A Beginner’s Guide to Dominoes

A small rectangular wooden or plastic block, usually twice as long as it is wide, bearing an arrangement of spots resembling those on dice on one face and blank or identically patterned on the other. The domino’s value is determined by the number of spots on one end, which is called its pip count. The value of a domino is also used to distinguish it from a similar tile with different numbers of pips on each half of its face (which is why such tiles are sometimes referred to as combination dominos). A set of dominoes, or dominos, is called a deck.

Dominoes are a great way to teach kids about sequencing and counting, as well as basic math skills. They’re a popular party game, and you can even find domino games designed to help develop hand-eye coordination. Most domino games are either blocking or scoring. Blocking games involve emptying an opponent’s hand while keeping his or her pieces from touching, while scoring games determine a winner by counting the pips in that player’s losing hands. A few types of domino games duplicate card games, which were once popular as a way to circumvent religious proscriptions against playing cards.

The earliest records of dominoes date from the mid-18th century in Italy and France. They came to England around the same time, where they were introduced by French prisoners at prisons. Since then, the number of possible domino games has grown enormously.

Lily Hevesh began collecting and playing with dominoes at age 9. Her grandparents gave her a classic 28-pack, and she’s now the creator of mind-blowing domino setups, earning money as a professional domino artist. Her YouTube channel, Hevesh5, has more than 2 million subscribers.

Hevesh’s process for creating a domino setup begins with a theme or purpose. Then she brainstorms images and words that relate to it. Finally, she creates a draft layout using the software Scrivener. She often uses color-coding to make it easier for her to keep track of different sections of the setup.

As the first domino is laid, most of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy. That energy travels to the next domino, giving it the push needed to topple it over. The same concept applies to writing: A scene’s ineffective on its own, but when placed logically, it can have a domino effect, helping to advance the story.

To be effective, domino scenes must be spaced correctly. Too many of them can bog down the pace, and too few may seem shallow at key discovery or plot points. In addition, they must fit the tone of the overall narrative. For example, a mystery story needs scenes that reveal clues about the case, while romantic or family stories need scenes that increase tension or build toward a happy ending.