The Basics of Dominoes


Dominoes are small, flat blocks that are arranged side by side to form a line of play. They have identifying marks on one face and are blank or identically patterned on the other.

The first player (determined by drawing lots or by who holds the heaviest hand) makes the first move. Afterward, players may add to public trains or their own private trains.


There are many different domino sets in use, and the rules of most of them differ slightly. However, most of the games shown here require a standard double-six set of 28 tiles. The rules that apply to these games generally apply to other types of domino as well.

The game begins with a player making the first play. This player is known as the starter, the downer, or the leader. The player then draws a domino from the boneyard to determine his or her hand.

Dominoes have identifying marks on one side and are blank or identically patterned on the other. The identifying marks are called pips.

The next player then matches a domino to either the open perpendicular end of the starting domino or to a domino played against it (in the case of a spinner, both ends must match). The rest of the chain develops in a snake-line shape. If a domino is played to an existing tile, the matching pips must match completely.


Dominoes are flat, thumb-sized blocks of material emblazoned with an arrangement of dots (also called “pips”) on one side and blank or identically patterned on the other. They are normally twice as long as they are wide, allowing them to be stacked on top of each other in a variety of shapes.

Domino games often differ from one to another, with different rules for establishing the line of play. In many games, the first tile played must be a double, which serves as a spinner causing the line of play to branch.

Players usually draw the number of tiles permitted for their hand from a stack, called the stock, while keeping them hidden from other players. The players may then reveal their tiles and, if they are able to do so, add them to their own domino train. If not, they pass their turn. In most games, the winners are those who have the lowest total of spots on their remaining dominos.


Domino is a fun game to play with children and adults. It can also help develop social skills, such as sharing and turn taking. It can also encourage consideration for our oceans and biodiversity.

Many domino sets come with their own storage box. These can vary from simple cardboard boxes to vinyl snap lock cases. They can also include a cribbage board built into the case’s lid. These boxes can be used to keep score for particular games or to store individual sets of dominos.

Some older dominoes are made from so-called “vegetable ivory.” This is a resin derived from the Tagua nut, which is close in color and texture to mammal ivory. The 19th century saw craftsmen use another type of plastic called Bois Durci, which was made from ebony or rosewood sawdust mixed with albumen from eggs or blood. Then came tinplate, which was easy to stamp and emboss, giving domino manufacturers the opportunity to market their products through advertising. In the 20th century, Bakelite (a type of plastic invented by Leo Baekeland) was the material of choice until it was replaced by phenolic resins derived from petroleum.


Dominoes are scored either when a player goes out or, in the case of a team game, when the total of all players’ hands is lower than an agreed-upon number of points. The winner of the hand adds up the spots on his or her remaining dominoes (rounding off to the nearest multiple of five) and subtracts that amount from the loser’s spot total.

In addition, the players score points for adding tiles to existing chains. A tile added to a double must have both matching ends touching. This allows the chain to develop into a “snake-line.” Blanks count as zero or, in some games, one point.

Before the game begins, the tiles are mixed up using a shuffling process. The players then draw a hand of seven tiles and the first player (determined by drawing lots or by who has the highest scoring domino) places a domino on the table. Those who cannot play a tile are allowed to draw from the boneyard, or leftover dominoes that remain face down on the table.