The Basics of Domino

Domino is a game that features tiles stacked on end in long lines. When one domino is knocked over, it sets off a chain reaction that continues until all the dominoes have fallen. It’s a simple concept that allows for an enormous amount of creativity. Some people use dominoes to make complex designs, while others play simple games of skill.

The first dominoes were probably made of wood or bone, but later they were produced from other materials including ivory and metal. The most common dominoes today are made from polymer plastic, but they can also be found in stone, wood, and ceramic clay. The rules for domino vary from game to game, but most share certain basic principles.

Traditionally, dominoes are played on a table with a set of matching tiles. Each tile has a number showing on one side, and is blank or identically patterned on the other. These are called the pips or spots, and they are arranged in a pattern on each domino that is similar to those on dice. The pips are often colored, but some modern domino sets use more recognizable Arabic numerals. Each player adds a domino to the line of play by positioning it so that its open end touches an adjacent side of another domino (called its “pip”). The player may only place a tile that has matching pips with an open end of an already-played domino. This process is called “stitching up” the ends.

When a player plays a domino, it is generally done in turn by each player clockwise around the table. When a player is out of turn, he must either draw from the stock or wait until it is his turn again. If a player accidentally knocks over a domino that he did not play, he must remember where it was and return it to its original position.

The most commonly played dominoes have twenty pips on each end and can be used with four players. However, larger sets are frequently extended by introducing a third and then a fourth set of pips on the ends to increase the total number of possible combinations of pieces and the number of unique ends.

Lily Hevesh started playing with dominoes as a child, and she quickly became fascinated by how her grandparents’ 28-piece set could be set up in a straight or curved line and then knocked over. Now, Hevesh, 20, is a professional domino artist who creates mind-blowing installations for movies, television shows, and events—including a Katy Perry album launch.

When Hevesh makes a large-scale domino installation, she uses a version of the engineering-design process to plan and build each section. She then tests the largest 3-D sections with smaller flat arrangements to see how they work individually before adding them together. For the most elaborate installations, she may take several nail-biting minutes for each piece to fall. But the biggest reason her installations work is because of physics.