The Basics of Dominoes

Dominoes are cousins of playing cards and allow for a variety of games. Like the cards, dominoes have identifying markings on one side and are blank or identically patterned on the other.

Dominos can be arranged in straight or curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, or even stacked walls. Builders compete in domino shows to see who can create the most impressive structures.


There are a variety of different games that can be played with dominoes. These vary in complexity and rules, but there are some basic principles that apply to all of them.

For example, traditional domino sets contain one unique piece for each of the six possible combinations of two ends with spots from zero to six (a double-six set). These pieces are identified by the arrangement of dots on their surfaces, which is similar to that used on a die.

Once a domino has been laid, the players must try to match it with other dominoes, forming either a line or a train. Normally, the player who can form a train wins the hand. If no player can make a play, the players will continue to draw from the boneyard until one player has all the tiles in their hand or the game becomes blocked. When this occurs, the winning player subtracts the value of their own domino tiles from each of his opponents and scores the resulting total rounded to the nearest multiple of five.


In the past, domino sets were made from a variety of materials. European-style dominoes were typically made from bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), or ivory with contrasting black pips. They were also made from woods such as ebony and rosewood; metals like brass and pewter; and ceramic clay.

Today, dominoes are manufactured from plastics, metals, and stone. They can also be made from wood, although this is less common due to its weight and cost. Some sets feature colored dots instead of black or white, making them easier to match.

Some domino sets feature special patterns that add a bit of educational value to the game. For example, a set that features a pattern inspired by Kandinsky’s paintings helps players understand abstract art and the history of color theory. These sets are usually more expensive than traditional domino sets. They should be played on a table with felt to prevent scratching the faces of the tiles.


There are many different domino games with a wide variety of rules. Some of them are blocking games, while others are scoring games in which players score by counting the number of dominoes left in an opponent’s hand. The most basic domino game requires a double-six set from which each player draws seven tiles; the remaining ones are not used.

The line of play is a crucial part of most domino games. It is formed by matching the pips on open ends of adjacent dominoes. Some rules, such as those for Chicken Foot and Matador require that all sides of a spinner be occupied before the other end can be played.

Other rules allow for branching of the line of play. The heaviest double (like 4|4) is often used to start a new line of play. Moreover, some variations use curved dominoes that affect the way a line of play is formed. Some examples include Bendomino and Network domino.


Dominoes are numbered on both sides and have an arrangement of dots, called “pips,” that determine their value. Dominoes are normally twice as long as they are wide, and each is divided visually into two squares called ends. Each end is identified by a number of pips that match those on the adjacent squares.

In scoring domino, the goal is to form chains whose sums of all the end tiles are multiples of five or three. Each time a player adds to a domino chain, the score is increased by that amount.

The winner is the first to play a domino that makes a match with one of the opponent’s hand, then adds a second tile to finish their train. Players can also block opponents, or “domino” them. The blocking game is more aggressive and is usually played with higher player counts. If a player can’t advance their train, they may draw from the bone yard until they find a match.