Dominoes are small tiles with a line down the middle and a number on each end. The most common domino set has 28 tiles, from 0 (or blank) to 6. A domino is played by placing it on top of another domino with the matching number. The first domino that is placed becomes the lead, and each subsequent tile played must touch one of the ends of the leading domino. This configuration is called a layout, string, or line of play. The way the line of play is positioned on the table, due to space constraints or a players whim, provides a small part of the fun and strategy involved in domino games.
Once a line of dominoes has been established, the first player places the first tile, either by drawing lots or by choosing the first domino in his hand. The rest of the players draw their tiles and then, depending on game rules, place them in a line or on the table. The first player to play a domino is known as the “set,” or “the down.” The word domino itself means “falling of a line” in Italian and Spanish, and it describes both the effect of playing a single domino and the series of dominoes that are set up in a straight or curved line.
After a player has made the first play of a domino, other players must match and then place their tiles to form a chain that increases in length. Depending on the game, tiles may be positioned in any direction, but doubles are always played to or across a domino that matches them. The open end of a tile that is matched to a double must be facing in the same direction, and it must be touching that double completely.
Many games of domino involve a scoring element that is determined by counting the total number of pips on the losers’ remaining tiles at the end of a hand or game, and adding this amount to the winner’s score. A variation on this is to count only the pips on a single side of a double, rather than both.
There are countless variations to these basic types of domino games. In addition to the classic blocking and scoring games, there are games of chance and skill, and also games that simulate cards or dice. These games were often popular in areas that prohibited the playing of card games, as they provided a fun way to enjoy gambling without having to use actual money.
Some of these domino games are more intricate than others, with a greater emphasis on strategy and skill. A skilled player can create a domino art that is stunning to behold, including straight lines, curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, and even 3D structures such as towers and pyramids. The sky is the limit when it comes to creating domino art, and there are a number of videos online showing amateur woodworkers sharing their creations.