Dominoes, cousins of playing cards, are a versatile tool for a wide variety of games. They are most commonly characterized as small rectangular blocks, twice as long as they are wide, with one side bearing a pattern of spots or pips similar to those on dice. The other side of each domino is blank or identically patterned, and the number of dots on the pips on a particular domino indicates its value in a game, which can range from 0 to all the numbers on a single die.
Most domino games involve players taking turns placing tiles in a line on the table. The tiles must be positioned so that each end of the domino can be matched to part of another tile on the table. The player then knocks (raps) the table and play passes to the next player. When the line of play reaches a point at which no player can proceed, the winning players are those with the least combined total of spots on their remaining tiles. Depending on the rules of a specific game, dominoes may be joined to this line of play in either of two ways: doubles are played crosswise and singles lengthwise, or both are allowed to be added to the same end of the line of play as they are placed, forming a square of four open lines to which new dominoes can be added.
There are many variations on these basic rules, and the number of tiles in a set can vary. The traditional European-style dominoes are made from bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or a dark hardwood such as ebony. More recently, plastic dominoes have become available.
The most popular domino games can be classified into four categories: bidding games, blocking games, scoring games, and round games. Most of the domino games featured on this site fall into one of these categories, although the rules for individual games can vary considerably.
Dominoes are not just used for games, and a number of people create domino art in their homes. This can be anything from straight lines, curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, or 3D structures like towers and pyramids. Dominoes are also often used to make designs on surfaces, such as a sidewalk or patio, and can be made into jewelry.
Originally, domino, in both English and French, denoted a long, hooded cloak worn together with a mask at a carnival or masquerade. The word later came to refer to a playing piece, and it was not until the 17th century that the modern form of the game appeared.
Dominoes can be arranged in any number of ways, although most of the games on this site are designed for multiple players. The order of play is usually determined by drawing lots or by seating arrangement, and the winner of a game will then be the first to make a play. Some games, however, do not require hands to be drawn and can be played by a single person.