Domino is a type of flat thumb-sized rectangular block with one side bearing from 1 to 6 pips or dots and the other blank or identically patterned. A domino set contains 28 such tiles and can be used to play a wide variety of games.
In most domino games the players compete against each other to empty their hands and score points. Some domino games are blocking games, while others, such as bergen and muggins, determine the winner by counting the number of pips in the opponent’s hand at the end of the game. There are also solitaire domino games that are adaptations of card games and were once popular in some areas to circumvent religious proscriptions against playing cards.
Traditionally, domino sets are made from materials such as bone, silver lip ocean oyster shell (mother of pearl or MOP), ivory, or a dark hardwood like ebony with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on the surface. The natural materials lend a high-quality look and feel to the sets, and they are more durable than polymer sets. In recent times, domino sets have been made from other materials such as marble, granite, soapstone, and ceramic clay. While these sets have a more unique appearance and feel, they are generally much more expensive than those made from MOP or ivory.
As a physical entity, a domino is a symbol of power and authority. Its weight and size give it a sense of permanence, while its ridged edges give it a tactile quality. In the game of domino, a domino’s edge is important in its play because when it is touched it releases a small amount of energy that causes the next tile to topple, and the next after that. This chain reaction is called the domino effect, and it is a key component of many of the games played with dominoes.
When a domino is positioned so that its matching ends are touching, it develops a snake-like chain that can increase in length. In a domino game, each player places a tile on the table in such a way that its matching end is adjacent to a previous tile. Unless the tile is a double, it may not be placed perpendicular to another, but must be placed horizontally or diagonally to a previously played tile.
A person who is considered a domino keeps his or her eye on opportunities to advance the storyline. He or she is careful not to step on other people’s lines and always thinks two moves ahead. This type of character is often found in fiction, but can be a useful device in nonfiction as well. The author of a novel could use a scene domino to create a new setting or to illustrate an idea. For example, a scene domino might be a train crash that causes the characters to flee in panic, thus forcing them to change their plans. If the writer uses the domino effect in an effective manner, it can add drama and suspense to a story.