The Art of Domino

Domino is a game played by laying down dominoes in a line or on a grid. Then, according to the rules of the game, each domino must either be pushed off or have its ends matched with another piece. This creates a chain of dominoes that can lead to an incredible variety of games. Hevesh, a domino artist with more than 2 million YouTube subscribers, has made stunning setups involving thousands of dominoes that take several nail-biting minutes to fall. The reason is that the pieces of a domino have inertia, a tendency to remain motionless unless an outside force pushes on them. When the first domino does get pushed, it triggers the potential energy of each domino on its path to fall. Each successive domino in the line then releases the same energy, which eventually causes them all to fall.

While dominoes may be a relatively modern invention, the concept of using them as a form of art dates back to ancient China. In 1120 CE, a statesman presented dominoes to the Emperor Hui Tsung. The emperor reportedly approved of the game, which spread to other countries in the 13th century.

Today, domino sets can be purchased in a variety of materials including polymer clay; wood (e.g., pine or balsa); marble; granite; soapstone; and other types of stone. Sets are also available in a wide range of colors, from natural to bright neon. Some are designed to look like a traditional playing card deck, while others feature intricate patterns or are shaped in the form of animals or cars.

Traditionally, dominoes were made of bone or ivory with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on them. They could also be made of a dark hardwood such as ebony with ivory or other black inlays, which evoked the image of a hooded mask worn at a masquerade. The name domino was probably derived from the Latin, dominus, meaning master of the house; however, it also may have come from a French word, domine, that referred to a type of monastic hood or, even earlier, to a hooded costume worn with a mask at a carnival or masquerade.

The most common domino sets have 28 tiles, although extended sets with more tiles are available for players who want to play long games. A domino set can be further extended by adding more pips to each end of the tiles; for example, a double-twelve set would have 91 tiles. Most games involving dominoes involve two or more players and are played until one player has a predetermined number of rounds, or until a specified point limit is reached. The player with the highest score wins. A few games can be played with only two people, but the majority of domino games require four or more players.