Dominoes are a type of game piece, similar to playing cards or dice. They are typically rectangular in shape and are marked with a pattern of spots, called pips, on one side, and are blank or identically patterned on the other. They are normally twice as long as they are wide, although they may be smaller or larger in some cases, such as when the pieces are used to build structures or as decorative art. Dominoes are generally made from a hard material, such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory or a dark hardwood, such as ebony. Some sets are made from other natural materials, such as stone or soapstone, metals and ceramic clay.

The word domino is believed to be derived from the Latin phrase domus aurea, or “white house,” and may have been inspired by the white markings on the dark exterior of some Italian palaces during the early 18th century. The game soon became a fad in Italy and southern Germany, and from there it spread to France. The name “domino” does not appear in French records until 1771, though the game itself is much older.

Unlike other games that require complex rules, domino is usually played simply and without the need for an umpire. The game is a game of chance and skill, with a large part of the fun coming from betting with opponents about what numbers they will be able to play next. The players are usually seated around a table and the first player to play all of their tiles wins.

Most dominoes have a number of different sides and can be matched with other dominoes in a variety of ways to create different games. A traditional set contains a unique piece for each combination of numbers between one and six. The most common domino sets are known as double-twelve or double-nine sets and contain 91 or 55 dominoes respectively. Players place their dominoes in a line on the table, face down and on-edge, so that each person can see their own. When it is a players turn to play, they choose a domino from their hand and lay it down on the table. It must match the value of another domino already on the table, or else it is placed in the boneyard, where it will be available for use next time.

Once a player plays a domino, it is important to keep track of the remaining values in each player’s hand. The player can then make the best decision about what to play in the future, based on which values are available and the total number of dominoes still in each player’s hand.

Hevesh, who has designed domino tracks with a variety of themes, says that the main physical phenomenon behind her mind-blowing installations is gravity. This force pulls down a fallen domino and sends it crashing into the next, setting off an ever-growing chain reaction until all of the dominoes are in place. She tests each section of her installations before putting them together, and films the results so that she can see if anything goes wrong in slow motion.