Domino is a family of tile-based games with a long history and many variants. They are normally twice as wide as they are tall, and each domino has a line in the middle to divide it visually into two square ends, with contrasting black or white spots or “pips” (also known as digits). A domino may also feature a number of blank spaces called “no-pips.” The value of a domino is determined by the total value of all its pips. This value is used to assign ranks and a player’s role in the game.
Dominoes are stacked on end in long lines, and when one is tipped ever-so-slightly, the whole line of dominoes falls in a rhythmic cascade. This led to the coining of the phrase “the domino effect,” meaning any action that leads to much larger and often dramatic consequences. Whether you plot your novel off the cuff or carefully map out a detailed outline, the idea of a sequence of events that cascades from one simple action is useful to think about when creating your story.
In addition to being fun, dominoes are a great way for kids to learn about basic math and physics. But even adults can enjoy the fun of creating elaborate domino structures that can take several nail-biting minutes to fall. The YouTube artist Hevesh has built a huge following by posting videos of her intricate setups, and she’s worked on projects with millions of dominoes.
Hevesh has a special talent for seeing the potential in the stack of unmoving dominoes before her. Each one has a bit of inertia that resists motion, but a slight nudge can push it past its tipping point. Once it does, its energy becomes available to push on the next domino and so on until the entire structure topples.
Dominos are made from many different materials. Traditional sets are made from bone, ivory, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), or dark hardwoods such as ebony, with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on. More recently, sets have been made from stone (e.g., marble, granite or soapstone); other woods such as ash, oak, redwood or cedar; metals like brass or pewter; ceramic clay; and even frosted glass or crystal. These sets have a more novel look, and the often heavier weight of these natural materials makes them feel more substantial.
Originally, dominoes were set up to represent the 21 results of throwing two six-sided dice (2d6). But the number of possible combinations quickly exceeded this limit, and new rules were developed to make the games more challenging. Some of the most popular domino games are based on matching numbers, such as double-six, where each domino has six pips. More sophisticated games require a higher level of skill and can involve strategic planning. In these games, players must make the best decisions about which numbers to play first and how to place them to maximize their effects.