A domino is a flat, thumb-sized rectangular block, the face of which is divided into two parts, each either blank or bearing from one to six pips or dots: 28 such pieces form a complete set. The word is also used for any of the various games played with such blocks, involving matching the ends of adjacent pieces and laying them down in lines or angular patterns. It is commonly associated with games of chance and strategy, but there are also solitaire and trick-taking games of a more cerebral character that are popular, particularly in areas where religious proscriptions against card playing prevent the use of cards.
Domino, the name of a game, is an excellent example of the power of cause and effect: a single simple action can have much greater–and sometimes devastating–consequences than first imagined. A domino can tip over a stack of items that are many times its own size and size, and so is a potent symbol of the power of exponential growth.
The domino effect is a powerful tool for writers: whether they work out the pacing of their manuscripts with an outline or write off the cuff, a novel comes down to the same question at its heart: What happens next? Using the idea of a domino effect in plotting can help writers answer that question in a way that builds suspense and tension.
Several types of domino sets are available, from double-six (28 tiles) to the larger double-nine set of 55 tiles. Each player takes turns laying a domino on the table, positioning it so that its matching end touches another tile that is already on the layout. The result is a chain of dominoes, whose shape develops into a snake-like pattern according to the whims of the players and the limits of the playing surface.
Every domino has a number showing on one of its long sides and, if it is a double, on both of its long sides. Each tile also belongs to one of a suit, which are numbered from two through twelve: the dominos that belong to the suits of threes, fours, fives, and sixes are called “suit dominoes,” while those that belong to the suit of one’s own number are called “player’s dominoes.”
Once a player has laid all of his or her dominoes, the other players may proceed in turn, placing any number of additional tiles on top of their own. As additional tiles are placed, the chain becomes longer and longer, and the last player to play a tile wins the game. In many domino games, the chains continue until one player chips out (plays his or her last tile) or until the players reach a point at which none can proceed. Then the players compare their remaining numbers and the winner is the player whose combined total of spots on his or her dominoes is least. The corresponding terms in other languages are domino, chit and chitto.