The Basics of Domino


Domino is a game of skill and luck. The first player to reach an agreed upon score wins the game. In some games, the total value of the tiles in the losing players’ hands is counted and added to the winner’s score.

The player making the first play may be referred to as the setter, downer or leader. He draws the number of tiles for his hand that he is permitted to according to the rules of the specific domino game being played.


Dominoes are small rectangular blocks with a number of spots or blank sides. They are normally twice as long as they are wide and are called bones, cards, men or pieces. They are used in a variety of games for positional play or arithmetic calculation. Dominoes are believed to have originated in China in the 12th century but they may have come from Egypt or Asia as well.

The markings on the dominoes (known as pips) originally represented the results of throwing two six-sided dice. The word domino itself is probably derived from the French term dominus which means “lord” or “master.” It has also been suggested that the name is linked to the black dots on white faces of the domino pieces which reminded people of the black and white hoods worn by European Christian priests in winter.


There are a number of different rules for domino. While the two most popular games are Block and Draw, the game can also be played with a variety of other rule variations. The most basic rule is that a domino must be played to a double so that the matching ends touch each other.

If a player can’t play their tile, they “knock” or bang the edge of it on the table to indicate that they can’t continue. This signals the end of their turn, and play passes to the next player.

In the event of a tie, players count up the value of the pips on their remaining tiles and the winner is declared. In some games, players may bye tiles from the stock.


Domino tiles, also called bones, are twice as long as they are wide and have a value on each end ranging from blank or zero to six. The value of one side is called the pip count, and the value of the other side is called the rank or weight of the tile.

The standard domino set has 28 unique pieces, but larger-sized sets are available for more complex games. These extended sets have larger numbers of unique combinations of ends, allowing for more players. Popular extended sets include double-nine, double-12, and double-fifteen.

To score a domino game, you must maintain the initiative, or a lead, by driving down the opponent’s board count. This can be done by removing the highest-value domino in their hand or by blocking them with a higher-value piece.


Domino sets can be made from a wide variety of materials. The most common are tinplate or basic aluminum. Some are also made from natural materials such as stone or wood. These types of sets are usually heavier and have a more unique look.

During the early 19th century, craftsmen used animal bone as domino material. Some were even carved into floral designs by prisoners-of-war. These early dominoes were white on one side and black on the other, and had a thin piece of ebony inlaid for the dots.

By the end of the 19th century, a new type of plastic for dominoes was invented by Frenchman Charles Lepage. This was called Bois Durci, but was eventually replaced by Parkesine. This new material was a great improvement, but it had its downsides. For example, its light weight makes it susceptible to accidental falls.


In domino, scoring is based on the value of the pips on a tile. Typically, the winning player has a lower score than his or her opponent. In the rare event that both players are unable to play a tile, the game ends as a tie. Each player counts his or her tiles and reports the count to the opponent.

Some players use a method of scoring that subtracts the value of remaining dominoes in a player’s hand, rounded to the nearest multiple of five. This does not work well with a cribbage board and is usually used by beginners who cannot keep track of the total score in their heads. It also does not provide the advantage that comes with knowing how many outstanding pieces remain.