Domino, or dominoes, are small, flat blocks used as gaming objects. The pieces are usually made of some rigid material such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory or dark hardwoods such as ebony and are often characterized by an arrangement of spots, or “pips,” like those on a die, except that the domino is marked only on one side.
There are a wide variety of games using domino. Some are blocking or scoring games, and some are adaptations of card games. Most of the games are played in pairs or groups of two players. The players compete to win the most points by blocking opponents and accumulating sets of tiles. A winner is declared when a player has all their tiles out and can no longer play any more. The game also has variations in which the number of points awarded to the winner may be varied. Counting the total of the losers’ remaining pips is a common method. Another method is to count the number of the dominoes still in a player’s hands at the end of a hand or game, although this scoring method can lead to disagreements among players. The scoring rules can vary, too; for example, a double-blank may be either one or two points, or a domino may count as a single if played to an open end but a double-cross if it is played to an already-played double.
The way in which dominoes are arranged on the table is known as the layout, string or line of play. When a domino is played, the matching ends of the tile must be adjacent to each other and touch fully. This enables subsequent dominoes to be placed to form a chain which develops a snake-like pattern, according to the whims and limitations of the playing surface and the rules of the game being played. The resulting layout of the chains can provide a large part of the fun for many players.
While dominoes can be made from a wide variety of materials, plastic is most common and inexpensive. However, domino sets are available in other natural materials including stone (eg marble, granite and soapstone); other woods such as sycamore and redwood; metals; glass and ceramic clay. These sets tend to have a more substantial look and feel than those made from polymer materials, and are sometimes quite expensive.
After the dominoes have been shuffled, each player draws a domino from the stock and seats himself at a seat at the table, based on the number of pips shown on the selected tile. Alternatively, some games are played in partnership and the seating arrangements are determined by lot. The player with the highest numbered domino then plays first, and the partners continue to alternate seats until the game has reached a target score or a set number of rounds have been completed. The winning partners are those who have the highest combined total of points for the entire round or number of rounds.