Dominoes are small rectangular blocks, each side being either blank or marked with dots resembling those on dice. They are normally about twice as long as they are wide, but they can be made in many different sizes. A domino is normally able to be stacked vertically in a line, and the end of a stack may form a kind of point which is used to contact another domino to initiate play. Each domino is normally referred to as a “tile” and a set of tiles is referred to as a “domino set.” The most common dominoes are molded from clay or plastic, but they can also be made from other materials including bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or dark hardwood such as ebony. A number of games can be played with a domino set, and some can be very complicated.
Most domino games are positional, meaning that one tile is played onto the table so that it touches or “appears to touch” an adjacent piece. This causes that piece to fall, thereby starting a domino chain. The chains can be used to create a variety of patterns that may then be used in the game, and the length of a domino chain may be significant in some games.
In addition to the positional games, there are a number of solitaire or trick-taking games which make use of dominoes and which were once popular in certain areas to circumvent religious prohibitions against playing cards. These types of games depend on the matching of tiles and the open ends of the previous tile.
If a player draws more tiles for his hand than he is permitted to, he must immediately return the excess to the stock without looking at them. These extra tiles are referred to as an overdraw. The player to his left then takes the remaining tiles in the stock for his hand. This process is repeated until every player has a hand consisting of the number of tiles to which he is entitled.
There are a number of variants on the basic domino concept, and the rules for each game vary considerably. However, most of the games can be categorized into four categories: bidding or money games; blocking or scoring games; and round or draw games.
In some games, a player may choose to buy a particular tile from the stock, and this changes the rules of the game. In other games, the players must merely play their hands in order to win, and there is no buying of any tiles. There are even domino art pieces, such as curved lines that form pictures when they fall or stacked walls that look like castles and pyramids. These are often created as part of a theme or to promote a brand. This can be a fun activity for families and groups of friends. The more skillful players can even create domino art using their own designs!