Who invented the Dominoes Game? (Invention Timeline Explained)

Have you ever played dominoes games? Yes, the ones with the tiles sporting different numbers of pips on each side. Or are you one of the many who recognize the tiles but don’t know how to play them but are interested in discovering the game’s nuances? Well, one thing’s for sure, you’re not alone. Dominoes is one of the more popular games in the world, and it intrigues many people who want to try their hand and discover the pleasures of the game.

Did you know that dominoes are used like playing cards? I bet you didn’t know that! It only goes to show that dominoes is an exciting game. There are many things to uncover in this article about the history of dominoes and their evolution.  

Who invented dominoes?

Historians agree that the game of dominoes originated in China, but they couldn’t pinpoint who invented it. Some experts say that Hung Ming, a soldier-hero, created the game. Others mention Keung T’ai Kung invented the game in the 12th century. Historians could agree that the earliest accounts saying dominoes can be traced to the texts from the Song Dynasty during the 12th century. Some sporadic writings dating back to the 10th century also mention the game, but there has been no conclusive evidence thus far. 

Some texts, specifically in the Chu sz yam (Investigations on the Traditions of All Things), say that a statesman invented the game in 1120. It goes further to say that the statesman presented it to Emperor Hui Tsung. During the reign of Kao-Tsung, the son of Hui Tsung, the game circulated in Chinese embassies abroad thanks to an imperial order. However, historians disagree with the translation and imply that it referred to the standardization of the game and not its invention. Regardless of who invented the game, historians are sure that the inventor was a Chinese individual. 

The game made its way to Europe during the 18th century by way of Italy. Experts believe the game flourished in Naples and Venice, although there’s still some debate whether the domino tiles originated in China or were made independently. In the early 18th century, the game came to France from Italy and quickly caught on with the people. In the late 18th century, it arrived in Britain, possibly through the prisoners of war from France, and the game became a popular pastime in inns, pubs, and taverns all over the territory. The game also became popular in the United States, where several game variations became popular. Different rules, scoring combinations, and variations made the game challenging and fun. 

Dominoes game’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Ancient Chinese 
    Records say the ancient Chinese invented the game 

    According to historians, the Chinese invented the game probably in the 12th century. Several accounts mention the game, although experts couldn’t agree on the individual who created the game. Some historians say it was hero-soldier Hung Ming, while others say it was Keung T’ai Kung or Fan Lai who invented the game and presented it to Emperor Hui Sung.

  • Italians
    They accepted the game and helped spread it to other European countries

    The Italians, probably by way of Venice or Naples, found the game entertaining, and it became a quick fad during the early 18th century. They made the game popular, and historians say they made their version of the domino tiles.

  • French
    Embraced the game and developed it

    The Italians brought the game to France, and the Frenchmen embraced the game. It became a popular game with the people, and historians believe they also created their tiles, like the Italians before them. They also added rules for scoring and different game variations.

  • Britons
    Made the game popular in taverns, inns, and pubs

    Probably brought to the British Isles by prisoners of war from France, the Brits took to the game and made it a popular activity in pubs, inns, and taverns during the late 18th century. It probably made for a great game while drinking their pints. The Brits favored playing the version of Fives and Threes.

  • Americans
    Continued to develop the game and created other game variations

    Americans also took to the game and created their game versions. They incorporated different scoring options, combinations, and rules, making the game even more popular. Texas 42, Chicken Foot, Concentration, Matador, Muggins, Mexican Train, and Double Fives are among the most played dominoes game in the US.

When was dominoes game invented?

According to various historical accounts, the Chinese invented the game of dominoes in the early 12th century. However, historical experts still couldn’t agree whether it was the hero-soldier Hung Ming, Keung T’ai Kung, or Fan Lai who invented the game. Other historical texts say that a statesman created the game in 1120 and presented it to Emperor H(w)ui (T)sung. The game play is similar to mahjong or pei gao. 

The game spread to Europe by way of Italy during the 18th century. Historians believe that the game came to Europe via Venice or Naples, and the people took to the game quickly. From Italy, it came to France, where it became a fad. The French created game variants, game rules, and scoring systems. The game also went to the British Isles during the 18th century, perhaps brought by prisoners of war from France. The Brits also took to the game and made it a popular pastime in England’s taverns, inns, and pubs. 

The game spread to the United States and other parts of the globe. The Americans also contributed their share of game variations, rules, and scoring systems. Among the more popular dominoes games variations include Fives, Texas 42, Mexican Train, Muggins, Chicken Foot, and Matador.

A brief history of dominoes game

If we’re to trace the history of dominoes, there’s a lot to unravel. Historians still couldn’t agree about the individual who invented the game. Several accounts say that it was either the hero-soldier Hung Ming, Fan Lai, or Keung T’ai Kung who invented the game during the early 12th century. Other accounts say a statesman created the game and presented it to Emperor Hui Sung (or Hwui Tsung) in 1120. 

