Domino is a small rectangular block of wood or plastic with one or more surfaces that have been divided into “suits” by pips (small raised bumps resembling the dots on dice) or blank or marked with numbered areas. It is often used as a gaming object, though it also can be manipulated to create a work of art. Other names include bones, men, pieces, and tiles. Domino is used worldwide for a variety of games and artistic applications.
The most common use of domino is for a game of chance in which players place tile ends to end on the table. Each tile has a number on it, and the two matching ends must touch each other. Then each player places another tile end to end on the existing chain (or, if it’s a double, perpendicular to the line), and the points scored depend upon what the exposed ends have – one’s touching two’s, three’s touching five’s, or all six of them adding up to a given total.
More recently, domino has become a popular medium for creating works of art in which the resulting lines or striations formed by the fallen dominoes form patterns and shapes. Artists have envisioned curved lines, grids that form pictures when the dominoes fall, stacked walls of dominoes, and even 3D structures like pyramids. Such works have been created on a wide range of materials including polymer, ceramic clay, and even frosted glass and crystal.
In the West, domino games are most commonly played with the standard “double six” or “double nine” set that consists of 28 tiles. However, larger sets are available for a more extensive variety of games, and some games may be played with as few as seven tiles.
Most domino games involve a certain degree of strategy, and the way that one’s opponents play their dominoes can have a great impact on the outcome of the game. Some people prefer to take a more casual approach to the game, in which the goal is simply to score as many points as possible by placing all of one’s tiles down on the board.
The first domino to fall, called the “spinner,” is usually set on the center of the table. Then the other tiles are laid out in a straight line or curve, and each subsequent player must try to match the other players’ placements by placing his or her tiles so that the exposed ends of the tiles are all either identical or add up to some specified number.
Domino is an interesting material to experiment with in physics class. A domino can be pushed by an outside force, but it has a tendency to resist motion in the direction it is facing until it has reached its tipping point. Then the potential energy that was stored in the domino becomes kinetic, and it will continue to fall.
The term domino is also sometimes applied to a long hooded cloak worn together with a mask at a carnival or masquerade. It may also refer to a long white cape worn by a priest over a black surplice.