The History of Dominoes


Laying Out Dominoes

Dominoes, like playing cards and dice, are something of a generic gaming device. They are simple building blocks that can be assembled in innumerable ways to create a large variety of games, ranging from the simple to the complex, from games in which the gameplay is almost mechanical, to games that require great skill and strategy.

Dominoes evolved from dice. In fact, the numbers in a standard double-six domino set represent all the rolls of two six-sided dice. A set of Chinese Dominoes contains all the possible combinations (including duplicates). European dominoes use only the unique rolls (and add in the blanks).

Dominoes are believed to have originated in China (see Chinese Dominoes) in the 12th century, though Egyptian or Arabian origins are also theorized. Dominoes appeared in Italy in the early eighteenth century, and spread to the rest of Europe throughout the remainder of the 1700's, becoming one of the most popular games in both family parlors and pubs alike.

The following is a quote from The Dictionary of Daily Wants (1859), describing English dominoes:

DOMINOES. – This game is played by two or four persons, with twenty-eight pieces of oblong ivory, plain at the back, but on the face divided by a black line in the middle, and indented with spots, from one to a double six, which pieces are a double-blank, ace-blank, double-ace, deuce-blank, deuce-ace, double-deuce, trois-blank, trois-ace, trois-deuce, double-trois, four-blank, four-ace, four-deuce, four-trois, double-four, five-blank, five-ace, five-deuce, five-trois, five-four, double-five, six-blank, six-ace, six-deuce, six-trois, six-four, six-five, and double-six. Sometimes a double set is played with, of which double twelve is the highest. At the commencement of the game, the dominoes are well mixed, with their faces downwards. Each person draws one, and if four play, those who choose the two highest are partners, against those who draw the two lowest; drawing the latter also serves to determine who is to lay down the first piece, which is reckoned a great advantage. Afterwards each player takes seven pieces at random. The eldest hand having laid down one, the next must pair him at either end of the piece he may choose, according to the number of pips or the blank in the compartment of the piece; but whenever any party cannot match the part, either of the domino last put down, or of that unpaired at the other end of the row, then he says “go,” and the next is at liberty to play. Thus they play alternately, either until one party has played all his pieces, and thereby won the game, or till the game be blocked; that is, when neither party can play by matching the pieces when unpaired at either end, then that party wins who possesses the smallest number of pips on the pieces remaining. In playing this game it is to the advantage of the player to dispossess himself as early as possible of the heavy pieces, such as a double-six, five, four, &c. Sometimes when two persons play, they take each only seven pieces, and agree to play or draw, that is when one cannot come in or pair the pieces on the board at the end unmatched, he then is to draw from the fourteen pieces in stock till he find one to suit.

The work "domino" appears to have derived from the traditional appearance of the tiles - black dots on a white background - which is reminiscent of a "domino" (a kind of hood) worn by Christian priests.

Today, dominoes are played all over the world. It is particularly popular in Latin America, where dominoes is considered the national game of many Caribbean countries. There are domino tournaments held annually in many countries, and there are numerous local domino clubs in many cities around the globe.

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