Domino Basics

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A domino, or domination, is a small, flat rectangular block used as gaming object. Depending on its appearance and the game it is played with, it may also be known as a bone, piece, or men. A domino can be a single tile or an entire set of tiles numbered in an order that corresponds to the game being played. Some sets include a separate set of blank or white tiles to be used as a “stock” for playing games that do not use matching pairs of tiles.

The majority of domino games involve adding a series of matching tiles to a layout, or tableau, on the table, either from one’s hand or by drawing from a stock. These games are typically blocking or scoring in nature, but there are also solitaire and trick-taking games that borrow their rules from card games. Occasionally, domino games of a different character, such as those that utilize the domino’s identifying marks or “pips,” are also played.

In addition to the traditional rectangular shape, dominoes are sometimes made into other shapes, such as circular or hexagonal, and they can also be colored or printed with patterns. Additionally, a domino can have dots or numbers, and it can be decorated with gold, silver, or other metals to give it a unique aesthetic. Some sets have a more premium look, with the tiles being made from materials such as silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony and featuring contrasting black or white pips.

In general, the player who adds all of their tiles to a domino line first wins. However, there are many rules and variations that can be played with the same basic setup, and the winning tile is usually awarded for the number of pips on opposing players’ tiles (doubles count as one or two; for example, a 6-6 counts as 12). In some games, each player scores points and whoever amasses the most total points in a given number of rounds wins. In other games, the winner is determined by a number of other criteria, such as the last player to add a tile or who has the most matching pairs of tiles. A number of dominoes can also be stacked on their ends to create long lines, with each successive tile adding its own set of pips to the line. For this type of play, special dominoes called tenons are often used that are longer than regular pieces in order to provide the necessary length for this stacking process. The most common tenons are made from brass or steel and are designed to fit the groove of the domino’s open end.