Originally known as a Chinese game, dominoes were introduced to Europe by French prisoners of war in the mid-18th century. They were eventually introduced to the United States in the 1860s, but they quickly spread throughout the world. Many of the games involving dominoes can be played by two people or more, but there are some that require both partners to chip out the pieces left over after each hand.
Dominoes are small rectangular blocks, usually twice the width of their length. The back is blank, but the face is marked with spots or pips. Each tile has an identifying mark, which represents the results of throwing two dice. Pips are either painted or drilled. In some versions, the tiles can be matched, but this is not necessary.
Playing cards are similar to dominoes, except that each is shaped differently. For example, the Chinese game Pai Gow involves two sets of six tiles that are placed face to face. Players take turns playing the tiles, which is usually done clockwise. Some types of dominos allow for a player to join the tiles to all four sides, but others are arranged on the table in a specific pattern.
European and Chinese dominoes have no Chinese suit distinctions, meaning they are not duplicated. They also have different sizes. In European dominoes, the tiles are typically made of bone or ivory. This gives them a distinctive appearance.
European-style dominoes are usually made of dark hardwood or bone, but they can be made of ebony or silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell. Traditional American dominoes are also dark hardwood or ivory. While some traditional American games involve card-based adaptations, many other dominoes are purely positional.
Playing games with dominoes is a good test of patience and number recognition. It requires players to be able to determine which numbers are available to the opponent, and to play the right tile at the right time. There are many games to be played, ranging from the traditional Mexican train, to the game of chicken foot, to the matador.
Two basic variations of dominoes are the block game and the concentration variant. Both are adapted from the card game spades. A typical domino set contains 91 tiles. At the start of a game, each player draws a specified number of tiles.
When a player is blocked, he cannot make any more moves. However, he can add more tiles to the end of the line of play. If he can’t do so, he can either draw a new tile or chip out the old one. All the other players are then free to play, but the winner is the partner who has the fewest pips.
If the opponents are unable to make any more plays, a player can chip out the remaining tiles and win the game. A player may also be able to play a double, which is a single tile with the same number of pips on both sides.