The Basics of Dominoes


A domino (plural dominoes) is a small rectangular block of wood or plastic marked with a number of dots resembling those on dice. It is used for playing games in which each player tries to place one of its sides edge to edge against another in such a way that their total number of pips forms some specified sum or pattern. The first side to reach its target is then removed from the line, and the reaction continues. Dominoes can be played with either the standard 28-tile set or with larger sets such as double-nine.

While there are many different domino games, nearly all of them can be divided into four categories: bidding games, blocking games, scoring games, and layout games. The basic rules for these four types of games differ from one to the next, and some games go by different names but have identical or similar rules.

Dominoes have a long history and are played throughout the world, but they became popular in Europe during the 18th century. They were used by people who wanted to play card games but could not because of religious prohibitions. In fact, there are even some card-like games that can be played with dominoes to circumvent such prohibitions.

In the west, most dominoes are used for positional games. The simplest of these involve placing a domino edge to edge with another, in order to form a specified total or pattern. Players draw a hand of tiles, and then make a play in turn, usually by matching the number of pips on the open ends of the two tiles. The resulting configuration is called the line of play, and there are specific rules for how to construct this line.

When a player plays out of turn, the other players may call “Misplay,” and the offending tile must be recalled. In some cases, the player must also reveal his hand to the other players in order to clarify a misplay. Often, a mistake in this type of situation results in the winning player receiving more points than he would have received if he had not made his mistake.

The most common commercially available domino sets are double six and double nine, although larger sets exist. Some of these are “extended” by adding more pips to the ends of some of the tiles, increasing the number of unique combinations of ends and thus, of dominoes. The most common extended sets include double-nine, double-12, and double-15.

As you can imagine, when constructing a large, intricate domino set, gravity is key. This force pulls each fallen domino toward Earth, causing it to cascade into the next and trigger the domino effect. This is why it takes so much time for Hevesh to complete her largest setups.

When writing, the domino effect is similar to the idea that when one scene in a story causes a ripple in the timeline or plot, all other scenes must be reworked in light of that change. This is especially true if you’re a pantser—a writer who doesn’t use an outline or tool like Scrivener to map out the structure of your novel ahead of time.