Domino is the generic name for a game piece used in a variety of games. The pieces are stacked on end in long lines, and when one is tipped over, it causes the next domino to tip and then the rest of the line to fall, creating intricate designs that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. The phenomenon is also the source of the phrase “domino effect,” which describes a situation where a small action results in much larger–and sometimes catastrophic–consequences.
Dominoes are usually numbered on one side and blank or identically patterned on the other. The identifying marks, called pips, are arranged in a suit of numbers from zero to nine, though some sets have fewer than the maximum number of pips. A domino can only be matched to another tile with the same number of pips on both ends, and a pair of matching tiles are considered a “doublet.”
The most common set contains 28 double-six dominoes. Several larger sets exist, including double-nine (55 tiles) and double-12 (91) tiles. Some players prefer to play with extended versions of these sets, which increase the maximum number of pips on each end by three.
Aside from the usual blocking and scoring games, some players use dominoes to create layout games. These types of games are more like solitaire or trick-taking games than the blocking and scoring games, and they were popular in certain regions to circumvent religious prohibitions against playing cards.
Domino has also been used to create art, with some artists using it to make curved lines and others building grids that form pictures when they tumble. For example, artist Heather Hevesh has created mind-blowing layouts involving hundreds of thousands of dominoes. Hevesh says the key to her impressive work is science: “Gravity is the biggest factor,” she explains. The force of gravity pulls each falling domino toward the ground, and this can be augmented by adding weight to the layout.
To create a design, first draw an outline on a sheet of paper to scale, then calculate how many dominoes you’ll need for your project. Then, sketch out the directional arrows you’ll need to follow to ensure that the dominoes will fall in the way you want. Depending on the size of your design, you might need to use multiple sheets of paper. It’s important to note that a domino layout will never work if the pieces are touching or overlapping, so be sure to place them separately. As the arrows show, it’s necessary to have plenty of space on the table for your dominoes to fall properly. Once you’ve got your plan in place, begin laying down the dominoes on their sides, being careful not to knock off any that don’t match. When you’re finished, check your creation to make sure the arrows point in the direction you intend them to go and that all the dominoes are firmly in place. Then, sit back and enjoy the show!