What Is Dominoes?

A domino is a game piece that can be laid out in any number of ways. Dominoes can be arranged as a chain, a line of dots or even in a circle. Regardless of the arrangement, each domino is ineffective by itself but when combined with others, they create a large effect. When writing a novel, each scene should be like a domino. If a story is being told in a nonfiction format, each scene should be a point to illustrate a theme or argument.

A popular form of the game involves drawing tiles from a stock to determine seating arrangements, and players then take turns placing their tiles on the table. When a player cannot place a tile, he “knocks” (raps) the table with his hand and play passes to the next player. The line of play forms when a player places a domino so that the open end touches one of the ends of the domino chain already on the table. If the player’s tile causes an existing domino chain to extend in length, he has placed a “stitched up” end and is penalized accordingly.

While most domino games are played with a standard set of polymer dominoes, some sets have been made from other materials. European-style dominoes were traditionally made of bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony, with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on the top surface. More recently, dominoes have been made of natural stone such as marble or soapstone; metals such as brass and pewter; ceramic clay; or other items such as frosted glass and crystal. These more elegant sets have a distinctive look and feel, but can be quite expensive.

Many domino games involve a numbering system to determine the winning player. Some use a total point count, while others only consider the amount of the losing player’s remaining dominoes. Some games also use a “spinner” system, where the winner is determined by the player who plays a double that can be played on all four sides.

Most domino games are played by two or more players. Some are partnership games, in which the partners sit opposite each other. If there is a tie, the tied players draw new tiles from the stock and seat themselves according to the numbers on those tiles. A player may also win a partner’s seat by playing a double that is a “spinner” and can be played on both sides of the line of play.

Dominoes can be made in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but most are rectangular with a smooth, rounded edge. Some have a raised or “foam” bottom to help them glide across the floor. Some have grooves to hold the tiles in place and a built-in carrying handle. Other styles feature a flat bottom that makes them easy to stack and carry. The earliest dominoes were made of wood, but in the 19th century, they became mass-produced using phenolic resin.