Domino is a game for one or more players. It is played by placing small rectangular blocks, called dominoes, on a table. Each domino has a surface on which are engraved a number of dots, resembling the spots on dice. A domino may have either a single side or two identical sides. The pips are usually arranged in the same way on both surfaces, but this is not always the case.
Dominoes are generally made from ivory, bone, or a dark hardwood such as ebony with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted. Historically, other materials such as marble and granite have also been used. Unlike modern plastic-based sets, traditional dominoes are often heavier and feel more substantial.
The game begins with a pile of dominoes (also called a deck) that is shuffled and then dealt to each player. A player draws the number of tiles that he is permitted to take according to the rules of the particular game. The heaviest tile in his hand becomes the first domino to be played. If a player does not draw all the dominoes that he is allowed to, he must return those that he did not draw to the stock. This will prevent him from playing those dominoes later in the game and breaking the chain of play that was already started.
Most domino games fall into one of four categories: bidding games, blocking games, scoring games, or round games. Each of these types is played by connecting the ends of the dominoes that are already on the table, either in lines or angular patterns. The winning player is the first to make all of his ends touch each other and then score points by forming a sequence that is divisible by five or three, such as four at one end and three at the other.
The word domino derives from the Latin “dominium,” meaning supremacy or mastery. The name, as well as that of the game, became popular in the 19th century. In earlier times, the word domino referred to a long, hooded cloak worn with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade. It is possible that this sense influenced the design of the dominoes, which were originally made with a black base and ivory faces, reminiscent of the hood of a priest over his surplice. The term also has been used to describe a system of government in which a monarch or sovereign has supreme power.