The Art of Domino

Domino is a generic gaming device similar to playing cards and dice in that it can be used to play a wide variety of games. Dominoes are rectangular tiles with a line in the middle to divide them visually into two squares. One side is marked with an arrangement of dots, called pips, while the other is blank or identically patterned. Each domino has a unique identity on either end that is determined by its pip count, with higher values indicating more pips and lower values indicating fewer (or no) pips.

When a single domino is knocked over, it causes the next domino in the chain to tip over as well. This creates a cascade that continues until all the dominoes have fallen. This is the basic principle behind many domino games, and it is also what leads to such amazing domino art as the stacked lines of dominoes that form pictures when they fall.

Creating such intricate domino setups is not easy. Hevesh says she follows a version of the engineering-design process to create her installations. She tests each section to make sure it works before putting it together. She starts with the largest 3-D sections, then adds flat arrangements and finally the dominoes that connect each section together.

The name of the game derives from the term domino, which originally referred to a long hooded cloak worn over a priest’s surplice. The word’s French counterpart, dominoe, may have been derived from the same root as the Latin, denoting an order or pattern.

Dominoes are traditionally played in teams, with each player drawing and placing their tiles on the table in front of them. The first player places a tile on the table, determining the starting point of the scoring sequence either by drawing lots or by selecting the tile with the highest value in their hand. The player then continues to place the rest of their tiles in succession on the table, ensuring that each new piece is played to a matching one on the existing domino chains.

In most multi-round domino games, the winner is the first player to reach a predetermined target score or amass the most points over a number of rounds. The number of points won is based on the total number of pips on opposing players’ tiles, as well as any doubles that match a previous tile (for example, a 6–6 counts as two). Some rules allow for the counting of doubles or even double-blank, as indicated by the “rank” or “weight” of each domino.

Beyond blocking and scoring, dominoes can also be used to build creative structures such as walls, towers and pyramids. The resulting designs are often spectacular and can involve hundreds or thousands of dominoes. They can be made to be straight or curved, have grids that form patterns and even be 3D. Many people also use them as toys by stacking them on their ends in long lines and then causing them to topple over. This is a common activity for children, and it can lead to the creation of very complex designs.