domino structures.
Some of the most spectacular domino structures are created by professional domino artists for movies, television shows and special events. Lily Hevesh, for example, has built giant dominoes that showcased artwork and portraits and once held the Guinness World Record for a circular domino display. Hevesh says that the physical phenomenon of gravity is essential to a good domino setup, and she always tests each section of an installation before putting it all together.