Dominoes are small rectangular pieces of a material such as ivory or a dark wood, typically with a pattern on one side. Most dominoes feature a number of dots or pips that identify the piece as part of a suit, such as threes, fives, sixes, or nines. A domino may also be blank or identically patterned on both sides. Some sets include a domino that is marked only with a single number, which is often referred to as a “single”.
Dominos can be used in games of skill or luck that involve a series of steps or turns. The goal of many domino games is to achieve a certain score before the opposing player does, by placing and then knocking down all of the tiles in a line, row, or block, depending on the game. Each tile is numbered with either the numbers 1 through 9 or one, two, or four dots (depending on the set) and some even include a double-blank, which counts as 0 or 14.
Most of the time, when dominoes are played, they’re arranged in long lines. If a domino in the line is tipped over, it causes the next tile in the line to tip and so on until all the dominoes fall. This is the basis of a popular phrase, the Domino Effect, which describes an action that triggers greater–and sometimes disastrous–consequences.
The most common domino sets sold commercially contain 28 dominoes. Larger sets exist, but are usually reserved for games involving several players. In addition to the standard domino sets, people often use dominoes as toys that can be stacked on end in long lines and then knocked over. This activity is also known as Domino Art, and the results can be spectacular, with curved lines or grids that form pictures when the dominoes fall.
Another type of domino art involves constructing 3D structures using the tiles, such as towers and pyramids. It’s not uncommon for these domino art creations to take weeks or even months to complete, making them a popular way for children to hone their motor skills and creative thinking.
Earlier in history, the word domino had a different meaning, and it was not related to the playing tile. It referred to a long, hooded garment worn with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade. The hooded garment was sometimes black, which contrasted with the white surplice of a priest.
In addition to the traditional polymer-based dominoes, sets can be made from materials such as silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), bone, or a dark hardwood such as ebony. Such sets tend to have a more elegant look and feel, but they’re usually more expensive than their polymer-based counterparts.
Lily Hevesh, a domino artist who has earned millions of YouTube subscribers through her videos of her stunning domino artwork, says that one physical phenomenon is crucial for the success of any domino project: gravity. This force pulls a falling domino toward Earth, causing it to crash into the next tile and start another chain reaction.