Dominoes are small, flat blocks that are used as gaming pieces. They are made of wood, bone or plastic and are also referred to as bones, men, tiles, or even cards. They are normally twice as long as they are wide and feature a line in the middle to divide them visually into two equal parts, each bearing a number of spots (or “pips”) on one side or another. Normally, the number of pips on each end of the domino ranges from six to none or blank. Each domino has an open end that may be played on top of other tiles, forming a chain of play. These chains are called a row, string, or line of play and create the basis for many different domino games.

When a domino is set down, it begins a chain reaction that causes other dominoes to fall. This occurs because when a domino is standing upright, it has potential energy, or stored energy, based on its position. When the domino is knocked over, much of this potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, or the energy of motion. This in turn triggers the other dominoes to fall, just as a nerve impulse travels down an axon and causes muscles to contract.

The rules of domino vary greatly from game to game, though there are a few basic principles that must be followed. First, each player must mix up his or her tiles before playing. This is done by shuffling them. Then each player draws a hand of dominoes in accordance with the rules of the game being played. If the game requires players to draw a number of tiles from the stock to determine who plays first, the player who draws the highest double goes first.

Once the heaviest tile is drawn, each player can then begin to build his or her chain by placing a new domino on top of it. This must be done with the open end of the new domino matching the number of pips on the closed end of the previous tile. As more and more dominoes are added to the chain, it becomes a row or a string of play.

Generally, a player must finish his or her chain before anyone else can do so. This is because the smallest domino in the chain can be a target for other players who wish to knock it down. However, sometimes a player can “stitch up” the ends of the chain, or make an exception to the rule that all tiles must be played from the left, in order to give themselves a better chance of finishing.

Whether it is a game of skill or luck, the beauty of dominoes lies in their simple yet elegant mechanics. It is this mechanical elegance that has helped make them a favorite of children and adults for more than 200 years. So, grab a domino set and get started! You won’t regret it.