A domino is a small rectangular wood or plastic block with either a blank or marked surface, with pips in the shape of dice. A set of dominoes includes a number of these blocks, generally 28 in number. Despite their small size, dominoes can be very powerful when they are joined together in the right order and used for playing games. A game played with dominoes can be simple or complex, and it may involve any of the many rules that can be agreed upon by players.
Dominos are most often used for positional games. These games require that a player place a domino edge to edge against another, so that the adjacent sides match (e.g., 5 to 5) or form a specified total. In this way, one domino leads to the next, which leads to the next, and so on until all of the dominoes are placed or no more play is possible.
Some positional games have the winner determined by who holds the highest double or who won the last game. If no one has a higher double, the player with the heaviest single begins play. A player may also choose to open the game by playing a tile onto a double already on the board, in which case the highest double then becomes the starting point of the new line of play.
Occasionally, none of the players are able to make a play and the game ends. This is called a blocked game and is an unfortunate consequence of the nature of dominoes. In order to prevent this from happening, some players agree to reshuffle the stock before the next round of play.
The word domino has many different meanings, from the name of a game to an adjective that describes a chain effect. A domino effect is the idea that if one small trigger happens, then other events will follow. For example, if the leader of one country gives aid to the communist government in Indochina, other countries will likely do the same. President Eisenhower popularized the idea when he spoke of the domino effect during a press conference.
In addition to the game of domino, a variety of other activities use this principle. For example, a person can develop an exercise routine by focusing on one small activity that will “knock over” other interests. Hevesh, the artist who creates some of the most mind-blowing domino setups, follows a version of the engineering-design process when creating her installations. She first considers the theme or purpose of the installation, then brainstorms images and words that might be appropriate. She then makes test versions of each section and films them in slow motion to identify any problems. Only when she has made sure that each piece works properly does she put them together to create the final installation. Hevesh has even written a book about her process.