Dominoes are a popular pastime for many people, and they can be used to create artistic designs. These designs may be simple straight lines, curved lines, grids that form pictures, stacked walls, or 3-D structures. The rules of domino vary from place to place, and even the same game may be played differently in different parts of the world. There are several types of domino games that have different names, but they all have similar (and sometimes identical) rules.
A domino is a small, rectangular piece of wood or ivory, with an identifying pattern on one side and blank or identically patterned on the other. The identifying pattern is usually a series of alternating black and white squares, but other designs may be used. The pips on the sides of the domino indicate its number, and some squares may be labeled with a suit. The simplest dominoes are marked only with the number, while more elaborate sets are made with suits and other symbols.
Unlike cards, dominoes are designed to be played on a flat surface. Most sets are rectangular in shape, but circular or hexagonal versions exist as well. Regardless of their shape, dominoes are generally light and easy to handle. They are small enough to be easily handled by children, and they can also help children learn to count.
The word “domino” comes from the Italian verb dominare, which means to dominate. The first use of the term is believed to be in the 17th century, when it was applied to a long hooded cloak worn together with a mask at carnival season or a masquerade. The hooded cloak was made of a dark material like ebony, while the mask was adorned with ivory or silver. The name is also thought to have come from the contrast of a black domino against a white surplice.
After a set of dominoes has been shuffled, the player holding the highest double starts play. In some games, players may agree to draw new hands if no one has a higher double. If there is a tie, the player with the heaviest single begins play.
The player must place his first domino on the table so that it touches only one end of a line of existing dominoes, but not both ends. Then the player must continue playing tiles, positioning them so that a new domino always touches only one end of the line. The player who has the most dominoes in a row wins the game.
The most common dominoes are plastic, but some sets are made from natural materials such as bone or silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, and a dark hardwood such as ebony with contrasting black or white pips. These are more expensive than polymer dominoes, but they have a more traditional look and feel. Other types of dominoes include sets that are made of marble, granite, soapstone, or a variety of other stones; metals such as brass and pewter; ceramic clay; and frosted glass.