The history of dominoes is shrouded in mystery, although there are definite signs that it existed as far back as 1120 AD in China, some historians claim to have found evidence linking the original game back to 181 – 234 CE, in scriptures about a popular Chinese soldier by the name of Hung Ming. It does seem certain that the origins of the game are firmly connected with China.
In addition to the Chinese connection it seems that a Western version appeared much later although it is not mentioned in the history books prior to the 18th century (first played in France and Italy before spreading to other European countries). It is not clear whether the Western version was based on the Chinese game, or if they were developed separately. There are striking differences to the versions, in that the Chinese game is based upon 32 pieces, while the Western version only consists of 28 pieces.
Furthermore, there is some confusion as to the origins of the name ‘Domino’ with some historians adamant it derives from the black domino half-masks worn in ancient times, while some believe it refers to the Latin ‘dominus’ (the master of the house).
There are many famous domino enthusiasts including amongst others, Tutankhamen in whose tomb was discovered the oldest domino set in the world, dating back to at least 1355 BC. That particular set of dominoes is now on show in the Tutankhamen museum in Cairo, Egypt.
Other domino fans include President Lyndon B Johnson who often played the game at his Texas base, as well as Kings, Queens and Presidents throughout history.
There is even talk that a domino was found on the wreck of the Mary Rose wreckage back in the early 16th century. Furthermore, there is also evidence that the game was played by the Eskimos, using colored bones as the Domino “tiles”.
While originally played by the higher classes, the game is now enjoyed by the youngest of grand children, to the oldest of grand parents, a game which is simple in theory, but a little more difficult in practice.
Dominoes has become a worldwide past time and while common in Europe and the Far East it is especially popular in Latin America. Cuban Dominoes is a very popular Latin American variant of the game.
Originally a past time for the older generation, it has received cult status in some areas of the world, and been opened up to players of all ages..
While the original Chinese version took in 32 pieces (commonly known as tiles), and the European version only 28, the European version seems to be more prevalent around the world. After initially taking in pairings from double zero (commonly called “double blonk”) to double six, and all variations in between, the 28 piece European version has been expanded for competition and large social gatherings. There are now versions up to Double 9 (55 tiles), Double 12 (91 tiles), Double 15 (136 tiles) and Double 18 (190 tiles). There are many competitions around the world, with the United Kingdom a particular stronghold for the competitive side.
The domino game rules are fairly simple in that once a domino is layed down to start, the next player must have a domino containing one of the two end numbers before they can continue the line. The “block” variation of the games sees the player who is unable to “lay” pass his turn, while the “draw” game states that you must pick up another domino if you are not able to “lay”. The winner is the first player to “lay” all of their dominoes, although in the event that all players cannot “lay”, the winner is the one with the least cumulative number of “dots” on their remaining dominoes.