The Art of Domino

Domino is the name of a family of games and other activities that involve arranging small square or rectangular wooden blocks on a flat surface so they will fall in a particular order. The blocks, known as dominoes or domino tiles, are usually marked with an arrangement of dots, or pips, similar to those on dice, but some are blank. Each pips is identified by its number and color, so that the domino pieces can be recognized even when they are placed upside down or in different positions. The game of domino can be played with one or more players. The basic rules of domino are similar across the many games that use it, but specific game rules vary widely and may change as the game is played.

While playing a domino game, each player attempts to make a play by placing a tile on the table. The first player to make a play is known as the lead, and the players who follow him or her are called followers. When the first player cannot play a domino, he or she calls out “spot,” and the next player takes his or her turn. The leader continues to call out “spot” as each player places a tile. After all the players have made their plays, the winning player is determined by counting the total number of pips in the losing players’ remaining dominoes.

One of the most popular ways to enjoy domino is by making domino art. In addition to straight lines, curved lines, and grids that form pictures when the dominoes are fallen, artists have also created 3D structures such as towers and pyramids. In fact, Domino artist Hevesh has worked on team projects with 300,000 dominoes and holds a Guinness world record for the largest circular domino set: 76,017. She has developed her own version of the engineering-design process to create her mind-blowing domino setups, and she says that one physical phenomenon is crucial: gravity.

The word “domino” is derived from the Latin dominus, meaning “lord,” and it was used in English to refer to a long hooded cloak worn together with a mask at carnival season or during a masquerade. It also appears in French, where it denoted a cape that a priest might wear over his or her surplice. The term may have also been influenced by the shape of the domino piece, which reminded some of a black priest’s cape contrasting with the white of his or her surplice. Today, domino is a common and versatile game and activity that can be enjoyed by both children and adults. The earliest domino sets were made from bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl or MOP), ivory, or dark hardwoods such as ebony. More recently, dominoes have been manufactured from a variety of natural materials, including marble, granite, and soapstone; ceramic clay; wood and bamboo; metal; and polymer resins. These alternative materials lend a more novel or rustic look to the pieces and are sometimes preferred by players who prefer a more durable, attractive, and tactile set of dominoes.