The Basics of Domino


Domino is a game of skill and strategy that allows players to place tiles edge to edge on a table or other surface, with one side of each tile showing the number of dots. The other side shows either an image or a total, such as five to five or eight to nine. There are many games with different rules, but the basic instructions on this website apply to most domino games played by more than one person. There are also games that are played solo, in which case the rules for hand placement do not apply.

The earliest sets of dominoes were made from materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, and dark woods like ebony. These materials were durable and attractive, but the production costs for such sets were high. Modern sets are typically molded from polymers, which are lighter and cheaper than natural materials. Some sets, however, are still made from traditional natural materials.

After the dominoes have been shuffled, each player draws a tile from the stock to make the first play of the game. This player is known as the setter, downer, or lead. Then, following the rules of the specific game being played, he places his first domino down, usually on a double or a spinner, which is a double with more than two sides that can be used to make the count.

A physics phenomenon called inertia causes dominoes to resist motion when no outside force is acting on them, but the slightest nudge can cause a domino to fall and initiate a chain reaction of its own. Domino artist Hevesh creates stunning domino art that demonstrates this principle, and her largest creations take several nail-biting minutes to fall. Hevesh credits a physical phenomenon called gravity as the key to such a successful setup: “The moment that I drop the first domino down, it starts moving because of gravity, and the energy of the domino is transferred to all the other pieces.”

In most domino games, the number of tiles in a row is limited, so that each domino can be pushed to its next position before any of the others fall. In some cases, however, larger sets of dominoes are available that allow for a more complex arrangement of rows of tiles. These are called extended sets, and some of the more popular ones include double-nine, double-12, double-15, and even double-18.

Domino artists use their knowledge of physics and the laws of motion to plan out their domino designs, which can be as simple or elaborate as they choose. Whether they are making straight lines that form pictures when they fall, curved tracks for domino racing, or 3D structures such as towers and pyramids, each design requires careful planning and consideration of the way in which each domino will be placed on the track. These plans can be drawn on paper using arrows to show the direction in which the dominoes will fall, or they may be planned out with a piece of software that can convert a graphic design into a list of individual dominoes and their pips that can then be cut from polymer sheets and used to create the desired structure.