The Game of Dominoes


Dominoes are small, rectangular blocks used as gaming objects. Their faces are typically blank or marked with a series of spots that resemble those on dice. A domino that is tapped or knocked over initiates a chain reaction that causes the next piece in line to fall, and so on. The sequence of events in a domino chain is dictated by the number of spots on each tile and how they are arranged. The more a domino has, the greater the number of possible outcomes.

A single domino is ineffective on its own, but a whole set can be exciting to watch when it comes crashing down. In fiction, every plot beat in a story is like a domino, and when a writer considers each scene as an independent domino, they can better plan their work.

Lily Hevesh grew up with a 28-piece set of dominoes, and she loved the way the curved lines of tiles could be set up to fall, one after another. Now, at 20, Hevesh is a professional domino artist who has created elaborate setups for movies, TV shows, and events-including an album launch for pop star Katy Perry.

Hevesh creates her massive domino artworks by carefully planning each piece before she starts setting it up. She even makes test versions of her largest pieces and films them in slow motion, so she can make adjustments if something goes wrong. Her biggest installations can take several nail-biting minutes to fall, and a single mistake can ruin the entire arrangement.

She’s not alone in her fascination with this game of numbers. A Google search for “domino” returns more than 1 billion results. There are numerous books, blogs, and websites dedicated to the art of building and destroying domino structures. Some people use their dominoes to challenge others to games of strategy and skill, while others make artistic arrangements that can rival the beauty of a medieval castle.

When playing dominoes, players take turns laying down tiles. Each new tile must be placed so that it touches the ends of other dominoes, with the pips of one end matching those on the other. Each time the sum of the pips on two adjacent ends is divisible by five or three, the player scores a point.

Most dominoes have black or white pips, but some sets of dominoes have colors other than those. Dominoes can be made from various materials, including bone (often silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell or mother of pearl), ivory, or a dark hardwood such as ebony; the pips are normally inlaid. Some dominoes are engraved instead of painted, although this practice has become less common with advances in digital printing.

In addition to traditional pips, some dominoes have symbols, such as hearts or stars, that indicate different types of play. Some sets also have a suit of playing cards, which are represented by matching icons at the corners of the dominoes. Many modern dominoes feature a combination of pips and Arabic numerals, making them easier to read.