The Many Uses of Dominoes

From professional domino competition to the games you play at home with friends and family, this versatile system of tiles allows for a wide range of activities. You can play games based on positioning tiles edge to edge in a line or angular pattern, or you can use them to build structures or to make calculations involving lines of tiles and tile halves.

The game of domino is played with a double-sided set of 28 tiles, each bearing from one to six pips or spots. Each player must in turn place a tile on the table so that its end touches the opposite edge of another domino. By doing so, the players create a chain of dominoes that increases in length as each successive tile is placed.

Historically, many different materials were used to produce dominoes. Some of the earliest sets were made of bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory or dark hardwoods such as ebony. Modern sets are most often made of polymer or plastic. Other materials include marble, granite or soapstone; metals such as pewter or brass; or ceramic clay. These more exotic sets have a more interesting and novel look but can be less durable than their polymer counterparts.

Most domino games involve a blocking or scoring element and are played between two or more players. The objective of most games is to empty your opponents’ hands while limiting your own. To do this, you must either block your opponent by placing a domino on an edge that prevents the next player from playing that edge, or score points by completing a particular combination of pips in your hand.

To begin a hand, the winning player of the previous hand draws seven dominoes from the stock. These are known as the opening doubles. The player with the highest opening double then begins the turn by playing that domino. If you do not have the highest opening double, you must wait for an opportunity to play.

As the popularity of domino grew, it became common to produce a number of puzzles that involved placing dominoes on a surface based on the arithmetic properties of the pips and the totals of a line or a tile half. These types of domino puzzles are sometimes referred to as “positional” games.

The word domino comes from the Latin dominus, meaning master of a house or household. It originally meant the master of a monastery and later was applied to a type of hooded mask worn at masquerades. In the English language, the word eventually came to mean a large hooded cloak with a small mask covering the eyes. In the United States, it has also been used to describe a particular kind of rhythm and blues musician. The name of the band Domino’s is an example of this usage.