How Dominoes Work

Dominoes are small oblong pieces of material used to play games in which a player tries to create a line of dominoes that is matched with a set of rules and criteria. These rules and criteria are usually based on the number of pips or dots on each side of the domino. Dominoes are also known as bones, cards, men, or tiles and can be made from many different materials. Most sets are made of polymer, with a molded plastic surface and painted or molded wood, but some are made of natural materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or dark hardwoods like ebony.

When a domino is triggered, it sets in motion a series of events that will eventually cause the entire domino chain to fall over. The same is true of a novel, where each plot beat is a domino that must be tipped to start the chain reaction of events. When that first domino is tipped, it unleashes a pulse of energy that travels at a speed independent of the size of the triggering domino and can only travel in one direction.

As it travels, the energy in a domino’s pulse is stored in each successive domino until it reaches the last one. That last domino then releases that energy into its surroundings, creating the desired effect. Unlike a firework that loses its kinetic energy as it explodes, a domino’s pulse moves at the same speed throughout the line, allowing the whole effect to unfold in a seamless and dramatic fashion.

The word domino derives from the Latin dominus, meaning master or leader, and earlier denoted a long hooded cloak worn with a mask for the upper part of the face during carnival season or at masquerades. A more recent sense is that of a game played with a large, rectangular tile with a printed pattern of dots on two sides.

Each game of domino has its own rules and guidelines for playing, but most of them can be categorized into four types: bidding games, blocking games, scoring games, and round games. In the first category are those in which players attempt to make a sequence of plays with a goal of reaching a specific point before anyone else does.

After the stock of 28 dominoes is shuffled and then arranged face down, players begin drawing from it, taking turns until everyone has seven tiles in his hand. When a domino is drawn, it may be placed on-edge in front of the player, allowing him to see only his own value, but not the values of his opponents’ tiles.

After a player draws a tile, it may be placed either in the line of play or across the line of play (depending on the rules of the game). When a tile is added to a line of play, that line can now be counted in one of two ways: 1) lengthwise, with each successive domino added to the end of the previous domino; or 2) crosswise, with each successive domino played along the sides of the matching number of pips.