Dominoes 101

Dominoes 101


The word domino is derived from Latin dominus, meaning “lord, master.” It can also refer to a costume consisting of a hooded robe worn with an eye mask at a masquerade. More often, it’s used as a noun referring to a set of small oblong blocks marked with a pattern of dots similar to those on dice. The most common commercially available sets contain 28 tiles. Dominoes are typically played with two players, although some games can be enjoyed by more than two people. Dominoes can be used for a variety of game types, including layout games and blocking games.

In layout games, players make a line of dominoes by matching the pips on one side of each tile to those on the end of the adjacent tiles in the same row. When a domino is played, it becomes part of this line of play, and the open end of the tile (the end that’s not joined to another tile) is considered the count.

As more tiles are added to the line of play, the count grows until the final tile is reached and play ends. In some layout games, the winner is determined by the player with the highest total on their remaining tiles. In others, a particular sequence of plays determines the winner.

Dominoes are also commonly used in positional games, where each tile is placed edge to edge against an adjoining domino that features the same pips. Each time a domino is played, its count increases by one. The count may also be calculated by using the value of a single tile or the sum of all numbers on the other side of the domino, which is sometimes referred to as the number suit.

When playing domino, each player draws seven tiles from the stock or boneyard to form his or her hand. The tiles are then placed on-edge in front of the players, so that each can see his or her own hand but not the other players’. As each player draws tiles for his or her hand, the other players must be made aware of how many tiles are left in the opponent’s hand. If a player draws more than he or she is entitled to, the extra tiles must be taken back and returned to the stock before anyone else draws from it.

When the first domino is toppled, a chain reaction occurs that can spread quickly. This process is similar to the way nerve impulses travel along an axon in the body, but it’s much faster and has greater impact because a single domino can trigger hundreds or thousands of other events at once. This effect is a powerful metaphor for the power of narrative. Whether you’re writing off the cuff or following a careful outline, understanding how to use dominoes as your structural building blocks can help you create a story that compels and engages readers.