The Basics of Dominoes

Dominoes are small rectangular blocks, with one side bearing an array of dots or pips, and the other blank. The pips are arranged in an order corresponding to the numbers on a die (except for zero, which is marked as a white square). A domino is typically joined to its line of play by being placed crosswise with adjacent dominoes; this configuration is called a row. A domino can also be played lengthwise. A domino game may involve a single player or multiple players, with the rules of the game varying from place to place.

The most popular use of dominoes is for blocking games and scoring points by matching a domino’s ends against another domino, either in a line or a curved pattern. In addition to blocking games, there are many solitaire domino games, which are adaptations of card-based games that once were popular in parts of the world where religious prohibitions on playing cards existed.

When a domino is tapped, it tips over and triggers a chain reaction of the adjacent dominoes. The effect is similar to that of a firing neuron in the human brain. The energy that was stored in the first domino, in the form of friction between its surfaces and inertia, becomes available to push on the next piece in the line, generating heat and sound as it does so.

Hevesh began creating dominoes at the age of 9, when her grandparents gave her a classic 28-pack. She loved setting them up in a straight or curved line and flicking the first domino, then watching the entire line fall, one by one. She started posting videos of her creations on YouTube and soon built a following for her work. She now creates amazing domino setups for movies, TV shows, and events—including a music video launch for Katy Perry.

There are countless variations on the basic game of domino, and these variations often come down to specific rules of the particular game. For example, some games require a player to draw tiles from the stock in order to determine seating arrangements; this is referred to as byeing and is explained in the article on the subject of “Order of Play.” Other games, like those in which a hand is not drawn, are sometimes referred to as solitaire. The rules for these games are different from those for positional games, and they are generally discussed in the articles on the subject of “Solitaire.” The basic rules shown here are generalized and apply to most of the domino games seen on this site; however, some exceptions exist. In any case, it is best to consult a particular game’s instructions before starting.