Originally referred to as “Domino” and “men” in Italian, the game of dominos spread to Europe, France and Austria in the mid-18th century. French prisoners of war brought dominos to England. During the 1860s, dominos appeared in American literature. They were also used in games such as Che Deng.
Dominos are rectangular black and white rectangles marked with an arrangement of pips (or spots) on one side. Each domino represents one of the 21 possible results of throwing two six-sided dice. They are typically drawn from a stock of seven tiles. A player’s lead piece is a tile with the highest total pip count. The player must then play the lead piece and try to knock down each of his or her opponents’ tiles. If the player is able to do so, he or she is the winner.
Although dominos are used in many different games, the most popular are block-and-draw games. These games are usually played for two to four players and involve the drawing of a lead piece and then attempting to knock down tiles in order to score.
A double-12 domino set has 91 tiles, a double-15 set has 136 tiles, and a double-18 set has 190 tiles. The tiles are numbered on one side, with each number belonging to a particular suit. In some larger sets, the pips are replaced by Arabic numerals. In some games, such as Five-Up, the tiles are multicolored.
European style dominoes are traditionally made of dark hardwood such as ebony or ivory. They are usually lined up in long rows. Traditional dominoes are also called “dotted cards” because there are no blank faces. In Chinese dominoes, a single tile can belong to two suits, while a double tile can branch out into more than one suit.
Chinese dominoes are traditionally used for trick-taking games. In Pai Gow and Tien Gow, players attempt to win by matching a series of tiles. They also have the traditional Chinese game Che Deng, where players compete to knock down as many of their opponents’ tiles as possible.
Traditional Western dominoes are typically used for positional games. The game is played with two to four players, and the total points for a team are determined by drawing seven tiles and playing the lead piece. Each player’s hand is the total of the number of points earned from all the tricks.
The game can be played with friends or against a computer. In Texas, the most popular game is 42, a positional game played with four players on teams. The game is similar to the card game spades. In the Concentration variant, players draw two tiles each from a double-six set and try to knock down four tiles. The players score one point for each trick, and the winner is the player who has the fewest pips.
Dominos are used in many different games, from the classic version to a version called solitaire. They are a staple of toys that have stood the test of time.