The Basics of Domino

Domino is a game in which players place dominoes edge to edge against each other so that the numbers on the adjacent faces form a specified total. There are many variations on the basic game, some of which are blocking and scoring games, while others require skill and strategy. These games were once popular to circumvent religious proscriptions against playing cards.

A single domino is not particularly useful, but when placed in the right spot can trigger a chain reaction that can topple dozens or even hundreds of dominoes in quick succession. Those who build such intricate domino chains on stage in domino shows are called domino builders, and they compete with each other to create the most stunning effects and reactions before a live audience.

The domino, which has a standard pips pattern of black and white dots on each side, originated in the mid-18th century in Italy and France. The name may come from either the Latin word for “tablet,” or an earlier sense of the term, denoting a long hooded cloak worn together with a mask at a carnival or masquerade, or the priest’s black domino contrasting with his white surplice.

There are a wide variety of games that can be played with dominoes, but most involve placing tiles in position to block the opponent from completing a certain score or set. In some games, each player must play a domino in turn. This requires careful attention, since the placement of a domino can change the direction and score of the game.

Some of the earliest games were designed to make use of all ten pips on one end of the domino, but this is not necessary in most current games. This is because larger sets can be obtained that have extra pips on one or both ends, allowing for more ways to link the two halves of the domino into a chain.

The most common domino sets have a maximum of twenty-six doubles. Larger sets have progressively increased numbers of extra pips on each end. These sets are called extended, and include double-nine, double-12, and double-18.

For most domino games, the first play is made by the player who has a double in his hand. The player with a higher double then makes the next play, and so on. If there is a tie, the rules of the game usually state that the winner of the last game starts the next.

In addition to bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory and ebony, dominoes can be made from marble, granite or soapstone; other types of wood, including hickory and maple; metals such as brass and pewter; and ceramic clay. Some of these materials have a more distinctive look than the polymer dominoes used in most modern games.

When Hevesh plans an installation, she first tests out the separate sections of the arrangement, then connects them with lines of dominoes. She also omits a few dominoes from each section to make sure that accidental topples don’t bring the entire installation crashing down. She’s pretty good at preventing such topples, but she says they still happen in just about every project.