The Basics of Dominoes


Dominoes are small, rectangular, flat tiles with a line down the center. Each end features a number, which in the most common domino set ranges from six pips (or spots) down to 0 or blank. These tiles may be stacked in one direction or on their side, and they are normally twice as long as wide.

Traditionally, domino was played by two or more people in turns, placing each tile on top of the previous player’s pile in a chain reaction. The first player to reach a set number of pips, or a predetermined total, wins. While some games are deterministic and all the dominoes eventually fall in the same way, others can be dynamic and unpredictable, with each new turn adding to the overall complexity of the game.

The word “domino” and the related concept have been around for a while, appearing in English in 1750 and in French shortly thereafter. The word is a compound of two earlier senses, both referring to garments: the English meaning was a long hooded cloak worn with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade; in French, it denoted a cape worn over a priest’s surplice.

There are countless ways to play domino, but most involve placing adjacent tiles edge-to-edge, such that each tile carries either an identical or some specific value (e.g., 5 to 5) and thus contributes to a final score. To begin playing, a player draws dominoes from a deck and places them on the table in front of him or her. The first domino placed is determined either by the drawing of lots or by who holds the heaviest hand. The second player then plays a matching tile on the ends of the original domino, and so on.

While it’s possible to create a domino layout using just the tiles that came with the set, players are often encouraged to extend their sets by adding extra pieces with different numbers of pips. The most popular extended sets are double-twelve and double-nine, which contain 91 and 55 dominoes, respectively. These larger sets enable four players to pick 12 tiles each, rather than just nine as with a standard double-six set.

As a domino artist, Lily Hevesh creates impressive setups for movies, TV shows, and even events like the Katy Perry album launch. Hevesh started collecting dominoes when she was 9 and soon began posting videos of her intricate creations on YouTube.

Watch the video below to learn how Hevesh uses science to create her incredible setups. She says that gravity is the most important part of her work, because the force that pulls down a fallen domino is what makes the next domino tumble in a chain reaction. Each time a domino is stood up, it stores potential energy that is converted into kinetic energy when the next domino falls on top of it. This energy, in turn, triggers the next domino to tumble and so on.