The game of Dominoes is something that most of us are familiar with. Invariably the choice for a wet day when you can’t get outdoors, dominoes are played by both children and adults with equal relish. It is not difficult to learn to play dominoes and it can be a fun hobby with the variety of games at various levels of proficiency. Of course, you can also make up your own games and have a terrific time.
Dominoes are enjoyed all over the world. The game has its origins in China around the 12th century. Around the 18th century, Europeans began to play it, and in current times, it is a popular club game there. Today, everyone, regardless of age, race or geographical constraint, plays dominoes. Interestingly, many countries in Latin America name Dominoes as their national game. In the US, dominoes are a hot favorite at parties. While there are game rules associated with Dominoes, they do tend to vary slightly depending on where they are played. It is always best to check the prevailing rules at the specific place where you intend to participate in the game.
Getting started with dominoes is fairly simple. All you need is the following:
- Pencils and Scoring pads
- Card Tables
You will play dominoes with a set of tiles used especially for the game you are participating in. The domino tile corresponds to the roll of two dice. The domino set will have a fixed number of pieces or tiles, which are identical in shape and size. Each tile or ‘bone’ is rectangular has a face and a back. The faces are unique and divided into two halves by a line. Each end has a number. Players refer to the domino by the number of dots or pips on each end. The lower number is listed first. If you have a tile with 2 and 5, then you call it a 2-5 tile. Tiles that have the same number on both ends are called ‘doublets or doubles’. A tile with the number six at both ends is a double six, which is the heaviest domino. A tile with zero at both ends is a double blank and the lightest domino. All the players taking part in the game will know the particular domino set used for the game and its tiles. Tiles with the same number of dots at both ends are said to be a part of the same ‘suit’.
There are different kinds of domino sets, just as there are different games. In the double-six domino set, numbers vary from 0-6, so that there are 28 tiles and seven suits.
You also get larger sized sets like the double nine with 55 tiles, double twelve with 91 tiles and so on. These are used for the more intricate games with more players.
Let us now look at how the players are arranged and what actually happens during the game.
In a game of dominoes, the players sit in a circle, equidistant from each other, around the table, on which the tiles will be played. The players sit facing the table but cannot see each other’s tiles.
The tiles are thoroughly mixed or shuffled, face down on the table. During this shuffle, players shall not look at the tiles’ faces. The shuffled tiles are called the boneyard. Once this is done, the tiles are dealt to the players. Dealing can be clockwise or counterclockwise. Games from North America, north and west Europe and Russia are dealt clockwise, while games from south and east Europe, Asia and Switzerland is dealt counterclockwise.
Each player now gets a set of tiles, called their hand. If there are remaining tile in the boneyard they are placed aside, still face down to leave the center of the table clear for the game. The players hold their set of tiles with the faces of the tiles visible only to them, just like you hold your cards in a card game.
The game now begins. To decide who makes the first move each player chooses a random domino. Whoever holds the heavier domino plays first. These dominos now go back to the boneyard to be shuffled again. Another way to decide who plays first is for the players to draw their tiles, depending on the game. Then the holder of the heaviest domino gets to play first.
The game ends when a player has played all the tiles or when the game is ‘blocked’. A game can also end after a specific number of hands have been played or when the player/team has made the winning points. When a player has played all the tiles in her hand, she must announce ‘domino’ which means the other players have been “dominoed”. If the other players cannot add another tile, the game is blocked, ending it.
As you learn the basics and nuances of the game, you can enjoy a lot of simple games like Block dominoes, Draw Dominoes, Chickenfoot and Matador. Forty-Two, the national game of Texas is similar to a card game. If you want to play point games, you can try Five-Up and Muggins. Mexican Train is a rage in North America and even has its own set of dominoes.
Domino games can be broadly categorized into
- Bidding games - similar to card games with two to four players. Players bid their hands with the highest bidder naming the suit. The bid determines the score.
- Blocking games – played by matching domino tiles in a line. Scoring is at the end of each hand.
- Scoring games – similar to blocking games but scoring is throughout the game after each scoring play and at the end of each hand.
- Round games – popular at parties involving 3-10 players. Each hand is a game.
- Connecting games – most commonly played by forming lines of tiles.
- Capture games – further divided into trick taking or tableau games.
There is a lot more to the game of dominoes – different techniques and tactics. The variety of games you can play ranges from the very easy to the really tough.
The information in this article is only aimed at getting you started. To know more, and for tips to help you play a mean game of dominoes, do visit the following website and watch the instructional videos and excellent books on the Dominoes that cover it in depth. Videos are great at teaching since you can see professional players in action. You will also find valuable links that can tell you all that you want to know about Dominoes. Go on and shuffle those domino tiles!