(or "dominos") generally refers to the individual or collective
gaming pieces making up a domino set (sometimes called a deck or
pack) or to the games played with these pieces. (In the area of
mathematical tilings and polysquares the word domino often refers
to any rectangle formed from joining two squares edge to edge.)
Standard domino sets consist of 28 pieces called bones, tiles, stones
or dominoes. Each bone is a rectangular tile with a line dividing
its face into two square ends. Each end is marked with a number
of black spots (also called pips) or is blank. The spots are generally
arranged as they are on six-sided dice, but because there are also
blank ends having no spots there are normally seven possible faces.
Standard domino sets have ends ranging from zero spots to six spots
(double six set), but specialized sets might range from zero to
nine (double nine set), zero to twelve (double twelve set), zero
to fifteen (double fifteen set), or zero to eighteen (double eighteen
The back side of a domino is generally plain. Dominoes have been
made of bone, ivory, plastic, and wood, and occasionally are made
of cardstock like that for playing cards. Dominoes are rather generic
gaming devices--just as are playing cards. Many different games
can be played with a set of dominoes.
Bones are generally named for the number of spots on the two ends
of the bone. A bone with a 2 on one end and a 5 on the other end
is called the 2-5, for example. Bones that have different numbers
on the two ends are called singles, and bones that have the same
number on both ends are called doublets or doubles. Bones that share
a common number of spots on one end are said to be of the same suit.
In a double-six set, for example, 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5,
and 1-6 all belong to the suit of one. All singles belong to two
suits. The 1-2, for example, belongs to the suit of one and the
suit of two. All doubles belong to one suit only.
of domino pieces
The value of each end of a bone is determined by the number of spots
on the end, with zero (blank) being the lowest and six being the
highest. The rank of a bone is determined by the combined number
of pips on the two ends. This rank is sometimes referred to as the
bone's weight so that a higher ranking bone is called a heavier
bone while a lower ranking bone is called lighter.
4-6 played on 4-5The bones that are face up in play are called
the layout, chain, or line. The layout will have one or more open
ends that are available to be played upon. In most games, there
are two open ends--one at each end of a line of bones. In some games
there may be more, or there may be varying numbers depending upon
the circumstances of play. In some games, the first doublet of each
hand, often called the "sniff" or "spinner",
forms the intersection of a cross in the layout. This usually means
that there are four open ends once the doublet has been played.
When only a single bone has been played, the two open ends are generally
the two ends of the bone. If Player A played a 4-5, for example,
there is a 4 on one open end and a 5 on the other. The next player
must usually play a bone with an end that matches one of the open
ends. Player B, therefore, must play a bone with either a 4 or a
5, and the matching ends must touch. If Player B plays the 4-6,
the new bone is placed with the two 4 ends touching so that the
new open ends are 5 and 6. Doubles are placed crosswise and sprouted
(played upon) crosswise. As the layout grows, the two ends of the
layout generally form the two playable ends.
Most domino games are block games or draw games. In draw games,
players draw from the boneyard when they have no matching bone.
In block games, players pass and forfeit the turn when they have
no matching bone. Otherwise, there is no difference. Both generally
consist of several hands of dominoes played until one of the players
accumulates an agreed upon number of points and wins the series.
Points are generally earned only by the first player in each hand
to go out (play his or her last bone, also called to domino) and
win the hand. The primary object is thus to play all ones bones
before an opponent does.
There are many
existing rules for determining which player is the leader (or downer),
the player to make the first play of the hand. In some rules, the
lead is determined by lottery. The bones are shuffled face down
on the table, and each player draws one bone. The player with the
highest double, or heaviest bone, or other agreed upon prize is
designated the leader. By this rule, the leader then reshuffles
the bones before the final deal. By other rules, the final deal
determines the leader. Playing the first bone of a hand is sometimes
called setting the first bone, leading the first bone, downing the
first bone, or posing the first bone, and the bone so set, led,
downed, or posed is called the set, the lead, the down, or the pose.
After the first hand, the winner of the previous hand is usually
the leader for the next. By some rules, however, the lead rotates
player to player across hands.
After the final
shuffle the bones are dealt; each player in turn draws the number
of bones required. The stock of bones left behind is called the
boneyard, and the bones therein are said to be sleeping. If the
leader was determined by lottery, the leader sets by placing any
bone face up on the table. If the leader was not determined by lottery,
the player with the highest double leads with that double, and if
no player has a double, the hand is reshuffled and redealt.
The next player,
and all players in turn, must play a bone with an end that matches
one of the open ends of the layout. Play continues until one of
the players goes out (and calls "out!" or "domino!")
and wins the hand or until all the players are blocked. If all the
players are blocked the player with the lightest hand wins.
In block games,
players who cannot match on their turn must forfeit the turn by
knocking (passing)--accomplished by rapping twice on the table or
by saying, "go" or "pass". In draw games, players
who cannot match must draw bones from the boneyard until obtaining
a playable bone. According to most rules, the last two bones in
the boneyard may not be drawn. If the boneyard is exhausted (only
two bones left), the player knocks.
player scores a point for each pip on each bone still held by each
opponent. If no player went out, however, and the win was determined
by the lightest hand, the winning player sometimes scores a point
for each pip on each bone still held by each opponent, and sometimes
only the excess held by opponents. A game is generally played to
100 points, the tally being kept with paper and pencil or on a cribbage
Dominoes are descendants of dice. The two ends on each of the original
Chinese dominoes represented one of the 21 combinations that can
occur with the throw of two dice. Modern western dominoes, however,
have blank ends on them as well and so the number of dominoes is
generally 28. Dominoes were apparently unknown in Europe until the
18th century and may have been invented in their modern form in
Italy. The dark spots on light faces apparently reminded people
of masquerade masks with eyeholes (called dominoes) and thus gave
the playing pieces their name. Chinese dominoes do not have blanks,
but some whole tiles are duplicated..
Other than playing games of strategy, another common pastime using
domino tiles is to stand them on edge in long lines, then topple
the first tile, which falls on and topples the second, etc., resulting
in all of the tiles falling. Arrangements of thousands of tiles
have been made that have taken several minutes to fall. By analogy,
similar phenomena of chains of small events each causing similar
events leading to eventual catastrophe are called domino effects.
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