Domino Basics

Domino is a set of small rectangular wood or plastic blocks with one side marked by an arrangement of dots resembling those on dice. They are used in games of chance or skill, often for scoring points. The other side of the block is blank or patterned differently. Some sets are molded in various shapes, such as squares or rectangles. Others are made of a material such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother-of-pearl), ivory, or dark hardwood such as ebony with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted.

The basic rule of domino is to play a tile across the line of play, or “the layout” as it is called in some games. This is usually done by matching the pips on the open ends of the tiles. Dominoes may be connected in either of two ways: across the line of play or lengthwise. Most games played with the dominoes shown on this site use a line of play that is joined lengthwise; these are called cross- or doubles-cross games.

When a player has no eligible tiles left in his hand, he draws from the boneyard pile until he finds a tile that can be placed. This tile is then placed on the end of the existing line of play.

Some games have rules that require players to place all the dominoes in their hands before attempting to score. These games are sometimes called blocking or staking games. In other games, the winner is the player whose total value of the remaining eligible dominoes is lowest.

Most domino games involve emptying a player’s hand while blocking opponents’ plays, although there are also scoring games such as bergen and muggins, and there are also several different ways to play solitaire domino. Some domino games are adaptations of card games, and some were once popular as a way to circumvent religious prohibitions against playing cards.

A domino game can be played with as few as two people, and as many as ten or more. The number of players affects the speed and strategy of the game. Smaller sets are more portable and tend to be simpler in gameplay. Larger sets are more complex to set up and play, but can provide a greater challenge and excitement to the players.

The word domino is derived from the Latin dominus, meaning “lord.” Earlier senses of the word included a hooded robe worn with an eye mask at a masquerade and a long hooded cape worn by priests over their surplices.

Dominoes are generally sold in sets, each with a specific number of tiles and an overall number of pips or spots. A typical standard set contains 28 dominoes, but some sets are extended by adding more tiles with increased numbers of pips. For example, an extended double-nine set includes 55 pieces with a maximum of 15 pips per end. Other more specialized sets are available for a limited number of games, including a double-12 set with 136 tiles and a double-18 set with 190 tiles.