Domino is a small rectangular wood or plastic block, usually 28 in number, with a marked surface, typically resembling those of dice. It is used as a game piece, for pattern making, or to create art. The term is also applied to a system of rules for playing certain games using these tiles.
A domino is also a metaphor for a situation in which one small trigger causes a larger cascade of events, often of a political nature. It can be used to describe a country expected to react in a particular way because of its proximity to another, as when President Eisenhower said of Communism: “If the domino effect continues, it will soon overtake Indochina.”
Many games with dominoes are played by drawing tiles from the stock, and then selecting the first play. This is sometimes referred to as the “the set,” the “the down,” or the “the lead.” When the domino is a double, it is often immediately followed by a single.
Some domino games are positional, in which players place a domino edge to edge with another, in order to form a chain. Each subsequent play must be made to touch a previous play, so that the chain gradually increases in length. In these games, each player has a specific objective for the chain (e.g., a specified total).
Others are based on scoring. Each player has a specific number of points to score by, and each turn the player places a domino with its marked surface against the table so that it points to one or more adjacent dominoes with numbers matching that number. When the player has scored all his points, he may win the game.
In other kinds of games, the rules vary. For example, the number of dominoes in a line of play can be limited to keep the game moving; or the player can draw the highest double, which must then be played first. Similarly, the number of dominoes in each row can be varied to suit the game’s objectives.
Artists who create domino art follow a kind of engineering-design process, starting with the overall purpose or theme for the work. Then, they brainstorm images or words that might be used to represent those concepts, and create a design of how the dominoes will fit together. They might even make arrows on a piece of paper showing the direction the dominoes will fall.
When Hevesh designs her mind-blowing domino setups, she uses a version of the same engineering-design process. She considers the theme or goal of the piece, and then she creates a diagram with the dominoes arranged as she would like them to fall. She draws arrows to indicate the direction in which she wants each domino to fall, and calculates how many dominoes she will need for the desired layout.
The word domino comes from the Latin domini, meaning “fifth.” It is believed that the game of domino developed at the same time as the word did, though the exact rules for the games differ. It is also possible that the word came from the name of a long hooded cloak worn together with a mask at a carnival or masquerade.