Dominoes, also known as bones, cards, men, or pieces, are one of the oldest tools for game play and testing skill and patience. Dominoes are typically twice as long as they are wide and feature a line in the middle that divides them visually into two squares, each marked with an arrangement of dots called pips. The pips on each side of a domino indicate its value, which ranges from six pips down to none or blank.

Dominos are arranged to form chains, rows, and other shapes. Some of these structures are elaborate, such as curved lines that form a map or a picture, grids that are arranged to form patterns, and 3D structures like towers and pyramids. Creating a design in domino takes time and careful planning. Some designers may even use a ruler and pencil to mark out their designs on a piece of paper, before transferring them to the table.

A common scoring method used in many domino games is to count the number of pips on the tiles left in the losers’ hands at the end of a hand or the entire game. Players often agree to add this score to the winner’s total, but there are variations. For example, the winning player may decide that a double counts as only one point; or that all of the players should count each other’s points; or that a double should count as only four points.

There are many different games that can be played with dominoes, and each game has its own rules. Some of the most popular are blocking and scoring games. Others require a great deal of luck, such as matching pairs of tiles or finding the highest double to bye. Depending on the rules of the game, each player may be allowed to draw as few or as many tiles from the stock as they wish before making their first play.

Before each game, the players must shuffle the dominoes by thoroughly mixing them with their hands on a flat surface. Generally, the player who draws the highest double goes first, though some games specify that the player who did the shuffling will draw a hand for the game.

The word “domino” itself may have a somewhat obscure origin. It may be related to the French term domine, which means crown or tiara. It may also have been derived from the earlier English word domino, which denoted a garment worn over a priest’s surplice. The earliest known use of the word is from 1750, though it had been in use for much longer. The word is also linked to the Latin Dominoe, which in turn refers to a type of hooded cloak. In the 1300s, domino was also used to describe a chessboard or pattern of squares. In fact, the oldest known game using dominoes was a form of chess that was developed in China. Invented in the 1400s, this game, also called Chinese checkers, was originally intended to be a way for people to practice chess without having to leave their homes and risk being punished for playing illegally.