Domino is a versatile game piece with many applications. It can be played alone or with multiple players, in a variety of games. Games include blocking or scoring games such as bergen and muggins, as well as domino solitaire and trick-taking games. Most of these games replicate card games and were popular in some areas to circumvent religious proscriptions against playing cards. Domino is also used to teach children number recognition and counting skills.
Lily Hevesh first learned to play with a basic domino set at age 9. By the time she was 14, her collection had grown, and she had started posting videos of her creations online. Her YouTube channel, Hevesh5, now has more than 2 million subscribers. Now 20, Hevesh is a professional domino artist, creating stunning displays for movies, TV shows and events—including a recent album launch for pop star Katy Perry.
She works with thousands of individual dominoes to create incredible designs—from straight and curved lines to grids that form pictures when they fall, stacked walls, 3D structures and more. Hevesh has worked on projects involving up to 300,000 dominoes and helped set a Guinness record for the most dominoes in a circular arrangement. Her largest setups take several nail-biting minutes to fall. Hevesh credits one physical phenomenon for her success: gravity. A domino’s top and bottom slip against each other as they slide, and this friction generates some energy. This energy is transferred to the next domino in the chain, causing it to push against its neighbors until all the pieces have fallen over.
Most domino sets consist of a number of tiles that have alternating numbers of dots (or “pips”) on each end. When a domino is flipped over, the numbers on the two open ends are exposed. Each player then selects a domino from their hand and places it on the table, positioning it so that it touches an end of a previously played domino and produces a new open end. For example, a double-six is played onto a six-five domino to produce a chain with open ends of 5 and 6.
When the chains grow long enough to prevent any players from making another move, the game ends in a tie. The winning players are those whose total of all the pips on their remaining dominoes is lowest. In some versions, players must also choose to chip out before the tie can be declared.
Some sets are made from natural materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl or MOP), ivory and ebony with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on the surface. Others are manufactured from polymer. The most common polymer dominoes are a molded material that looks and feels similar to ceramic clay.
In addition to the obvious physics involved, a key to domino is its ability to be easily broken. A nudge from an adjacent domino is all it takes to send the first piece rolling down the trail, and then each subsequent tile will push against it until all the pieces have fallen over. This is why you have to be careful not to touch your dominoes after playing a round.