20 Fun and Interesting Facts About Dominoes! (the Game)

elderly farmers playing dominoes in the country around Vinales, Cuba
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I’m sure most of you are familiar with the game Dominoes. In case you aren’t, it is a game played with small tiles that have a small line separating them into two sides. Each tile has a different number of black dots on each side, and some have sides that are completely blank. I bet you’re wondering to yourself, ‘are there any fun facts I should know about the game of Dominoes’?

There are many interesting facts about the game of Dominoes. These include how and where it was invented, what materials are used to make it, how it got its name, where it is most popular, how and who can play it, what events it has inspired, why it is used to teach and develop basic cognitive skills, etc.

In the following list, we’ll explore these interesting features in more detail. So, if you’re ready to learn more about the wonderful game of Dominoes, then let’s get started!

These are 20 Facts about Dominoes – the Game

1. Dominoes was Invented in China Many Centuries Ago.

Forbidden City in Beijing, China dominoes
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The oldest known writings regarding the game of Dominoes dates all the way back to the 12th century! Chinese writers of the Yuan Dynasty describe it as a gambling game sold by peddlers. They referred to the game as ‘pupai‘.

2. Dominoes (As We Know It) Began in Europe.

The modern version of Dominoes began in Europe in the early 18th century. How it made it’s way overseas is unknown. Many scholars believe Italian missionaries may have brought the game back home with them.

3. Dominoes Are Made From Many Different Materials.

Dominoes tiles are traditionally made out of ivory, bone, or a dark hardwood like ebony with contrasting stripes (black on ivory or white on ebony) inlaid or painted onto them. However, did you know that Domino tiles are also made from other natural materials such as granite, marble, soapstone, cedar, oak, redwood, brass, pewter, ceramic clay, frosted glass, and even crystal?

Dominoes are made of wood with metal parts
ViralMind / Shutterstock.com

4. Dominoes Tiles are Also Known as Bones.

Traditional Dominoes tiles, as mentioned above, were usually made of a hard, white material such as ivory or bone. Therefore, they were often referred to as ‘bones’. Tiles are called ‘stones’, ‘spinners’, ‘cards’ and ‘tickets’.

5. Modern Dominoes Sets Look Quite Different Than Traditional Sets.

While most of us are familiar with the monochromatic black or white Dominoes sets, modern versions of the game look quite different. The newer sets are often made from light-weight synthetic materials such as colored or translucent plastic or resin to create a more contemporary look. They also use different colors for the dots such as red, blue, green, etc.

6. European Sets are Different than Chinese Sets.

Modern European Domino sets differ from the classic Chinese sets. The European versions have 28 tiles, whereas the Chinese ones use 32 tiles. Chinese sets were initially designed to represent all of the possible ‘faces’ or throws of two 6-sided dice.

7. How the Game Got Its Name is Unknown.

Medieval monk sitting at table and write dominoes
Nomad_Soul / Shutterstock.com

To this day, no one really knows how or why the game is called Dominoes. Some historians believe it was named after the black hooded accessory worn by priests many years ago. Others believe it was derived from the Latin word ‘dominus’ meaning ‘lord’ or ‘master’.

8. The Game is Spelt Two Different Ways.

The game can be spelled two different ways, ‘Dominoes’ or ‘Dominos’. In terms of grammar, it is considered correct with or without the ‘e’ as the plural form of words ending in ‘o’ can be spelled either way depending on the word (for example, ‘pianos’ versus ‘potatoes’). However, it is more commonly spelled ‘Dominoes.

9. Inspired the Phrase, ‘the Domino Effect’.

The phrase ‘the domino effect’ in reference to small events compounding to create a catastrophe was inspired by the game. Standing the tiles closely together on their sides and then tapping the first one to cause the second and then the third and eventually all of the tiles in the line to topple is what is known as ‘the domino effect’.

domino effect 1
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10. Inspired the Domino Day Exhibition in the Netherlands.

An annual event has been held in the Netherlands since 1986 called Domino Day. It has set records worldwide including the longest domino spiral, the highest domino climb, and the largest domino structure.

11. There are Many Different Ways to Play the Game.

For many years the game has been played in a variety of ways. Four players individually with the winner being the one to score 150 points first, in pairs or partners or even in multiples of 5 using only 27 tiles. Today, the gaming options for Dominoes seem almost endless…

12. The Game Inspired a Popular Pizza Chain.

The game of Dominoes has even inspired a popular pizza restaurant that uses a tile as its logo. Domino’s pizza was established in the United States on December 9, 1960, in Michigan and is now a popular, worldwide pizza chain.

Domino’s Pizza take away pickup and delivery shop
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13. Domino Sets Played like Card Games.

Domino sets were often adapted to suit the rules popular card games. These versions were played in areas where certain religions condemned gambling and card playing. In Texas, a Dominoes games called 42, which is similar to Spades, remains quite popular to this day.

14. Almost Anyone Can Play Dominoes.

Almost anyone can play Dominoes, regardless of age, as well as cultural background. The rules are simple so children can play along with adults and not feel at a disadvantage. People all around the world, from Asia to Europe, North America to South America enjoy playing this game.

15. Playing Dominoes Helps Develop Cognitive Skills in Youngsters.

Playing Dominoes with younger children is a great way to teach and reinforce basic math skills such as counting and multiplication. It also helps develop critical thinking, strategic planning, and pattern recognition. Incorporating this game into the classroom is becoming widely popular in North America.

16. There are Many Variations of the Game.

The game of Dominoes has so many variations that it seems almost impossible to count them all! The many different versions are based on the three most popular types of domino games, which include blocking games, scoring games, and card game alternatives.

17. Dominoes is Played at a Professional Level.

Did you know that Dominoes can be played professionally? Similar to poker, tournaments, and competitions are held in countries all over the world. The game has evolved from a recreational one to a highly-skilled sport.

18. Dominoes is Most Popular in Latin American Countries.

Old friends make Dominos play on the Havana street
Norteno / Shutterstock.com

While the game of Dominoes is played in many countries around the world, it is most popular in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico, among others. Considering the game began centuries ago in Asia, it is incredible to think how far it has traveled to reach the shores of Europe and North America.

19. It Can Be Made and Played at Home.

It is common for Dominoes sets to be hand-made (on a larger scale) out of wood. Do-It-Yourself hobbyists will make and paint these sets to be played as an outdoor game. Great for barbecues and other social gatherings, these unique sets add a fun and unique twist to the classic game.

20. It Can Be Played Anytime, Anywhere.

All that is required to play the game is the tiles themselves and a flat surface. Play it with the family on the floor in the living room or on the table in the kitchen. Take it to work for a fun game over coffee or lunch break. Whenever and wherever the mood strikes you, the game is readily available for play!

In closing

There many fun and interesting facts surrounding the game of Dominoes, starting with its conception in China in the 12th century to its rebirth in Europe in the 18th century. People all around the world play the game, both professionally and recreationally. It has inspired both a national day of recognition in the Netherlands to a popular pizza restaurant chain in the United States.

Now, it’s time to get your ‘nearest and dearest’ together for a little friendly competition. Why not arrange a Dominoes game night? Break out the tiles and have some fun. Good luck!