The Basics of Domino


Domino, from the Latin for “falling together,” is a game based on forming chains of domino tiles. Generally twice as long as they are wide, each domino has an identifying mark on one side and is blank or identically patterned on the other, with an arrangement of dots, called pips, that resembles those on a die. The sum of the pips on each face is called the rank or weight of a domino. Each player is given a certain number of tiles (or, in some games, a set of dominoes). These can be arranged into different configurations to form various patterns and constructs such as lines or squares that form pictures when they fall, or even 3D structures such as towers or pyramids. The rules of each game vary.

The basic strategy of domino is to chain a tile or pips onto an existing end-of-line, which in turn, sets up another tile or pips in the same manner. This builds up a sequence of progressively longer chains until one player is unable to play a tile without disrupting the entire chain. The winning player is then declared the winner and gains points equal to the total dot count of all the remaining tiles.

When a domino falls, much of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy, which is transmitted to the next domino and provides the force that pushes it over, thus continuing the process of converting potential energy into kinetic energy until all the dominoes have fallen. The power of the first domino to fall is sometimes referred to as the “power of the zero.”

Each domino has a unique identifying pattern on its two faces, with a line or ridge dividing it into two squares. Each square is marked with an arrangement of dots, ranging from blank or no pips to six – the number of which is usually referred to as its rank or weight.

Many different games of domino are played, with variations on the theme and the number of dominoes involved. In general, the more dots on a domino, the higher its ranking or power. For example, a double-six domino is considered more powerful than a double-two or a double-four.

Some games use a fixed number of dominoes, and the player with the most tiles wins. Other games involve a predetermined number of rounds, or are played until a specified point limit is reached. Players are normally required to report their total dot count at the end of a hand. Dominoes may be played on a hard surface such as a table, or on paper. Depending on the game-type, there are also rules for how many tiles can be reshuffled before a round begins. Generally, it is preferable to draw a high double at the start of a hand. This improves the chances of playing a domino that will provide a strong base to build upon. This is particularly important when blocking other players or scoring.