# A Beginner’s Guide to Dominoes

Many children enjoy setting up dominoes in a line and knocking them down. Dominoes are also known as bones, cards, tiles, stones, or spinners.

Standing a domino upright gives it potential energy, which when it falls, is converted to kinetic energy. Physicist Stephen Morris at University of Toronto demonstrates this principle in this video.

## Rules

There are a wide variety of domino games. While the overall dynamic and objective of most games are similar, the rules vary from game to game. Typically, there are variations in the way that players count points and how a player may win a hand or the game.

The most popular domino games fall into one of four categories: bidding games, blocking games, scoring games, and round games. In addition, some games have special rules relating to the placement of tiles.

A traditional set of dominoes contains 28 unique pieces. Each has a combination of ends that can have any number of spots from zero to six. These unique combinations allow for the creation of chains with matching ends touching (like 1s touch 1s, or 2s touch 2s).

When it is a player’s turn, he draws a domino from the extras pile or “widows.” The player then plays the tile on any open end that is a multiple of five or three.

## Variations

A domino is a rectangular tile marked with an arrangement of dots, or pips, on both sides. Each side also contains an identical pattern of a line or ridge. Each domino has a value, indicated by the number of pips on the two ends.

Students can use a Domino Puzzle set to work on the concept of prime and composite numbers. They can make pairs of dominoes based on a arithmetic sum of the pips (for example, 11 is prime). They can then tell their partner whether it is more or less than another number.

In a variant of the Block game, players start with less than the usual seven tiles. Players pass their turn if they cannot play a domino and are eliminated when the game reaches a point at which no player can proceed. This variant is especially useful for high school students.

## Materials

Dominoes can be made out of a wide variety of materials. Some of the more popular ones are made out of plastics, metals, and wood. They are also available in a number of different shapes and sizes. There are even specialty dominoes made out of foam, like those used in the giant yard domino game pictured below.

Like playing cards, of which they are a variant, dominoes have a fixed pattern on each face. They are divided into suits, with each suit having a distinct color and arrangement of spots (called “pips”) on one side. The other side is blank or identically patterned.

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## Scoring

Dominoes are flat thumb-sized rectangular blocks, each bearing from one to six pips (or dots): 28 such pieces form a complete set. They are normally used for games in which players arrange them in lines and angular patterns.

When a player makes a play and the other players can connect it to either end of a domino chain already in place, they score points equal to the value of the pips on those ends. When this occurs, the player is said to have “stitched up” the ends.

This method of scoring is commonly used in block games, but it is not the only system that can be used. Other methods include counting the total number of pips left in the losing players’ hands at the end of a hand or game, and adding that number to the winner’s score. This method may be preferred when playing a more strategic game. It is also more accurate than using a count of only the number of pips on individual tiles.