Dominoes are small rectangular blocks of wood or polymer, each bearing an arrangement of spots resembling those on dice. They are used to play a wide variety of games, some of which involve building structures or lines of dominoes while others focus on scoring points. There are many different sets of dominoes available, ranging from small sets with 28 tiles (double six) to larger ones with more than 100 pieces. Most domino games fall into one of four categories: bidding games, blocking games, scoring games, and layout games.
Dominos have long been a popular toy for children, but they are also an art form when used by professional artists who create spectacular setups that are often featured in movies, TV shows, and events. These artists, who are called domino artists, use the small blocks to make straight or curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, 3D structures such as towers and pyramids, and more.
While there is no universal set of rules for domino games, there are certain guidelines that all players must follow. The first step in a game is to draw enough dominoes from the stock to fill each player’s hand, as explained in the section “Order of Play.” If there is a tie for the highest double, the winner is determined by drawing new hands until a double is found. Some games require that the player with the heaviest single begin the game.
After the players have drawn their tiles, they place them in front of them so that they cannot be seen by the other players. The player who makes the first play may be referred to as the setter, the downer, or the leader. If a tile is played out of turn, the opponent must recall it and may then play a different tile.
When a domino is stood upright, it stores energy, which is measured in potential energy. As a result of the pull of gravity, when the domino is knocked over, most of that energy is converted into kinetic energy, or the energy of motion.
Although most dominoes are made of plastic, some are still produced from natural materials, such as silver lip oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, bone, or a dark hardwood such as ebony, with contrasting black or white dots inlaid or painted on each face. While these sets are more expensive than those made of polymer, they provide a more traditional look and feel to the game. They are also heavier and more durable than their polymer counterparts. Historically, sets have also been made from other stones (e.g., marble, granite, or soapstone), metals (e.g., brass or pewter), ceramic clay, and even crystal or frosted glass. A set of these can be quite valuable. Some players collect them as a hobby. These rare and valuable sets are frequently displayed in museums. Other collectors specialize in specific types of dominoes, such as those from the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries.