The Basics of Domino

Domino is a game in which players place dominoes on the table and then attempt to build chains of dominoes by staking them one at a time. The first player to score a certain number of points wins the game. Each domino bears an arrangement of dots, called pips, on one side and is blank or identically patterned on the other. The pips give the domino its value, and, in some cases, the values of a particular set may be altered to suit the game being played.

There are a wide variety of domino games, some very simple and some quite complex. Most of the games are played using a special type of domino, which is normally twice as long as it is wide. Dominoes are also known as bones, cards, men, or pieces. They are traditionally made of a durable material such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother-of-pearl), ivory or ebony with contrasting white or black inlaid or painted pips. More recently, domino sets have been made from a range of natural materials, including marble, granite and soapstone; metals such as brass or pewter; and ceramic clay.

Before a game begins, the players shuffle the tiles face down on a flat playing surface, thoroughly mixing them by moving them with their hands. The shuffling may be done by all the players or alternately, each player draws a hand and then reshuffles before drawing his next hand. The player who draws the heaviest domino begins play. If the heaviest domino is a double, it must be played as a double; if it is a single, it may be played as a single or a double, depending on the rules of the game being played.

A domino may be added to a line of play only when its pips match those already on the board. If a player plays a tile that cannot be added to the line of play, he “chips out” and the game ends. Alternatively, the game may continue until it reaches a point at which none of the players are able to make another play and therefore can “chip out” at that time.

As each player completes a chain, it is added to the line of play. If a chain contains two doubles or more, the second domino played must be a double, and so on. In some games, the first player to complete a chain earns a reward.

Each player’s hand contains the number of dominoes specified in the rules for the game being played. In most games, the highest double or highest single makes the first play. If a tie exists, the winner is determined by drawing new dominoes from the stock before playing continues. The remaining dominoes on the board are called the boneyard and, if necessary, may be drawn from for use in future games.