The Game of Domino


Whether we line them up in long rows or use them to create intricate and complicated puzzles, most of us have seen domino. These black and white rectangular pieces, also called bones, cards, tiles, spinners, or tickets, have many uses. Some are used as toys; others, like the game of dominoes, are played for recreation and competition. In the past, they even served as a tool to demonstrate mathematical and scientific principles.

Domino is a family of games that require the players to set up and then knock over a chain of dominoes. These are often played as a contest of skill and endurance, and can be highly entertaining to watch. In one particularly spectacular example, a player attempted to build a domino chain that would reach from the top of the Empire State Building all the way down to its base. It took six hours to complete the sequence, and it involved laying over a million dominoes!

Like playing cards, of which they are a variant, each domino has identifying marks on one side and is blank or identically patterned on the other. These markings, known as pips, originally represented the results of throwing two dice. Today, the markings are used for a variety of purposes, from making the pieces easier to recognize to creating scoring systems and allowing players to accumulate points during game play.

In most domino games, a single player begins the game by drawing dominoes from a stack and then placing them on the table so that each ends up touching a single end of a previous tile in the chain. Depending on the rules of the particular game, a tile is said to be “open” if it has no other domino connected to it or “closed” if it has at least two other dominoes connected to it.

Once a player has laid his or her first domino, the other players take turns playing tiles onto the layout and positioning them so that their ends match an open end of the chains that have already been formed. When a domino is played in this fashion, it is also called “stitching up the ends.”

When a player lays a tile that causes its own end to connect to an open end of the chain, that domino is said to be “locked” or to have a “locking power.” Once a domino is locked, no more tiles may be added to the chain.

Whether we write our novels off the cuff or take the time to carefully outline our plots, it’s easy to see how each scene in a novel could be thought of as a domino. Each scene domino, while insignificant on its own, is important when viewed in the context of the larger story. This domino effect is what makes a great story so compelling and fascinating.