A domino is a small rectangular wood or plastic block with an identifying mark on one face and blank or identically patterned on the other. Its identifying marks, sometimes called pips, are an arrangement of dots resembling those on dice. The domino has an open end that can be joined with other dominoes to form a line of play, and the number of pips on each end of the domino is used to determine its value. The term “domino” is also used for the game itself, or for a set of dominoes played with a specific number of players.
When the first domino topples, it initiates a chain reaction that continues until all of the tiles have been laid down. This sequence is similar to how nerve impulses travel down a nerve cell axon, but with some important differences: dominoes can be rearranged and the chain reaction does not stop when a player runs out of tiles.
There are many different ways to play domino, but most fall into four categories: bidding games, blocking games, scoring games and round games. Each type of game requires its own unique set of rules, and each has its own way to determine who wins. In the case of scoring games, such as bergen and muggins, players earn points for the pips in their opponents’ hands. Blocking games, such as matador and chicken foot, require that a player’s hand be empty before they can make a play. Round games, such as charades and poker face, duplicate card games–without the possibility of the wind blowing cards away.
The most common domino game, draw-and-play, begins with all of the tiles shuffled and placed face down on a flat surface. Each player draws one domino from the stock to determine who plays first. The player who draws the highest double or, if no double is drawn, the highest-scoring domino, makes the first play. The remaining tiles remain in the stock for players to draw as needed.
After the first player has made a play, the rest of the players begin their turns in order of their rank. In most games, a player who cannot make another play takes a domino from the other players’ hands without looking at it and adds it to his own hand. If a player draws more than the number of tiles he is entitled to, this is called an overdraw.
Each player attempts to build his dominoes into a long line by matching one of the ends of his tile to a domino on the table that has an open end of the same number. This configuration of dominoes is called the layout, string or line of play. In most games, the dominoes are played lengthwise, but in some, they may be played crosswise.
Some players prefer to use a rule variation that allows them to immediately play a second tile on any double. This helps to speed up the game and can provide a better chance of winning.