How to Play Dominoes

Dominoes are a versatile toy that can be used in many different ways. Whether they are simply lined up to form an interesting shape, or placed on a table and manipulated into a game of blocking or scoring, dominoes are a great way to entertain children and adults alike. They can even help kids learn to count and recognize numbers, while also building motor skills as they manipulate the pieces.

Like playing cards, of which they are a variant, each domino has identifying marks on one side and is blank or identically patterned on the other. The markings, called “pips,” are arranged in arrangements of one, two, or three dots, similar to the markings on a die. A double domino has two pips, while a double-blank tile has none. The pips on a domino are usually numbered, although the rules for counting them vary among games and between players.

The four most common domino sets are the double-6, double-9, double-12, and double-15. Most domino games are designed to be played with these sets, but they can easily be modified to accommodate other types of tiles. Using larger sets allows more players to participate in the game. In fact, some popular party domino games use the double-9 and double-12 sets to accommodate large groups of people.

Typically, domino games are won by the player who has the most points after a certain number of rounds. The player earns points by laying dominoes end to end, with their exposed ends matching (i.e., one’s touch one’s or two’s and so on). Each exposed end must be a multiple of five; for example, the first domino laid is a 6-6, which produces open ends of 5 and 6. If another player plays a tile with a six on both sides, it counts as a double.

A player can also score by laying dominoes in other ways, such as by placing them on their edges or at right angles to each other. In these games, each domino must touch the exposed ends of the adjacent tiles. The winner is awarded the total of all the pips on opposing players’ tiles, including those that are blank (indicated in the listing with a zero).

In the business world, dominoes can have a more serious effect. After Hevesh Morris, a professional domino artist, created an elaborate display, thousands of the pieces stood motionless for several nail-biting minutes until she knocked them over. That’s because dominoes have inertia, or the tendency to resist motion, unless pushed or pulled by an outside force. The slightest nudge, however, will trigger them to fall. Hevesh explains that this is why it takes so long for her to create her intricate domino structures: Each domino has the potential to fall after it’s been set up, but it doesn’t until someone pushes on it. In the end, though, her domino art is a demonstration of the power of small changes to have a ripple effect.