The domino, cousin to playing cards, has long been one of the oldest tools for game play. From professional domino games of strategy and skill to just setting up and knocking over a lineup of hundreds or thousands of dominoes, the evocative little rectangular blocks can be used in a wide variety of ways.

A domino is a flat, thumb-sized rectangular block with either blank or identically patterned faces, and bearing from one to six dots or spots (called “pips”) on each face. A complete set of dominoes has 28 such pieces. In addition to being used for games, they can be arranged in a line or angular pattern to form a structure that is both aesthetic and structurally sound. In fact, a domino show involves builders creating elaborate and imaginative domino structures before a live audience.

Dominoes are made in a variety of materials and are often painted or inlaid with different designs. Some are even carved into various shapes, including animals and human figures. Some have a natural finish, while others are painted with bright colors or decorated with rhinestones. There are even sets of dominoes made from frosted glass or crystal.

While most domino players will agree that the rules of a particular game are important, the way in which a domino is arranged on a table or other surface, and the interaction between all the pieces can provide nearly as much enjoyment as the actual game itself. Some of the most interesting domino setups are created by professional builders, who create complex patterns to amaze a crowd. These builders work to design and build their creations by following a version of the engineering-design process.

Most games that involve a domino layout use a series of alternating turns, with each player taking a turn by placing a domino edge to edge against another in such a way that the adjacent faces are either identical or total some specified amount. Some of these games, called positional games, also require the placement of a domino against a double. Since a double is straddled, not touching, with the other end of the domino that it connects to, additional tiles cannot be played against that end of a domino until the other side of the double has been played against.

The word domino is also used as a metaphor for a powerful person or force, someone who can cause other things to happen, like a chain reaction. The term is especially popular in business, where a good leader can help their company to grow, and a bad manager can cause them to collapse.

In the world of sport, there are several domino events that attract a great deal of attention, and some are even considered championship events. The most famous is the FINA World Championships in Domino, an event that has been held in Italy since 2009. In this competition, domino players from all over the world compete in an array of skill and endurance events.

The Many Uses of Dominoes