How to Play Dominoes

Dominoes are a popular game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. The game can be simple with just a single line of dominoes, or more complex with intricate patterns that form shapes when the dominoes fall. Dominoes are also used to create artwork in both 2D and 3D forms, with a variety of themes from hearts and flowers to cities and stars.

Dominos (also known as bones, cards, men, or pieces) are rectangular tiles with one side bearing a value of spots or pips and the other blank or unmarked. The pips on each end of the domino are usually counted to show the total value for that domino. The simplest dominoes have only six pips, while more advanced sets may feature up to 24 pips or even more. The domino is normally twice as long as it is wide, making it easy to stack them vertically and later pull them apart when not in use.

When playing domino, it is important to lay down a piece that can be covered by subsequent pieces played on the top of it. Then, you can continue to build your domino chain by laying down additional pieces with matching numbers on their ends that cover the previous tile and its chains. When a domino is not covered by the next tile played on it, it is called a sleeping domino and must remain in the domino chain until the other players play against it.

One of the most exciting aspects of playing domino is the ability to create a massive chain reaction that leads to the domino falling, one at a time. Creating such an effect requires planning and execution, and the dominoes must be lined up properly to make sure that they fall in the correct order. In the case of a large set, it is often necessary to secure the pieces with masking tape or other means to prevent them from shifting in transit.

Lily Hevesh, a domino artist who has created mind-blowing setups that have included the set for a Katy Perry music video, says one physical phenomenon is essential to this process: gravity. “When you stand a domino upright, it has potential energy stored in its position,” Hevesh says. As the domino falls, most of this energy converts to kinetic energy, which pushes other dominoes to fall as well.

Hevesh has worked on many large projects, and she once set a Guinness World Record for the most dominoes in a circular layout: 76,017. In order to create her stunning designs, Hevesh uses a version of the engineering-design process: She considers the theme or purpose of an installation, brainstorms images and words that might relate to it, and then maps out a layout on paper.

Although most domino sets are made from plastic or another polymer, there are many other options for materials for the playing pieces. Some traditional sets feature natural materials, such as silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or a dark hardwood like ebony, with contrasting white or black pips inlaid or painted on them. These sets can be more expensive than those made from polymers, but they can feel more substantial and have a beautiful look to them.