A domino is a small rectangular block, thumb-sized and twice as long as it is wide, with one face marked with an arrangement of spots or dots resembling those on dice. It is blank on the other side and, depending upon the game being played, may also be referred to as a bone, a card, a men, or a piece. 28 such pieces form a complete set. Dominoes are usually made of ivory, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), or a dark hardwood such as ebony with contrasting black or white pips. They may be carved or inlaid.
Dominoes are traditionally used in a variety of games played with partners. The players alternately place tiles in a line or a pattern, creating a chain of dominos that will eventually topple if the wrong moves are made. The winner is the partner whose remaining number of pips is the lowest. The word “domino” is often used figuratively to refer to a person or event that has a powerful influence over others. The game’s popularity has resulted in an enormous variety of rules and patterns for the game, which can be confusing to new players.
Although there are many different games that can be played with domino, the basic instructions for each are fairly simple. Before a game begins, it is important to determine how the players will be seated at the table. This can be done by lot, drawing a domino from the stock, or simply choosing seats according to the rules of the particular game being played. If the number of available seats is uneven, a player may choose to buy a seat from an opponent, or he may pass on his turn and allow someone else to make a play.
Once the seating is determined, the players draw their hands and begin playing. Generally, the first player to make a play places his tile on the table and then, according to the rules of the particular game being used, draws the amount of tiles allowed him from the stock. He then adds these to the tiles in his hand and begins forming a domino chain. The next player must match the pips on the open ends of the dominos in his chain and then place a tile on the table to continue building the chain.
While a domino chain can be formed in a straight line, it is more common for the pieces to be placed asymmetrically. This allows for the formation of curves and other asymmetrical structures that are useful in various games.
In addition to traditional wood domino sets, a number of alternative materials have been used for dominoes in recent years, including marble, granite, and soapstone; stoneware clay; metals such as bronze and brass; and other types of plastic. These sets are often more expensive than those made from polymer materials, but they provide a more unique look and feel to the game. Some players prefer these natural materials because of their weight and the fact that they are easier to work with than polymer dominoes.