Domino is a small, flat, rectangular block used as a gaming object. Known by many other names including bones, men, pieces or cards, dominoes feature a line that visually divides them into two square ends, each with an arrangement of dots, called pips, on one side and blank or identically patterned on the other. Each domino is normally twice as long as it is wide, although some games may be played with a single-wide tile. The value of a domino is indicated by the number of pips on its two open ends. This value can be compared with the values of other tiles in the same game to determine whether they are equal in rank or whether the player should draw or play an additional tile.
A domino may be set up in a straight or curved line, and when all of its open ends are covered, it is said to be “in the lead” or “on the table”. The players then place their remaining tiles on the domino that is already on the table in order to make a match. The other players then draw and place their own tiles, and the first player to place all of his or her matching tiles on the table is declared the winner.
In addition to the usual blocking and scoring games, dominoes can also be used to play solitaire or trick-taking games. These games are usually adaptations of card games, and were popular in some places to circumvent religious proscriptions against playing cards.
Most domino games are played between two players. Each player has a set of dominoes, and draws from a stock when he or she is unable to make a play according to the rules of a particular game. The resulting collection of tiles is then placed on the table in a configuration that is called the layout, string or line of play. Each domino is matched with another tile in the line of play, and as each subsequent domino is placed on top of a previously played piece, it forms a new row or shape.
Dominoes can be made from a variety of materials, and the most common is polymer resins. These are typically white or clear, but colored versions exist as well. Some sets are made from other natural materials, such as stone (e.g. marble, granite or soapstone); other woods (e.g. ash, oak, or redwood); metals (e.g. brass or pewter); ceramic clay; or even crystal. Some very elaborate domino designs, often in the form of 3D structures or a grid that makes pictures when the dominoes fall, have been created from these more unusual materials.
The word domino is derived from the Latin verb “dominare”, meaning to rule. The name is probably a corruption of an earlier sense of the word, which denoted a long hooded garment worn together with a mask at a carnival or masquerade event. During the same period, domino also came to mean a black cape worn over a priest’s surplice.