The Art of Domino

Domino is a game played with a set of small rectangular wood or plastic blocks, each marked by dots resembling those on dice. The dominoes are arranged in a line of play, either lengthwise or crosswise, with the smallest end on the left. When a domino is “flicked” with a finger, it triggers a chain reaction that causes the other dominoes to fall over in sequence. The chain reaction has a rhythm and an aesthetic that makes many people enjoy watching it, much as we all admire the beauty of a well-done piece of artwork or architecture.

The rules of domino vary, but most sets feature two suits of numbers. Each suit has a number of dominoes that are all the same color, such as red or white. Some larger domino sets have a single domino that belongs to both suits, for example a five of hearts and a three of spades. A domino can also feature an image, a symbol, or even a picture of a person or place, making the game more interesting to play.

When Lily Hevesh first got her grandparents’ classic 28-piece set as a child, she was hooked on the idea of setting up dominoes in straight or curved lines and then flicking one to start the chain reaction. Now, at 20, she’s a professional domino artist who creates mind-blowing setups for movies, TV shows, and events such as a Katy Perry album launch. Her YouTube channel, Hevesh5, has more than 2 million subscribers.

Hevesh says her creative process for creating a domino layout begins with thinking about a theme or purpose. She then brainstorms images and words related to that theme or purpose. Next, she lays out her design on a large piece of paper. She draws arrows to show the direction in which the dominoes will fall, then determines how many dominoes she’ll need for each part of the design.

Physicist Stephen Morris, who explains the domino effect in a video on his website, says that when a domino is stood upright, it has potential energy based on its position. When you lift a domino against the pull of gravity, it converts that potential energy to kinetic energy. That kinetic energy then travels to the next domino, giving it the push it needs to topple. And so on, until all the dominoes have fallen.

In some games, the player who draws the highest double is entitled to seat himself. If there is a tie, the winner may draw additional tiles from the stock and add them to his hand. The excess tiles are then returned to the stock and reshuffled before another player draws his hand.

The player who seats himself first may also be referred to as the setter, the downer, or the leader. Some games require that a player who draws an extra tile for his hand return it to the stock without looking at it. The other players may then draw from that extra hand or purchase the excess tile at a price (See Passing and Byeing) later in the game.