Dominoes are tiles representing the various permutations that result from throwing two dice and were probably invented by the Chinese several hundred years ago. Chinese dominoes have 32 tiles in a set. 21 of these represent the dice combinations and a further 11 pieces are duplicates of some of the tiles. European dominoes have the original 21 tiles and a further 7 which feature each of the six numbers with a blank, together with a double blank. Chinese dominoes do not use blanks.
Dominoes were introduced into Europe through Italy in the mid-18th century. By the end of the 18th century dominoes had arrived in England where people took to the game with enthusiasm and have played it ever since.
Early European dominoes were made of thin pieces of bone. By 1840 the bone strip was stuck to an ebony backing and fastened with a brass pin (known as the spinner) to enable the tiles to stand on edge. The availability of cheap sets, made of wood stained black, or more recently of plastic, made the game more popular and it is still widely enjoyed across Europe, in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as in China.
At the beginning of a game of dominoes, the 28 pieces are placed face down on the table and shuffled by the players. The most common game is the 'block' game, usually played by four players. Each player draws seven dominoes from the central pile and sets them on their edges so the faces are hidden from the other players. The player who draws the double six starts by placing it on the table face up, vertical to him. Turns are taken clockwise round the table. Players must place a tile with a matching number of spots at either end of the tiles already played. Any player who cannot do so on his turn must pass. Double tiles are placed crosswise, horizontal to the line of play. The game ends when one player has placed all his dominoes. The other players count the spots on their tiles and the total is awarded to the one with none left. A set number of points is specified at the beginning and games continue until someone reaches this total.