A domino is a small, flat, rectangular block used as a gaming piece. It has a central line down its face that separates it into two square ends, each of which is either blank or marked with numbers resembling those on dice. A traditional Western domino set has one unique domino for each possible combination of number and blank end, and 28 such pieces form a complete set. A number of games can be played with such a set, and the most popular types are blocking and scoring games. Other games use different arrangements of dominoes and differ in their rules of play.
Dominoes can also be arranged to create art that, when it falls, reveals an image, word, or shape. Such artwork is sometimes called domino art, or domino sculpture. Dominoes may be arranged into straight lines, curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, stacked walls, and 3D structures such as towers and pyramids. Creating an intricate domino art requires careful planning, but the results can be stunning.
The most common Western dominoes are made of a plastic polymer or wood such as mahogany, oak, redwood, or pine, with colored plastic pips. Other materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or ebony have also been used for dominoes. They are usually painted or etched with a pattern that contrasts with the color of the pips. Many of the more complex domino games use a special type of game piece known as a “double six” that has two matching sides, or “pips,” to distinguish it from other dominoes.
When a player is ready to begin playing a game, they shuffle the dominoes and draw for the lead. The leader plays the first domino, and then the other players choose from their own pieces to lay on top of it. The remaining dominoes are referred to as the stock or, in some countries, the boneyard. The winner is the person whose total of all their dominoes’ spots is the lowest at the end of the game.
Dominoes are often referred to as the “icebreakers of gaming,” and the game is widely used in social situations, such as parties or meetings of business associates. In addition, dominoes can be used to introduce children to the game of chess or other board games and to help them develop strategic thinking skills. They are also often used to teach math and counting skills. In the past, dominoes have also been used to teach geography and history. The game can be played by individuals, families, or groups of friends. In some countries, schools and libraries have domino programs. Some people also make dominoes as a hobby, making them from plastic or wooden blocks and painting or engraving them with designs to create unique pieces. There are even websites that offer downloadable templates for creating dominoes with different patterns and colors.