What Is Dominoes?


If you’ve ever watched a domino construction, you know how exciting it can be to watch the whole thing cascade down after just tipping the first piece over. The same principle is at work in many of the events that occur in a novel, whether a character’s emotional shifts or a series of action-packed scenes. In fact, that’s one of the lessons I try to impart when teaching book editing services to my clients: To help them see how their story works best, they should think of every scene in their novel as a single domino, which can be tipped over in just the right way to create the desired reaction.

A domino is a small rectangular wooden or plastic block with a blank or patterned face and an arrangement of dots resembling those on dice on the other. In Western games, the dominoes are usually arranged in sets with identical pips on both sides, although other arrangements exist, and some are designed to circumvent prohibitions against playing cards. The dominoes have been made from a variety of materials including bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory and woods such as ebony. The most common dominoes are made of polymer, but some players favor sets made of natural material for their appearance and feel; these often have a heavier weight and cost more.

Dominoes are used to play a number of games involving blocking, scoring, and skill. The most basic western game is called the block-and-draw game, which can be played by two to four players. A player draws a number of dominoes equal to the total number of pips on a single domino, then plays them in turn, adding or subtracting the pips as necessary to complete an end. When the players have a combined sum of all the pips on their remaining dominoes that is less than zero, they win. A player may also score points by matching two dominoes, for example a double-six and a single-six.

In addition to the traditional block-and-draw games, there are a number of strategy games, puzzles, and other types of domino play, some of which are adaptations of card games. Other games include a number of variants on Concentration, and a few games that involve taking turns and betting.

While the typical set of dominoes has 91 tiles, many sets are extended to make it possible to play with more than four players. This is accomplished by introducing progressively larger ends with additional numbers of spots; for example, a double-twelve set adds three more pips to the maximum number on each domino.

A domino is often named for the number of pips it has on each half of its face; a domino with a combination of different amounts of pips, such as 3 and 5 pips, is referred to as a triplet. Other terms for a domino include: