How Dominoes Are Played


Dominoes are small rectangular blocks with two groups of dots on each side. They are used to play many games of chance and strategy. When one domino is toppled, it triggers a chain reaction that causes all the other dominoes in its line to fall. Dominoes can be arranged in straight lines, curves, grids that form pictures when they fall, stacked walls, and 3-D structures like towers or pyramids. Dominoes can also be set up to look like a heart or cross, or as letters of the alphabet, numbers, or symbols.

Most dominoes have a different color or marking on each of their two sides. Each side is also marked with an arrangement of spots, called pips, that correspond to the number of dots on a single domino. The number of pips on the domino and the type of marks on each side determines how the domino is played.

In most domino games, the players place their tiles edge to edge in a line. This arrangement is known as the layout, string, or line of play. Each player then makes a play by placing a domino in the string that matches a tile already laid down. As the players make matching plays, a line of dominoes forms that is then turned over and counted. The first domino to be turned over is known as the leader, the down, or the lead.

Each domino game has its own rules for how to make the first play. In some games, the winner is determined by the player who has a highest double in his hand, while others have a rule that says the player who draws the heaviest tile begins play. A tie may be broken by drawing new tiles from the stock.

The most common domino sets are made of plastic. Other materials that have been used include bone (often a genus of shark or whale), silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or dark hardwoods such as ebony. Historically, European-style domino sets were often made of a combination of these materials.

Some players prefer to use natural-material dominoes because they look and feel more substantial than polymer ones. These sets are more expensive and can be more difficult to work with, however, because the pieces do not snap together as easily as polymer dominoes.

In order to create an artful domino display, the artist must carefully plan out each section of the arrangement before putting it all together. Hevesh typically starts each project with a theme, and brainstorms images or words that she wants to use. She then creates a map of how she will arrange the dominoes. She usually tests each portion of the design, sometimes in slow-motion video, to make sure it works correctly before assembling the entire piece. Some of her largest displays can take several nail-biting minutes to fall. Once she is satisfied with the results, she photographs the completed project. Hevesh often shares her domino art online.