# Dominoes

Dominoes are small, flat blocks used as gaming objects. They can be stacked on end in long lines and when the first one is tipped, the others will fall in a beautiful cascade.

The winner of a game is the player whose hand has the most total pips at the end of the game. This number is calculated by counting the pips on the tiles left in the losing players’ hands.

## Origin

Dominoes have a long history. Though they may have originated with the Egyptians, they are most often attributed to China in the 12th century. They were traditionally made from bone or wood, and even carved from ivory—materials readily available at the time. Modern dominoes are mostly made from heavy plastic.

The first sets of European dominoes contained a single tile for each of the 21 results of two thrown dice and had no blank tiles. The standard double-six set contains 28 tiles. Later, more elaborate sets were invented, including the double-nine and double-12.

The game was introduced to the West by Chinese sugar field workers in Cuba, who taught it to Mexicans building railroads alongside them. The game spread to the United States from there.

## Rules

In most domino games, the player with the highest double begins play. If a tie exists, the player with the heaviest single begins play. If a single is played to a double, the next tile must be placed so that the matching ends are touching fully.

Each player draws a number of tiles from the stock according to the rules for that game. Then, they place these in front of themselves. The players may also buy a tile from the stock, depending on the rules of the game.

Each domino has identifying marks on one end and blank or identically patterned on the other. There are a number of different ways that these ends can be combined to form the different types of domino.

## Variations

Many different games are played with dominoes. Some games involve blocking, while others are scoring games. In a scoring game, players score points by attaching one of their dominoes to the end of another tile that already has a value attached to it. Usually, the player with the lowest total of spots on his or her remaining dominoes wins.

Dominoes have a line in the middle that divides them into two squares, each bearing an arrangement of spots or “pips.” These dots identify the tile’s value.

The number of pips on an open end determines which tiles are allowed to match it. This pattern of matching is called the line of play. In most domino games, the winner of the previous hand starts the new hand.

## Materials

Over the centuries, domino pieces have been made in a wide variety of materials. Each is usually twice as long as it is wide and bears an identifying surface on one side. The identifying surface may be blank or it may feature an arrangement of spots, called pips, which represent numbers. The other side of the piece is often a dark color such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory or ebony with contrasting white or black pips inlaid.

Most modern mass-produced domino sets are plastic, though other material categories such as metal and stone also exist. In addition, wood domino is available as a high-end luxury product. Some are hand carved and finely finished, often layered with different woods to create unique patterns.

## Scoring

Many domino games feature a scoring system. In 5s-and-3s, for example, the players compete to attach a domino from their hand to an exposed end of those already played so that the total points of the exposed ends is divisible by five or three. The player who can do this is awarded a score.

Some games, such as blocking games, are won by eying up all the opponents’ remaining unplayed dominoes. In these cases, the winning player is given a score equal to the number of dots in his opponents’ unplayed dominoes. Other games involve scoring during a series of hands, with the score accumulating towards a target total. Some of these are round games, where the players play a group of dominoes in a circular pattern.