As kids, we all enjoyed arranging dominoes in straight or curved lines, flicking the first one and watching the rest fall. It was a simple and absorbing game that could be played alone or with a friend, and it left us with an image of the endless possibilities that can happen when things build on each other – like a line of falling dominoes – a chain reaction that starts from just one domino.
The name domino comes from the Latin word domini, meaning “heavy.” These small rectangular blocks are used as gaming pieces and are commonly known as bones, cards, men, or pieces. They are normally twice as long as they are wide, and the pips on each end indicate its value (which ranges from six to none or blank).
Dominoes have become popular for more than just their game-playing capabilities, and have also been used to make art, decorate homes, and even build structures. Artists use dominoes to create intricate designs, ranging from straight or curved lines to grids that form pictures when they fall, to stacked walls and towers.
Many different games can be played with dominoes, but the basic rules are always the same: Each player draws a certain number of tiles and then positions them on the table in such a way that they touch each other and the adjacent pieces. In most games, each tile has either a double or a single (also called a zero) on one of its ends, and a total value of pips is shown on the other end. A domino may be “heavy” or “light,” depending on the total value of its pips and whether the players agree to ignore the fact that it is in turn.
Most domino games involve a player or partnership who alternates turns until either the players have played all of their dominoes or play reaches a point at which it becomes impossible for one or both players to continue. The winning partners are those whose combined sum of all of the pips on their remaining dominoes is the lowest.
Some modern domino sets are made of polymer, but traditional sets have been made from a variety of natural materials, including bone or silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or dark hardwoods such as ebony. Sets have also been carved from wood such as walnut, mahogany, and oak; carved stone; metals; and even ceramic clay. These sets often have a more novel appearance than polymer ones and can be considerably more expensive. They also are usually heavier and feel more substantial in the hand. They are sometimes referred to as “European” or “antique” sets.