The Basics of Domino


Domino is a game in which players place dominoes edge to edge against one another, positioning each so that the open ends of the tiles match. The first player to do this starts a chain reaction that causes each of the other dominoes in turn to topple. This type of game can involve any number of players, from two to a whole table. It is a popular form of entertainment for children and adults alike.

The most common type of domino set consists of 28 double-six sided tiles, although larger sets exist. The pips on the surface of each tile are colored to identify their suit. A tile with a color that matches the suit of the tile played on its left is called a spinner; this is useful in some games because it is easier to see when a double can be played on three sides.

When a spinner is played, the other dominoes on the line of play may be rotated to make the best use of available space. This is often done for strategic reasons, as it allows the next domino to be placed closer to a side of the board that has been occupied by a previous player’s play.

In some games, a player’s seat at the table is determined by lot. In others, the player who holds the highest domino in his hand begins play. If there is a tie, it is broken by drawing new dominoes from the stock.

Some domino games require a player to build a line of tiles by matching the pips on the open end of the domino being played. This formation is called the line of play, and there are basic instructions listed here for a number of games that use this scoring method. Some games, however, employ a different method of scoring, in which the losing players’ total number of pips at the ends of their line of play is added to the winner’s score. Depending on the game, this might be done by counting both ends of a double or only one of its ends (for example, a 5-4 count counts as only 4 points).

For some domino enthusiasts, creating intricate designs is the ultimate goal. Hevesh, who has worked on projects involving up to 300,000 dominoes and helped set a Guinness record for most dominoes toppled in a circular arrangement, credits one physical phenomenon for her amazing creations: gravity. “When you stand up a domino, it gets potential energy from the fact that it is upright against the force of gravity,” says physicist Stephen Morris, a professor at the University of Toronto. When a domino falls, much of that potential energy is converted to kinetic energy as the domino races toward the ground and collides with the next domino in a chain reaction that can reach astonishing lengths. Hevesh test-drives each section of her largest installations, and she sometimes films the sequence in slow motion to make adjustments as necessary.