How to Play Dominoes

Domino is a popular board game, but it also serves as a fun way to teach kids numbers. It can be played in a variety of formats, including scoring games like bergen and muggins or blocking games such as matador, Mexican train, and chicken foot. Each domino has a unique design, and some are even 3D structures that can be arranged to form pictures or towers when they fall.

The word domino comes from the Italian verb dominar, meaning to control. Historically, the game has been used to demonstrate military control over an opponent, but it has since become a common means of entertainment for families and friends. Today, many people also play domino to improve their concentration and hand-eye coordination.

Each domino has a distinct design on its face and is marked with a pattern of spots, or pips, which distinguish it from similar pieces. The pips on one side are identical to those on the die, while the other has blank or identifying marks that vary in number. The identifying marks are called the “open ends” of the domino, and additional tiles can only be placed against those open ends. A tile played to a double is usually positioned cross-ways, straddling the long end of the domino that it connects to.

In the most basic domino game, players draw a certain number of bones (also known as men or tiles) and then place them on the table so that each bone has at least one matching open end. The first player then plays a domino from his or her hand so that it touches one of the ends of the domino layout and adds to its length. This is called playing or putting down the first bone, and it may be done either by drawing lots or by using a domino with the highest value.

Dominoes can be made out of a variety of materials, but most sets are produced from wood or polymer. Historically, however, the most elaborate dominoes were made from natural materials such as silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or a dark hardwood such as ebony, with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on them.

In addition to the traditional brick and concrete designs, many players also make domino art with the pieces, arranging them into shapes or into grids that form pictures when they fall. Some artists make curved lines with dominoes, while others create 3-D structures such as towers and pyramids. Other artists use dominos to create landscape scenes or patterns, and some make intricate puzzles that challenge the viewer to figure out how the pieces fit together. A domino show features builders constructing elaborate, synchronized domino sets and chains before an audience of fans. These builds often take hours or even days to complete and require great skill. The most impressive displays are made using hundreds of dominoes, thousands of them set up in careful sequence and all toppling with the nudge of just one.