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The Basics of Domino

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Domino is a game that involves arranging a line of dominoes with one another to form chains. The chains are usually joined either across or lengthwise depending on the rules of the particular game. The player who makes the first play of a domino is known as the setter, the downer or the lead, and the tiles are played face up on a hard surface like a table.

Like playing cards, of which they are a variant, dominoes have an identity-bearing side and a blank or identically patterned other side. The arrangement of dots, or pips, on a domino is normally recognizable and gives it its value, though in many sets some of the squares are blank (or marked with zero). The number of pips on a domino may be a clue to its rank, which is often used to determine scoring methods in a game.

Most domino games are positional, with players taking turns placing a domino edge to edge against another in such a way that the numbers showing on the ends of each domino match each other or form some specified total. If a domino is placed with such precision that both of the matching ends are already covered, it is said to have been “stitched up.”

In addition to traditional positional games, there are also a number of other types of domino games, including solitaire or trick-taking games. These types of games were once popular in places where religious proscriptions prohibited the playing of card games.

The basic element of a domino is the tile itself, which can be made from a variety of materials. The most common dominoes are made from polymer such as plastic, but they can also be made from woods, metals, bone or ivory. They are normally twice as long as they are wide, which makes them easy to stack and re-stack after use.

When a domino is played, much of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy as it moves along the chain and comes into contact with the other dominoes. This kinetic energy then transmits from the first domino to the next, and so on, until all the pieces have fallen.

Hevesh, a master builder of intricate domino setups, follows a version of the engineering-design process when planning her masterpieces. She considers the theme of a particular installation and brainstorms images that might go with it, and then draws arrows on a piece of paper to show how she wants the dominoes to fall. Then she calculates how many dominoes she will need for the design and plans out a track on which to lay them. She has even made 3D structures out of dominoes, such as towers and pyramids. Some sets have a grid that forms pictures when the dominoes are laid out, and some have tracks that allow the dominoes to be stacked in curves. This type of domino art can be very complex and impressive to view.