A domino is a small rectangular tile with groups of spots, or pips, on one side. A single domino can knock over many more tiles, resulting in a chain reaction that continues until the last tile falls. These amazing displays of dominoes are often called “domino art.” Some artists use the physical phenomenon of gravity to create their works; Hevesh says that this is what makes her largest installations possible, and it’s also what allows them to take several nail-biting minutes to fall.

Dominoes are used in a variety of games, from simple block-building to strategic scoring. In general, dominoes are divided into two main categories: blocking games and scoring games. Blocking games build chains that lock in other tiles to form a grid, while scoring games involve playing tiles with numbers on their ends so that they total some value.

Before a game or hand of domino begins, the dominoes are shuffled and drawn by players to determine who goes first. Then the player who draws a double, or one with a higher number on its exposed end than the other, puts down the first tile, and the rest of the players follow in sequence. The pips on the exposed ends of a tile determine its value, with doubles having twice as many pips as non-doubles and blanks having none or only one pips.

In a typical domino set, each tile has either six or 12 pips on one of its sides; this is called its rank, and it’s considered to be a heavier tile than a blank or a double-blank. The other side of the domino is often blank, or has a single line of dots that indicates a zero pips count (a 0). In some countries, different sets have varying ranks, and these are generally differentiated by the color of their pips.

After the starting domino is played, each subsequent tile must be placed so that its matching end touches a tile with a visible number on its exposed end, or with an open end. Then the other players place their tiles at right angles to that tile, and if they play a double they must place it cross-ways to the second domino. The result is a snake-like chain that grows in length as each player adds new tiles to the end of the previous row.

While dominoes are often played with hands of seven, they can be paired to create more limited patterns. Pairs of dominoes are called a set, and the player with the most sets is said to have the highest score. The first player to reach the target score wins the game. The number of points is typically determined by counting the pips on opposing player’s dominoes, with doubles counted as one or two and blanks counting as either zero or 14. The game continues until one player reaches the target score or an agreed-upon number of rounds has been completed. The winner is awarded the amount of the prize money, if any.