Domino is a popular game that can be played by two or more players. It is based on the same principle as poker chips, but without the chance of an opponent “cheating.” The first player to play all of their tiles wins. Many variations of the game exist, some involving blocking other players, while others involve scoring points by counting the pips (spots) on the dominoes. Blocking games can also be used to teach number recognition and math skills. Dominoes are available in a wide variety of styles and materials. They can be carved in wood or made from clay, marble, or soapstone. Some are even painted and glazed, giving them a more unique appearance.
Lily Hevesh started playing domino when she was 9. She liked setting them up in a straight or curved line and flicking the first one over to see the entire chain fall. She’s now a professional domino artist, creating mind-blowing setups for movies and events, including the launch of Katy Perry’s album.
Her large, complex designs require careful planning and a lot of patience, because once she sets up the dominoes, they must fall according to the laws of physics. Hevesh’s work is often inspired by nature, such as a tree branch or the shape of a butterfly. She’s also drawn inspiration from science, particularly gravity. “The main physical phenomenon I use is gravity,” she says. “As soon as a domino is knocked over, it converts some of its potential energy to kinetic energy—the energy of motion—and this pushes the next domino over.”
Hevesh’s projects can take weeks to complete. She works with teams of up to 20 people. Her biggest installations can involve 300,000 dominoes. When she’s designing a project, Hevesh begins by considering the theme or purpose. She then brainstorms images and words that relate to the topic. She also calculates how many dominoes she’ll need to create her design.
Most dominoes are made from a plastic material called polystyrene, but some are made of wood, bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or ebony. Those with a more traditional look may be inlaid or painted to feature contrasting black or white pips. Some dominoes are also available with a more modern, computer-generated image printed on the face.
While most dominoes have numbers on their faces, some are printed with Arabic numerals instead. This is especially common with older and more valuable sets, which are usually crafted from materials like mahogany or other rare woods.
In addition to traditional European dominoes, Asian sets can be found in wood, brass, copper, or pewter. They can also be made from more novel materials, such as frosted glass or ceramic clay. Some are hand-painted, while others are machine-etched or engraved. These types of dominoes are more expensive, but they have a distinct look and feel. They also tend to be heavier and more durable than their plastic counterparts.