How to Play Dominoes

Dominoes are flat blocks of rigid material used as gaming objects. Also known as bones, men, pieces, or tiles, dominoes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are made for a single use, while others are designed to be reused and can be stacked to form 2D or 3D structures. While they are often used for gaming, there is a great deal of art and creative expression that can be accomplished with dominoes.

Each domino is marked with a number of dots on two adjacent sides, called ends. These marks, which are sometimes referred to as pips, determine the value of a particular domino. A domino with more pips is said to be “heavier” than a domino with fewer pips.

Typically, a domino is twice as long as it is wide. This makes it easier to re-stack the tiles after play. Most people who enjoy domino games use a set of rules that determine the order of play and how the game is scored. This order of play is commonly referred to as the line of play. The rules of a game may be complex, but most are easy to learn.

When a player cannot make another play, he raps the table and passes play to his neighbor. The resulting chain, or line of play, develops in a snake-like fashion as each player plays a tile. The line of play may be altered by changing the direction in which the tile is played. For example, a double must be placed cross-ways to the previous domino in the line, or perpendicular to it.

Most domino games require that a person who holds the highest double, or a double with matching ends, make the first play. The rules of some games allow the first player to draw new hands if the heaviest double is not available.

In some games, a player draws only the number of tiles he is permitted to take according to the rules of that game and adds them to his hand. In these cases, the player is not allowed to look at the pips on his newly drawn tiles. If he draws more than he is allowed to, he must return them to the stock before the next player begins play.

A player may play a domino with matching ends only once during the course of a game. When a player does so, he places the tile on the line of play so that the open ends match the pips of the preceding domino. This configuration, also known as a layout or string, is often the basis of the game’s strategy and tactics.

Some players have very large collections of dominoes. This is often a result of purchasing sets that were not intended to be combined into larger sets. It is not unusual for these collectors to develop their own games or variations of the basic ones shown on this website. These games, generally involving a greater number of players, may be bidding or blocking games.