Domino Basics


Domino is a popular board game that can be played in many ways. Its most common form is a scoring game where players place dominoes edge to edge so that their adjacent faces match or total a certain number.

A domino set consists of 22 double-sided tiles. These may be arranged in a layout that is open for play or closed off completely.


Depending on the game being played, domino rules vary considerably. There are, however, some basic rules that most games share.

For instance, each tile placed must touch one end of a previous tile that is already on the table. This creates a chain that is either lengthwise or crosswise. In most cases, doubles are played on a crosswise line and singles are played lengthwise.

When playing domino, each player takes turns making a play. The player who makes the first play is referred to as the setter, the downer, or the lead.

Players then alternately extend the line of play by adding tiles that match the number of pips on an open end of the previous tile. When a player can’t make a play, they “knock.” They bang the edge of the domino or tap it with their hand to signal that they can’t move and thus forfeit their turn. The remaining dominoes are gathered into a group called the boneyard or chickenyard, and players draw from this pile to continue the turn.


Dominoes are small, flat, rectangular blocks used as gaming pieces. They have been made from a number of materials over the centuries, including ivory, bone, and wood. They are typically twice as long as they are wide, and have a line down the center with numbers that range from zero to six.

These numbers are called pips, and each domino has a unique value. The most common set of dominoes is double-six, which contains 28 tiles. There are also larger sets, such as double-nine and double-twelve, which are popular for games involving more than one player.

Most modern dominoes are made of plastic, but there are some high-end varieties made from other materials, such as marble or ebony. These are usually considered works of art, and they have a much higher price tag than the ones sold in most stores. The type of domino you choose depends on the types of games you intend to play and your budget.


There are a wide variety of domino games. Some are block games in which players try to empty their hands; others involve scoring during play. Many games are played with a standard double-6 set, but some are designed for use with larger sets such as the double-nine or double-12 sets.

The game starts with a double to start the domino chain and then each player can add to their train during each turn. The trains can be public, meaning that any player may play on them; or private, meaning only the player who owns them can play on them.

Typically, the winning player is the one with the least total number of spots on the remaining dominoes in their hand at the end of the round. This is usually calculated by adding the value of each open ended domino in the players’ hands, rounded to the nearest multiple of five. In the rare case that all dominoes are drawn from the boneyard and no player can proceed, the round ends as a draw, and each player counts and reports their dot count to the opponent.


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Each domino has a line that divides it visually into two square ends, each with a number of dots (or pips) ranging from six up to none or blank. This value, called the rank or weight of a tile, determines its suit and also its value in scoring games.

During the course of a hand, players build a chain by laying tiles end to end, with matching ends touching. The chain then develops a snake-like shape according to the whims of the players and the limitations of the playing surface. The exposed ends of the tile are then counted for a score.