The Game of Domino

Domino is a game with a long history that continues to draw interest from new generations of players. The rules vary by game, but the basic principles are consistent. Each domino is a rectangular tile that is twice as long as it is wide. It is marked with a line to divide it visually into two squares, each with an arrangement of dots, called pips, on one side and blank or identically patterned on the other. A domino’s value is determined by the number of pips on the opposite sides and may range from six to none (blank means no pips).

The game was developed in Europe in the mid-1700s, although the word “domino” has an even longer history. The term was originally used to refer to a hooded cape worn together with a mask at carnival season or during a masquerade. Later, it came to be used as a name for a playing piece of ebony blacks and ivory whites that reminded many people of the priest’s cape covering his surplice.

Normally, each player draws a hand of dominoes. After all hands are drawn, the first player—determined by drawing lots or by determining who holds the highest number of tiles—places a domino on the table. This domino is known as the set, the down, or the lead. Its placement starts a chain of play that continues to grow in length as each player places his or her dominoes adjacent to the previous tile, forming an ever-growing line of chains of tiles.

While dominoes can be played in a straight line, they are more often placed in curved shapes or stacked in 3-D structures like towers and pyramids. The resulting art is called domino art, and it can be as simple or elaborate as the artist chooses to make it.

In addition to straight lines, curved shapes and grids that form pictures when they fall, dominoes can be lined up to create complex patterns. For example, a person can use a set of dominoes to build a picture of a house or a map of the world.

Some players use dominoes as decorations, placing them around the home and office. Others create artistic works by arranging them to form different geometric shapes or in the shape of flowers, animals or other scenes. Some artists have even created a technique for using dominoes to create three-dimensional sculptures.