Masters Traditional Games brings you beautifully presented domino sets, and fun variations on this classic game.
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Tile games of some form have been found from around 1120 AD in China. Chinese dominoes are longer than Western ones and are divided into two types and were originally carved from bone or ivory with the indented pips made of ebony. Each Chinese tile represents one of the twenty-one different permutations of throwing two cubic dice although there are a total of thirty-two tiles since certain dominoes are duplicated. A set of Chinese tiles is divided into two categories - Military and Civilian. The Civilian tiles are the set of tiles that have duplicates while the Military tiles are those that are unique.
The game appeared first in Europe in 18th Century Italy, possibly in the courts of Venice and Naples. Although domino tiles are clearly of Chinese inheritance, there is debate over whether the game played by Europeans was brought by the Chinese to Europe in the fourteenth century or, in fact, was invented independently. European dominoes are shorter than Chinese ones and there is a single tile for each permutation of the throw of two dice or a blank making a total of twenty-eight tiles. This is the standard or "double-six" set and, as in China, various games can be played with it. Double-twelve sets (91 tiles) are popular in America and Double-nine sets (55 tiles) also provide some extra complexity to this genre of game.
The game arrived in Britain in the late 18th Century from France (possibly via French prisoners of war) and quickly seems to have become popular in inns and taverns at the time. The word "Domino" is French for a black and white hood worn by Christian priests in winter and that is probably from where the name of the game derives.