The Art of Domino

Domino is a game or a set of games played with rectangular blocks called dominoes. Also known as bones, cards, men, tiles or stones, dominoes are usually marked on one side with a line that divides it visually into two squares, each bearing an arrangement of dots–called pips–similar to the spots on a die. These pips indicate the value of a domino, from six pips down to none or blank, and they are used to determine scoring in most of the popular domino games.

Dominoes are normally twice as long as they are wide, which makes them easy to stack and re-stack after use. They are often made of materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, ebony and other dark hardwoods, with contrasting white or black inlaid or painted pips. In recent years, sets have been made of a variety of other natural and manmade materials, including marble, granite, soapstone, metals and ceramic clay.

To prepare for a domino project, Hevesh first considers the theme of the installation and brainstorms images or words that she wants to use. Next, she develops a plan of how the dominoes will be arranged and draws out a diagram. Finally, she divides fractions to help her estimate the number of dominoes required for a particular configuration and how many different combinations of ends there will be.

Hevesh builds her domino installations in sections, so that if she or a teammate accidentally topples a portion of an enormous structure, the rest will not fall. She might even omit some dominoes from a section to help her gauge how large a domino wall will be. She says, “I’m pretty good at preventing big accidental topples, but small ones happen in just about every project.”

In some domino games, a player draws more tiles for his hand than he is entitled to; this is called overdrawing. When this happens, the player to his right takes the extra tiles without looking at them, and returns them to the stock before drawing again.

There are many variations in how a domino game is scored, but most include some method of counting the number of pips left in a losing player’s hand at the end of a hand or game. This total is then added to the winning player’s score. The losing players’ total number of pips is also sometimes counted as part of the score, but this is not as common.