OBJECTIVE OF BACKGAMMON: The game’s objective is to be the first to move your checker pieces to the other side of the board and bear them off.
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2 players
MATERIALS: Backgammon Board, Checkers, Dice, Cups
TYPE OF GAME: Strategy Board Game
AUDIENCE: Ages 6 – Adults
Modern backgammon was first published sometime in the 1600s! It was based on a previous game called “Irish” from the 16th century. However, historians can trace the backgammon rules back over 5000 years! If you are interested in ancient games, we have more to explore!
Backgammon is made for audiences 6 years and older, making it a perfect game for family game night. The game plays 2 players, and is perfect for teaching deeper thinking and resolve in younger audiences. As well as going over the standard backgammon rules, we have two additional variations we will discuss more below.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX
The backgammon game usually comes in an easily transportable case resembling a small suitcase. The suitcase’s lining serves as the game board, and the inside contents include 30 checker pieces, two sets of dice, and two shakers.
UNDERSTANDING THE BACKGAMMON BOARD
There is some terminology that comes along with playing backgammon. The board is split in half by the bar. The bar separates the outer side from the home side of the board. The 24 triangles on the board are known as the points, and the checkers are called discs.
SETTING UP THE BACKGAMMON BOARD
There are 24 triangles on the board, known as points. The discs are color-coded: 15 of a light color and 15 of a dark color. Each player will set their board according to the diagram below. The player places light-colored discs with five discs on the 6th point, three discs on the 8th, five discs on the 13th, and two discs on the 24th. The player places the dark discs with two discs on the 1st point, 5 discs on the 12th point, 3 discs on the 17th, and 5 discs on the 19th.
Players will strive to move all their pieces to their home board and bear them off. A strong strategy is to try hitting as many of your opponent’s unprotected playing pieces, also known as “blots,” along the way.
HOW TO PLAY BACKGAMMON
To start, both players will roll one die; the player that rolls the higher die goes first. From here, players alternate turns accordingly.
On a player’s turn, they will roll both dice to determine their movement. The game’s goal is to bear off, or remove, your pieces from play. You do this by getting your pieces around the board into your home section.
Moving your pieces
You are always moving your pieces towards your home board. The discs can only move the number of rolled spaces to an open point. This rule means that the point is NOT occupied by TWO or more of your opponent’s pieces. If the point has only ONE of your opponent’s pieces, you are encouraged to move your disc there to” hit” your opponent. More on this under the section titled “Hitting a piece.”
After rolling your dice, you have two choices regarding how you move your discs. You can move one disc the equivalent of the first die and a second disc the equivalent of a second die, or you can move one disc the equivalent of both dice added together, but you can only do the latter if the count of the first die moves the disc to an open point. You can stack as many of your discs on any one point.
If you roll doubles, you get to move double the amount. For example, if players rolled double 2s, they could move four 2s in any format they would like. So essentially, instead of moving two pieces, two spaces each, you get to move four pieces, two spaces each. You must move the full count of the roll, if possible. If you cannot move, you lose your turn.
Hitting a piece
If you can land on a point with only ONE of your opponent’s pieces, known as a “blot,” then you can hit your opponent and move their piece to the bar. The bar is the middle crease of the board, where it folds in half. You can hit more than one of your opponent’s pieces in a turn. Now, the opponent with discs on the bar cannot make any other move until their pieces are off the bar. They must re-enter the board on their opponent’s home board.
You must use your whole turn when re-entering the game from the bar. If you roll a 3-4, you can re-enter on the 3 or 4 point and then move your disc according to the remaining die, as you would on a normal turn. You can hit an opponent’s piece on the home or outer board.
All 15 pieces must be on the home board before you begin bearing off. To bear off, roll the dice and remove the associated discs. For example, if you roll a 6 & 5, you can remove one disc from the 6 point and one from the 5 point.
Now, if you roll a die higher than where your disc is on the board, i.e., you roll a six, but the highest disc is on point 5, you can remove a disc from the highest point, so from the 5th point. The dice have to be higher than the highest point. If the lowest point your disc is on is the 3rd point and you roll a 2, you cannot remove a disc from the 3. However, you can move a disc on the home board just as you would on a normal move.
END OF THE GAME
The player who successfully removes all their discs from the home board first wins the game! If you can remove all 15 of your discs before your opponent has borne off any of theirs, it is considered a gammon, and the win is worth two points instead of one.
If you can bear off all 15 of your discs before your opponent has the chance to bear any of theirs, and your opponent still has a disc on your home board, then the win is considered backgammon and is worth 3 points!
The Doubling Cube
These days, most backgammon sets come with a doubling cube. This cube finds use mostly in competitions and is not an essential game component. However, it does add an element of excitement on any level. The cube doubles the game’s stakes, and numbers mark the cube with 2,4,8,16,32 and 64.
If you decide to play with the doubling cube, you will start the game off at one point. If, at some point in the game, one of the opponents feels they have an advantage to win, they can pull out the doubling cube and double the points of the game from one to two. The opposing player can accept the challenge by picking up the cube and placing it on their side of the board. Otherwise, they can concede the game right then and there and choose to lose one point instead of two.
If the opponent accepts the challenge, the player that accepted now can double the game once again if the tide turns in their favor, raising the stakes from two points to four. Now, the opposing opponent can accept or concede,; if they concede,, they give up two points instead of one.
ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO PLAY BACKGAMMON
Here are two additional ways to play backgammon. These variations allow you to use the same board to play a different game than standard backgammon.
The first main difference from the standard backgammon rules is that all the discs start off the board. Players will roll for their turn and must move discs from their piles onto their opponent’s home board. Once a player plays on the board, you may use your future rolls to move discs further down the board.
The rule from which the game gets its name is the 1-2 rule. If you roll a one and a two on your dice, you get to move your discs, pick any double roll to declare and move your discs, and then roll again. Ifa player cannot use a die to move their discs, that any point in this process, e remainder of the turn is forfeited.
There is no use of the doubling dice in this game; backgammons and gammons do not affect scoring. To score, the winning player receives 1 point for each non-borned disc and any disc that never entered the board.
In Dutch backgammon, all discs start off the board as well. Players roll to enter their discs onto their opponent’s home board. Once one or more discs enter on your side, you may use future rolls to move them further down the board.
The other major change from the standard backgammon rules is that a player may only hit a blot of the opposing player once they have at least one disc of theirs in their home area.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What Does a Backgammon Board Look Like?
A backgammon board has four quadrants of six triangles each. The triangles alternate in color. The four quadrants are the opponent’s home board and outer board and your home board and outer board. The home boards are separated from the outboards by the bar.
How Do You Win a Game of Backgammon?
The first player to bear off, a.k .a. remove all 15 of their discs, wins the game according to the backgammon rules.
Can You Lose Your Turn in Backgammon?
If a player rolls a number they can play, the player must play it. If a player cannot play any numbers rolled, this is when a player loses their turn.
What Happens When You Roll the Same Number on Your Dice?
If you roll a double on the dice, it doubles your amount of movement. For example, if you rolled double 5s, you would move four discs five spaces.
If you are looking for more dice games, we have a ton!