The Basics of Dominoes

Dominoes are a type of tile game that requires skill and practice to master. They are often played on a large flat surface such as a floor, but may also be set up on tables or other surfaces. Traditionally, dominoes are made from bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl) or ivory with contrasting black or white pips (inlaid or painted). In recent times, sets have been manufactured in other materials such as wood, marble and granite; stone, including soapstone; metals; ceramic clay; and even crystal. These sets have a more exotic appearance and feel to them, but are usually much more expensive than polymer sets.

Like playing cards, of which they are a derived a fad, the dominoes themselves bear identifying marks on one side and are blank or identically patterned on the other. The identifiers on the dominoes are called “pips” because of their resemblance to the spots on a die, except that the pips on a domino are usually marked with an arrangement of two, three or four dots.

The earliest documented use of dominoes is from the mid-18th century in Italy and France, where they became a fad. At the same time, domino puzzles began to be produced, which asked players to place tiles based on arithmetic properties of the pips, such as totals of lines of tiles and tile halves.

There are many different games that can be played with dominoes, but most of them fall into one of four categories: bidding games, blocking games, scoring games and round games. The most common of these are bidding games, where the player who makes the first play has the advantage, and blocking games, where players protect their own pieces from being taken by the opponent. Scoring games require the careful manipulation of the stack, whereas round games depend on luck and quick judgment.

Before a game begins, the dominoes are shuffled and placed face down on the table. This stack is called the stock or boneyard, and each player draws seven tiles from the stock into his hand. These tiles may be placed on-edge in front of the players, which allows them to see their own pieces but not those of their opponents, and they are usually numbered so that each player knows how many dominoes remain in his hand at any time.

Once the order of play is determined, each player adds his tile to a line of dominoes that has already been set. Each new end of the line must match an existing free end to form a chain. Some games only allow one player to add a tile to the line at a time, while others involve several players adding their tiles in turns.

If a tile has been misplayed, it must be recalled before the next player plays a tile on it. If a tile is not recalled before the next player plays, it must stand and the player who played the tile must pay for that misplay. After all the players have played a tile, any remaining tiles in the stock are reshuffled and, depending on the rules of the particular game being played, may be bought by the player who plays the highest double.