According to the Chu sz yam or Investigations on the Traditions of All Things, it was during the reign of Emperor Kao-Tsung when the game circulated in Chinese foreign embassies, thanks to an imperial order. However, historians don’t see eye-to-eye with the translation and imply that it referred to the game’s standardization rather than its invention. No matter who invented the game, historians know that the inventor was a Chinese individual. 

During the 18th century, the game made its way to Europe via Italy. Historians think Venice and Naples played a massive role in the game coming to the attention of Europeans. Finally, the game came to France, and people lapped it up as it became a quick fad. Historians believe that the Italians and French made their version of the tiles, and the French even developed the game as they made game variations, rules, and a scoring system. 

The game also came to the English shores as prisoners of war from France brought it over. The Englishmen took to the game quickly and made it a popular activity in inns, taverns, and pubs all over the country. They preferred the variation fives and threes and it also made its way to homes. After that, dominoes spread to the rest of the world, and the United States also contributed to the game’s evolution by adding game variants and rules to make it more challenging and fun.

The dominoes game timeline

  1. Early 12<sup>th</sup> century
    Chinese created the game

    It wasn’t clear who among Fan Lai, Hung-Ming or Keung T’ai Kung, or an unnamed statesman created the game. What’s clear to historians is the game originated in China and spread to the rest of the world.

  2. Early 18<sup>th</sup> century
    Game came to European soil through Italy

    The game came to Europe through Italy. Historians believe that the Venetians and Neapolitans were influential in the game catching on in Italy. Next, the game spread to France, Germany, and Austria.

  3. Mid 18<sup>th</sup> century
    French took to the game quickly

    The French took to the game quickly, and they made a few improvements to the game. They incorporated a scoring system and created rules to make the game more challenging and fun.

  4. Late 18<sup>th</sup> century
    Dominoes came to England

    Purportedly brought to England by prisoners of war from France, dominoes became a popular activity in taverns, inns, and pubs across the country. Of course, it also made its way to the home, and the Brits regularly played it in their parlors.

  5. Early to late 19<sup>th</sup> century
    Americans and the rest of the world catch up on dominoes game

    During the early to late 19th century, the Americans and the rest of the world took to the game. Several game variations, rules, and scoring systems came up, and the game spread in popularity worldwide.

Where was dominoes game invented?

According to various historical sources, dominoes were invented in China during the early 12th century. Then, the game spread to Europe via Naples and Venice. From there it spread to France, the British Isles, the United States and the rest of the world. The game evolved from the traditional Chinese gameplay to a different game when it came to Europe and the United States and the rest of the world. 

Why everyone loves dominoes game

  • It’s a fun game to play

    Although there are different variations of the game, traditional dominoes are a fun game to play. All it takes is for people to match the pips in play, and they can score depending on the rules they adopt.

  • It builds a good bond with friends and family

    Dominoes is a great game to play because it helps build bonds with friends and family. A good game night calls for a challenging game of dominoes with enough banter, great food, and even better companionship to make it more memorable.

  • It helps people keep their minds sharp

    It’s no secret that dominoes is a game of strategy. It keeps people’s mental faculties sharp because it challenges them to strategize how they will dominate the game against their opponent.

  • It keeps stress at bay

    Some people need mental exercise to ward off stress, and playing dominoes will do just that. It can help people’s mental health as they de-stress from their daily grind.

Dominoes game by the numbers

  • 2 to 4The game calls for two to four players, and different configurations could be had for the game to start.
  • 28There are usually 28 pieces of domino tiles in a set.
  • 7Each player draws seven tiles from the pile to begin the game. The player with the highest double tile starts the game.
  • 100 to 250Depending on what the players agreed on, this is the scoring range that will win the game.

Five facts about dominoes game

  • The name probably came from domini

    Historians say that it was the Venetians who used the term dominoes. They surmise that it came from the term Domini, a mask people wore during the Venetian Carnival. They were white with black dots and also resembled the black and white hoods that the Dominican monks wore during those times.

  • They call the tiles bones, among other things. 

    Domino tiles are also known as bones because they were previously made of bone or ivory. Tiles are also called spinners, cards, tickets, or stones.

  • The game has many variations

    Truth be told, the game can be played in several ways based on the number of players and the rules they wish to use.

  • The game inspired a popular food chain

    Believe it or not, the game inspired the creation of Domino’s Pizza, one of the world’s leading pizza chains.

  • There are professional level competitions

    There are professional competitions, and tournaments for dominos played worldwide.

FAQs about dominoes

  • What materials are the tiles made of?

    Traditionally, domino tiles were made of ivory or bone. Nowadays, most sets are made of plastic, wood, and other rigid materials. 

  • How many players can play dominoes?

    A game of dominoes needs at least two players to start. Up to four players can play the game.

  • What makes dominoes so good?

    Dominoes are easy to play, but they can also be pretty challenging because it is inherently a game of strategy. 

  • How is dominoes spelled?

    People can spell dominos in two ways – either dominoes or dominos are accepted. It is considered correct whether the word ends in -s or -es. However, the game is more commonly referred to as dominoes.

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