How to Play Domino
Domino is a set of flat, rectangular, clay or wood tiles, normally with a line in the middle to divide it visually into two squares. Each side of the domino has a number of dots, or pips, that count toward its value. The most common domino set, a double-twelve, contains 91 tiles. Depending on how the game is played, larger sets are sometimes used. These extended sets have additional, “flip-over” tiles that increase the maximum number of unique ends in the set.
While there are numerous ways to play domino, the majority of games fall into four categories. These are bidding games, blocking games, scoring games and round games. Each of these types of domino can teach children numbers and counting skills, as well as the importance of taking turns.
One of the most important rules to know when playing domino is that a player must always play a tile that can match the open end of the last tile played in the line of play. If a player cannot do this, she must recall the misplay and allow the next player to make his or her play. The first player to play a tile that matches the open end of the last tile in the line of play is known as the lead, and must follow the basic instructions listed on this site under Line of Play.
During the 12th or 13th century, an amateur craftsman in China developed a method of making domino that would be small enough to fit into his grandmother’s cramped workshop but detailed enough to demand respect for the skill of the woodworking craftsman. His method was so successful that domino was soon sold in large quantities throughout the world and continues to be a popular hobby among people of all ages.
In some domino games, a player’s score is determined by counting the total number of pips left in his or her hands at the end of a hand or game. In these games, the winner is the player whose total of all his or her remaining pips is the lowest. A rule variation some players agree to employ is to only count the pips on the end of a domino that has been played, not the whole tile.
The most common way to determine a domino’s value is to count its pips, or spots, which are usually represented by Arabic numerals. However, some domino sets have a central line to divide it visually into two squares, so the pips can be counted in two places.
There are a few other determining factors in a domino’s value. A double-twelve, for example, has a maximum of twelve pips on each end, while the most common extension to a double-twelve set is double-nine, adding five more pips to each of the ends. This increases the possible combinations of ends in a domino and allows more players to participate. This is an advantage in blockage games that require a large number of players.