The Art of Domino


Domino is a game with many variations and a variety of rules. It is often played with a set of 28 domino pieces that are rectangular and thumb-sized. Each piece bears an arrangement of spots, or pips, on one side and is blank or identically patterned on the other. The pips are usually used to identify the pieces, but in some games the pips have no significance and other symbols may be substituted. The word “domino” and the game itself have a somewhat obscure history. Both the game and its name came to England after 1750, but they owe their development to French influence. In France, the word had earlier denoted a hooded cloak worn together with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade.

Unlike most games where the rules are clear, dominoes can be made to fit any theme or story. Some people even make domino art by creating elaborate layouts that can include straight lines, curved lines, grids that create pictures when they fall, or 3-D structures like towers and pyramids. Some of these designs use a lot of math, while others are just plain fun.

When someone sets up a domino art layout, they usually start with the biggest 3-D sections first and then add flat arrangements and then finally the lines of dominoes that connect all the different sections. Hevesh uses a kind of engineering-design process for her setups and makes test versions of each part before she finalizes the design. She also films the tests in slow motion, so she can see exactly how the dominoes work and correct any issues.

Dominos can be made from a variety of materials. Some are polymer-based, while others are crafted from natural materials such as bone or silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or ebony. The most common material, however, is cardboard. A number of new polymer-based domino sets have been developed to replace traditional wooden or plastic ones that were once the standard. These polymer-based sets are cheaper and more durable than traditional ones, but they lack the beauty of natural materials.

In most domino games, each player in turn places a domino edge to edge against an opposing player’s domino. The winner of the round is the player who completes all the remaining “pips” in his or her opponent’s dominoes. In some games, a double can be placed only if it straddles the end of the tile with which it is connected; in other games, it may only be played square on the other side of the tile.

Other players score points by awarding the pips of opposing player’s tiles to the winner, who then uses the winning tiles to form a chain or pattern. When the chain or pattern reaches the last domino, it is a “knock” and play passes to the next player. In some multi-round games, the player who scores the most points after a given number of rounds wins.