Domino is a game that can be played by one or more players. The most popular domino games fit into four categories: bidding games, blocking games, scoring games, and round games. The first three categories involve a competitive aspect, while the last category is a non-competitive, purely tactical, and sometimes mathematically precise activity.
There are many rules and variations for each of these types of games, and some are very complex. However, the basic rules of any domino game are fairly straightforward. The game begins by distributing the tiles among the players, which can be done in any number of ways, depending on the particular game being played. The shuffled collection of tiles is called the stock, and each player draws a single domino from the stock to form his hand. The first player, determined either by drawing of lots or by the relative value of the heaviest tile in his hand, then places the domino on the table and makes his play.
In most games, the pips on each domino are arranged in a specific pattern, often with matching pips at the open end of the tile. This arrangement is called the line of play and, for some games, is an important part of the game’s strategy. The line of play may be curved or straight, and the lines of play can also be made of more than two dominoes.
Most domino sets are made of bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl or MOP), ivory, or a dark hardwood such as ebony, with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on them. These sets are generally more expensive than polymer-based sets. Some sets are also made of metals such as brass or pewter; ceramic clay; frosted glass, or even crystal.
When a player has a complete set of tiles that can be played in the game, he may declare this by knocking on the table. This signals the other players that he is ready to proceed with his turn. When a player is unable to make a play, he passes his turn to the next player.
Some games allow the players to buy additional tiles from the stock, which are then added to their hand according to the game’s rules. These tiles are not removed from the stock and may be used in future plays, as explained below under Byeing and Passing.
A player’s score is determined by the total number of pips on his dominoes that match those of opposing players. The winner is the player who achieves this goal first. This is typically done by counting each of the opponent’s matching pips (for example, a double-six counted as six and a double-blank as zero). However, there are many different ways to score, and the exact way in which each type of domino is scored is usually agreed upon before a game starts. This is especially important for partnership games, where each partner may have a different method for scoring his dominoes.