Dominoes are flat, thumb-sized blocks that bear an arrangement of pips, like those on a die, on one side and are blank or identically patterned on the other. A complete set of dominoes contains 28 such tiles. Known as dominoes or domino pieces, they are used in a variety of games in which players match the pips on the ends of the tiles to create chains that cascade down the table, either in straight lines or in angled arrangements.
In addition to traditional game rules, many domino games have special rules governing how the tiles are laid down. In general, a tile must be played so that it covers an end of a chain already on the table. The matching pips on the two adjacent ends of a tile must be connected, but this is not always possible in every case.
The most common method of scoring a game is to count the number of ends that are covered by the tiles already on the table. The number of pips on the exposed ends of a tile may also be used to determine how much a player earns, though this is not done in all games.
Depending on the type of game, the number of pips on the exposed ends can also be used to determine the value of a piece. This value is determined by multiplying the number of pips on the exposed end of a domino by the number of exposed sides that it has. This value is then added to the score for a domino played.
When a domino is played correctly, it forms part of a line of play that increases in length as other players make their plays. When a domino is played incorrectly, it must be removed from the table. When a domino is played so that it exposes an end of a chain that has not yet been built, it is known as a spinner and is treated differently.
Before playing, players should shuffle the dominoes thoroughly and mix them by touching them with both hands. The player who shuffles the dominoes should be the last to draw his hand for a game. Some players take turns shuffling before each game; others prefer to have the winner of the previous game shuffle for the next.
Dominoes have been made from a wide variety of natural materials. They are traditionally crafted from bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl) or ivory with a dark hardwood such as ebony, often inlaid with black or white pips. More recently, sets have been crafted from a variety of other materials including stone; metals; ceramic clay; and even frosted glass or crystal. These alternative materials give a different feel to the game and may attract more attention from players and observers because of their distinctive appearance.
Dominoes are small enough to be manageable in a confined workshop and detailed enough to demand respect for the craftsmanship that goes into their creation. In fact, the word domino derives from a Latin expression meaning “masquerade mask.” Earlier senses of the phrase also included a long hooded cloak worn together with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade and the garment that a priest wears over his surplice.