A Beginner’s Guide to Dominoes


Dominoes are a versatile game that can be played in many ways. From the simple act of flicking the first domino over a line of them to creating intricate setups for movies and music events, these little pieces of wood are a fascinating way to pass the time. They are also a reminder of the power of chain reactions and the “domino effect,” which is the idea that one small trigger can lead to much larger, even catastrophic, consequences.

The physics of domino is simple: When you set a domino upright, it stores potential energy in its position. This energy can then be converted to kinetic energy, the kind that causes the domino to topple over when it is tipped. As it falls, some of this energy is transferred to the next domino, causing that one to tip over as well. Then, the process continues, domino after domino, until all of them have fallen over.

Lily Hevesh has been playing with dominoes since she was 9 years old, when her grandparents gave her their classic 28-pack. She was fascinated by the ability to create a long line of dominoes and then watch them all fall, one after another. Today, she’s a professional domino artist who creates mind-blowing setups for movies and television shows, and has more than 2 million YouTube subscribers who follow her work.

Dominoes were invented in China in the 1300s and are considered one of the oldest gaming tools. They have markings on them, called pips, that originally represented the results of throwing two six-sided dice. In European versions, the pips were replaced by Arabic numerals to allow for more complex games.

The most popular domino games involve a series of positional challenges. Each player places a domino edge to edge against another, either in a line that matches the other players’ tiles or by forming some specified total (e.g., a six-six domino counts as 6 points). Some games allow you to place additional tiles against the ends of doubles, while others require you to play against only the long sides.

A key to these games is the ability to predict what will happen as a result of your actions. That’s why many of the best domino players keep score to track how many times they’ve made a move that sets off the chain reaction. When you’re writing a story, it can be useful to think of each plot beat as a domino: what will happen next? Whether you compose your manuscript off the cuff or use a careful outline, applying this idea to your story can help you make more informed decisions about what to write.