# The Domino Effect

Dominoes are flat, thumb-sized rectangular blocks with one face bearing from one to six dots or pips and the other blank or identically patterned. They are normally twice as long as they are wide, which makes them easier to stack after use. A domino also features a line or ridge that visually divides it into two squares, called ends. The number of pips on the end of a tile determines its value and is the basis for a game’s scoring rules.

In a game of domino, players in turn play tiles onto the table positioning them so that they touch one end of a chain already in place. The chain is built up by counting the pips on each end of the domino that is played, and a score is made when all four of these ends add up to a multiple of 5. This process continues until there are no more tiles left to play. A player is said to be “stitching up the ends” when he plays a tile that increases the count on one of the sides, and his opponents are “nipping at the heels.”

There are many games that can be played with dominoes, but most of them follow similar basic rules. The first step in most of them is to shuffle the dominoes and draw one from the stock, a set of unplayed tiles that all players share. The player who draws the highest double or, in some cases, a single, will make the first play. This may be followed by a series of plays that are determined by the rules of the particular game being played.

The earliest senses of domino are unclear, but both the word and the game appear to have evolved from a form of lottery, perhaps associated with the Spanish colonization of the Caribbean islands. Later, the word may have come to refer to a kind of cape worn by a priest over his surplice.