The Basics of Domino

domino

A domino is a small rectangular wood or plastic block with identifying marks on one side and blank or identically patterned on the other. These identifying marks are usually an arrangement of spots resembling those on dice.

Before play begins, the tiles are shuffled and players draw a hand of dominoes according to the rules of the game being played. Typically, the player who draws the highest double goes first.

Rules

The rules of domino vary from game to game. Generally, the instructions on this website cover games played with standard double-six and double-nine sets of dominoes. However, these basic instructions may also be used to play games with other types of dominoes.

The player who begins a turn must draw a tile from the stock and place it in front of him. Then he must announce his intention to play. If he has a double in his original hand or draws one, he must pay each opponent the point value of one end (e.g. 4 points each for a [4-4]).

The player who has the highest number of pips left in his hand at the end of a hand or game is declared the winner. Alternatively, some players may agree to count the total number of pips on the remaining tiles in each loser’s hands at the end of a hand or game and add that to the winner’s score.

Materials

A domino is a small, thumb-sized rectangular block of rigid material such as wood or plastic. It has a face that is either blank or marked with an arrangement of spots (also called pips) that resemble those on dice. There are two suits of dominoes, each with 28 tiles. A domino that features a particular number belongs to the suit of that number; a domino without a particular number is in the 0 suit.

In the past, dominoes were made from a variety of materials including bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother-of-pearl), ivory and dark hardwoods such as ebony. Today, most domino sets are made from polymer materials such as plastic.

A good quality domino set should come with a storage box. Some are small, narrow cardboard boxes; others are vinyl snap lock cases. The storage box will allow the owner to store a large number of dominoes and may include special scoring sheets for certain games.

Variations

There are several ways to play domino, but most involve laying tiles so that their ends touch each other. This allows new chains to start, and if the pips on the exposed ends add up to a multiple of five, the player is awarded points. Players may also score by blocking other players’ turns.

The simplest way to do this is by playing a tile that matches the number of pips on an already-played domino. Then, each subsequent player must add a tile to the chain by matching the number of pips on its open end.

Some players use this strategy to block other players’ turns, while others do it on a whim. This can lead to chaotic gameplay, which is why it is recommended that players limit the number of tiles they can add to their train each turn. This rule is especially important when playing with a spinner, which can create odd numbers of adjacent tiles and produce unfavorable scores for the player.

Scoring

The scoring system for domino can vary from game to game but most are based on the number of points each domino is worth. The winner is the first to score all of his or her points. The first player starts the scoring by placing a domino on the table touching one end to another. Each subsequent tile played is placed perpendicular to the double touched at one end and the pips on both ends are counted. The resulting chain develops into a snake-line as the tiles are laid one to the other.

There are two main strategies for winning a domino game: playing to score or playing to block. Playing to score usually involves aiming for the highest positive score possible without worrying about who dominates or blocking. While playing to block is more concerned with getting the lowest negative score. However, the blocking strategy requires careful consideration of the distribution of suits on the arms of the domino tableau.