Domino is both a game and a figurative term for the cascading effect of a small action causing a chain reaction that continues until all the pieces topple. In fact, a domino can be just one of many similar items that creates the same effect; even a person can trigger the domino effect.

Dominoes are plastic tiles with rounded, raised edges and pips (spots) that can be set up in rows to form a line, a shape or an intricate design. They are often used in mathematical polygons, such as squares and octagons, to determine the number of sides, but they also can be found in non-mathematical settings, including architecture and art. Dominoes are available in a variety of colors, shapes and styles; the simplest sets have only a white background with black pips. More elaborate sets are made from other materials, such as mother of pearl (MOP), ivory, or dark hardwoods such as ebony; and metals like brass or pewter.

A basic domino game involves two to four players and a set of dominoes. The players draw for the lead, and whoever has the highest total domino number wins. The rest of the dominoes are left behind in a pile called the boneyard or stock. Each player then draws one domino from the stock and places it on the table, if possible in the correct position. The player then plays any remaining pieces from his hand to continue the turn, or passes.

The most common domino games are scoring or blocking games that require the player to empty his hand while keeping other players from playing a particular piece. These games include bergen and muggins, where points are determined by counting the pips in the losing player’s hands; and Mexican train, in which players alternately place a domino on the track in an attempt to build up a continuous train of dominoes. Domino games are also great for building kids’ numeric pattern recognition and math skills.

When a domino is tipped over, the potential energy stored in that tile gets converted to heat and sound, which cause other nearby dominoes to tip over. This is what causes the whole line to fall.

A domino effect is a metaphor for the way one event can lead to many other events, whether in politics or in everyday life. We can think of a person who is a bully or an employer who fires people without cause; these actions can have a negative effect on everyone involved. A sports team that starts winning can create a domino effect of goodwill and momentum that leads to success.

The phrase “domino effect” is especially apt for writing, because a story often works in the same way. The first domino is tipped over, and then, with the slightest nudge, all the other dominoes follow suit in a rhythmic, beautiful and dramatic sequence. When a writer is plotting a novel, she may consider the domino effect, thinking about what happens next after each event.

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