The Art of Domino

Domino is a game of chance, strategy and skill where players score points by laying tiles end to end so that their exposed ends total multiples of five or three. One point is scored for every time the sum of the two ends of a tile can be divided by either five or three, including the case where all of the tiles on an exposed end show the same number (i.e., one’s touching one’s and two’s touching two’s). The most common domino sets are double six and double nine; larger sets exist for games involving several players or those who wish to play long domino chains.

Like playing cards, of which they are a variant, dominoes have identifying marks on one side and are blank or identically patterned on the other. The identity-bearing face of each domino is divided, by a line or ridge, into squares marked with an arrangement of spots, or “pips,” similar to those on a die, except that some of the squares are blank (indicated in the listing below by a zero). The pips on a domino indicate its value, which may range from six pips down to none or blank. A piece with a greater number of pips is said to be more “heavy” than a piece with fewer pips.

The word domino derives from the Italian noun domenico, which means “little dome.” It also refers to a large hooded garment worn together with a mask at carnival season or at a masquerade. The word’s English spelling reflects this earlier sense, but it also appears to have been related to the French word domino, which, in turn, referred to a cape worn by a priest over his surplice.

When Hevesh creates her mind-blowing domino setups, she follows a version of the engineering-design process. First she considers the theme or purpose of the installation. Then she brainstorms images or words that might go with it. Finally, she begins arranging the pieces. She pays special attention to the shapes of each piece, as well as the gaps and angles between them.

Once the set is arranged, she gives it a test run. If she is satisfied, she begins putting down the next piece. She tries to make sure the new piece is properly aligned with previous ones and will easily slide across the table when it is placed in place. If she is not satisfied, she must reposition the piece and try again.

Many domino sets are made of polymer materials such as styrene plastic, although traditional wooden or metal sets continue to be popular. Sets made from natural materials, such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or a dark hardwood such as ebony, have a more distinctive look and often feel heavier in the hand. They are usually more expensive than sets made from polymer materials. Many people prefer these sets because of the superior craftsmanship involved in making them, and because they do not scratch as easily as plastic-molded dominoes.