The Basics of Dominoes

Dominoes are cousins to playing cards and offer the possibility for a wide variety of games. The game pieces themselves are simple, but the resulting sets can be quite intricate. They can be set up and then “knocked over” to produce spectacular displays of skill, patience, and creativity. They’re used in professional domino competitions as well as family game nights. They’ve also been used in art installations and to help raise funds for charity.

The word domino derives from a Latin phrase meaning “I have the power.” The term refers to a system where one event triggers a series of events, with each subsequent event dependent upon the preceding ones. The domino effect is used both literally (physical collisions of dominoes) and metaphorically (causal links within complex systems such as global finance or politics).

In the 1300s, dominoes were first developed in China. They were functionally similar to a deck of playing cards and featured markings on their faces that resembled the spots on a die. Later, the domino tiles became more uniform in shape and appearance. They feature a line or ridge that divides the face of each domino into two squares, with each side featuring an arrangement of dots called pips.

Each side may be assigned a value, either zero, one, or more. A domino may be flipped to reveal its value, and the number of pips on each side is called its rank or weight. A domino that has more pips is often considered “heavier” than a domino with fewer or no pips.

Most modern domino sets feature tiles that are twice as long as they are wide, making them easier to re-stack after use. They’re normally arranged in rows, with the dominos on the left end of each row facing away from the dominantos on the right. The right and left ends are then connected by a thin strip of plastic or wood, known as a “pip rail.” This prevents the stacked dominoes from toppling over each other when the domino rail is removed.

When a player can’t lay a domino, they “knock” on the table and pass play to their opponent. The other players must then take turns laying dominoes and executing their moves, until someone can’t continue. The winner is the player who has the most total pips on their remaining dominoes.

The most popular games are played with a standard set of 28 dominoes, although some games are only playable with a double-nine or double-twelve set. The simplest games require only one domino per player, while more complex games have up to four players. Some of the most popular games are Draw and Domino, which have a large following in both the United States and England. Other popular games include a variety of card games, such as slapjack and domino poker. The game of chess is also commonly played with dominoes. In addition, dominoes are sometimes sculpted into 3D structures such as towers and pyramids.