Originally called a masquerade mask, the domino is a small rectangular block with two groups of spots on one side and a line down the middle. It is used for different types of games. The most common game is a scoring game. The player with the lowest number of spots wins the game.
Dominoes are made from a variety of materials, but are most often made from ivory and dark hardwood such as ebony and bone. The pieces are also marked with an arrangement of pips on each side, and can be stacked in long rows. Some versions of the domino also have blank faces. These may be considered a variation on the traditional Chinese domino.
The basic Western domino game, Block and Draw, is played by two to four players. Each player draws seven tiles from a set. The highest-numbered tile in the set is the lead piece. Each trick counts as one point, and the player with the fewest spots in the hand wins the game.
Another variant of the game is known as Concentration. In this game, each player draws seven tiles from a set and is paired into teams. The first player is the lead, and the total pip count of the two team players equals the total number of points. Each other team member draws seven tiles from the same set. The game ends when the last player chips out.
In some versions of the game, a player can only play a tile with a certain number on one end of the chain. In other games, both partners chip out. A traditional Chinese domino set has no duplicates. The Chinese version of the game is known as Che Deng, or Tien Gow.
Another traditional domino game is Pai Gow. In this game, the players move their dominoes across the table, and the pips are grouped into suits. A single tile belongs to the suit of 0; a second is a jack, and a third is a queen. The rules are the same as in the original game, but the order of the pairs is different.
The most commonly used domino sets are the double six and the double nine. In these sets, 55 tiles are used. A double-18 set has 190 tiles, and a double-12 set has 91 tiles. These sets are popular for games with a large number of players. However, a double-21 set would be too big for most domino games.
Traditionally, European dominoes are made from ivory or dark hardwood. Unlike Chinese dominoes, which are marked with suits, European dominoes are not marked with suit distinctions. In addition, each domino is usually twice as long as wide.
Although the domino is usually played for gaming purposes, it is also used to study nerve cells. The pulse in a falling domino is like a firing neuron. The pulse travels in a single direction, but does not lose energy as it moves. Depending on the playing surface, the domino’s shape may develop at random.