# Dominoes

Dominoes are small, flat rectangular blocks with one side blank and the other bearing a pattern of dots, called pips. They are used to play many different games. They can be arranged in straight lines, curved lines, and grids that form pictures when they fall.

The traditional domino set contains 28 tiles. However, larger sets are available. These include double-twelve (91 tiles) and double-nine (55 tiles).

## Origin

Dominoes, cousins to playing cards, are one of mankind’s oldest tools for game play. A domino is a thumb-sized, rectangular block that is either blank or bears from one to six dots. Twenty-eight such tiles make up a standard double-six set.

There are many different accounts of the origin of dominoes. The Chinese historical document Chu sz yam (Investigations on the Traditions of All Things) says that a statesman invented them in the 12th century and then presented them to Emperor Hui Tsung who circulated them abroad.

The European version of the domino first appeared in the 18th century, in Italy and France. It then made its way to England, possibly through French prisoners of war. Today’s Western dominoes are based on this original design but have seven additional pieces, six representing the results of throwing a single die with the other half left blank and one that represents the blank-blank or 0-0 combination.

## Rules

There are many different domino games. The rules for each game vary, but most include a number of rounds and a target score for winning. A player’s total score is based on the value of their own dominoes and the values of opponents’ unplaced tiles. The winner of a round subtracts the value of their own dominoes from each opponent’s total and scores this sum.

The first player, determined either by drawing lots or by holding the heaviest hand, plays the first domino in a line. Then, players alternately extend the domino chain by adding one matching tile at an open end (for example a 6-6 can be played to the right or left of a 5-6). The chain is closed when a single domino has seven pips on both ends.

## Variations

Domino games are played with many different types of domino sets. Some are variations of traditional card games, while others are more unique and were probably developed to circumvent religious restrictions on the playing of cards. Generally speaking, domino games can be classified into two broad categories: blocking games and scoring games.

The most basic domino game is known as Draw or the Block Game and most characteristic domino games are elaborations of it. Initially each player draws seven tiles from the stock, which becomes their domino hand or boneyard.

Players then alternately add a tile to their domino train from their boneyard. The first player to complete a domino chain wins the round. Normally play ends when a player runs out of tiles or holds a bloated hand that is unplayable.

## Materials

Over the years dominoes have been made from a wide variety of materials. These include plastics, wood, stone and metal.

Most contemporary domino sets are made from a mixture of common plastic and wood. They are affixed to a base with a tape hinge. This makes them easy to move around and to use for a variety of games.

Some dominoes are made from animal bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl) or a dark hardwood such as ebony. They usually have contrasting black and white dots, or pips.

Some modern sets are crafted from natural materials such as marble, granite or soapstone. These have a unique look and often feel heavier than polymer dominoes. They are more suitable for line constructions where stability is less of a concern. High quality card tables and snooker, pool or billiards tables use green baize as the playing surface. This material provides a bit of friction and slip, while cushioning the tiles and deadening sound.

## Scoring

In this scoring system, the winner of a hand subtracts each domino’s value from their opponents and scores that amount rounded to the nearest multiple of five. The score is recorded on a cribbage board or a scoring table. In some games, players may use a boneyard to draw additional tiles when their hands cannot be used.

A domino is a thumbsized tile with from one to six pips (or dots) on each end. It is usually referred to as a “heavy” or a “light” domino according to its pips. When a double is played, the exposed ends become the start of an expanding chain known as a spinner. A player may score points from these exposed ends as well as from their own main line of play.