What is Domino?


If you have ever watched a domino show, you know how mesmerizing it can be to watch a series of hundreds or thousands of dominoes lined up and then toppled with the nudge of just one. It’s a demonstration of how narrative works.

The word domino originally referred to a long, hooded cloak worn together with a mask at a carnival or masquerade. This early meaning may explain why domino pieces often feature ebony blacks and ivory whites.


Domino is a game of chance and skill in which players try to arrange dominoes so that their ends match. The game originated in Europe during the 18th Century and evolved over time to include different strategies, tile starts, and designs for domino sets. The name “domino” may come from the French word for a black-and-white hood worn by Christian priests in winter or from a Latin phrase that means, “I win!”

Domino games appeared in China as early as the 10th century, but the European version is thought to have arrived there from France during the late 1700s, possibly brought by prisoners of war. The first European dominoes lacked the suits and duplicate combination tiles that characterize Chinese sets. The games soon spread throughout the world and spurred numerous variants including chickenfoot, block, and Mexican train.


The game of domino requires players to play their tiles in a clockwise direction. If a player cannot make a play, he knocks the table and passes his turn to the next player. The first person with all of his dominoes played wins the game.

In most domino games, one player lays a tile and then tries to match it with another domino of the same number. Then the player continues to join dominoes together until he has no more to lay. Then he scores the total number of dots on his opponents’ unsplayed dominoes.

In some games, a double is laid at right angles to the line of play. This creates four open lines to which new tiles can be added. Each end of a double touching the line is scored if the count is a multiple of five.


Over the centuries domino pieces have been made of many different materials. Modern mass-produced dominoes are usually made from plastic, metal or wood. A domino piece is twice as long as it is wide and is usually marked with an arrangement of pips (also known as dots) on one face, and blank or identically patterned on the other.

The advantages of these dominoes are their smoother and more consistent surface, which improves grip and allows for larger field constructions. However, the debossed logo on every single piece leads to unexpected light reflections and a limited number of colors restricts their use for more complex structures. These dominoes are also somewhat more expensive compared to other brands. They also include a score pad and pencil, which is convenient for keeping track of scores during play.


Unlike playing cards, which are numbered on one side, dominoes have an arrangement of spots on both sides that identify them. This feature allows for a wide variety of games. Most characteristic domino games fit into two broad categories: blocking and scoring games.

Draw dominoes start much like a game of block dominoes, but players take turns extending a line of play. Players can only extend the line of play by placing a tile that shows a matching endpoint to an existing tile. A player can also put a marker on their train, making it public and stopping other players from adding to it. Players score points when the total of all exposed ends is a multiple of five. This variation makes the game faster and more exciting.


In many domino games, each player scores by counting the number of exposed dots on their opponents’ unplayed dominos. This scoring method allows players to keep a running score as the game progresses. In Muggins, for example, the goal is to make the open ends of all dominoes count a multiple of five. The player who has the lowest total score wins the hand.

Most domino games involve blocking the opponent’s play, and some, like bergen and muggins, determine points by counting the number of pips (spots on a tile) in the losing players’ hands. Others, such as mr. monopoly, allow for more strategic play and are designed to be a learning tool for children. Some of these games use the same rules as card games.

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