Playing the game
Backgammon Board Setup
The game is played on a backgammon board which has 24 thin triangles which are called points.
These points usually alternate in colour (i.e. red and black) and are divided into 4 groups with 6 points in each group.
The area in the centre of the board which divides the right and left sides is called the bar and its purpose will be explained later.
The two groups of points in front of the player are called the home and outer board.
Both player’s home boards are on the right hand side of the board and the outer boards are on the left.
Each player has 15 pieces with which they play the game and which are usually two different colours (i.e. black and white, black and red etc.).
During the game each player must move their pieces around the board (one player moves their pieces clockwise and the other player moves anti-clockwise) towards their home board.
The player that can move all of their pieces to their home board and then off the board (called bearing off) is the winner of the game.
At the start of the game the pieces are arranged on the backgammon board in the following way.
Five pieces on the 6 point (home board)
Three pieces on the 8 point (outer board)
Five pieces on the 13 point (opponent’s outer board)
Two pieces on the 24 point (opponent’s home board)
The other player arranges their pieces in a mirror image of yours on the board.
In addition to the board and the pieces, you need the flowing to play backgammon.
2 standard dice (numbers 1 to 6)
1 dice shaker (cup)
1 doubling cube
The doubling cube is a six sided die with the numbers 2 4 8 16 32 and 64 on it and is used to keep track of which player last doubled and also the number of points up for grabs in each game.
Each player plays with two dice and rolls the dice onto the board.
Players must wait for their opponents to finish their move before they roll for theirs otherwise the opponent can gain an advantage be seeing the other player’s roll before they complete their move.
At the beginning of the game each player rolls one die and the player with the highest number makes the first move.
The player makes their move based on the numbers on the dice from the roll.
For example if the player rolls a 5 and a 1 they can move one piece 1 point and another piece 5 points.
The roll can also be combined so the player could move one piece 6 points.
If the player rolls a double then they can use each roll twice. For example if the player rolls a double 4 then they can move a piece 4 points a total of 4 times or 1 piece 16 points.
The player must use their roll and cannot refuse to move their pieces. If the player is unable to use all of the numbers of a roll then they must at least you the ones they can.
If only one of two moves can be made then the higher number must be used.
If a double is rolled then as many of the 4 moves must be made.
In the event that no moves can be made, the turn is forfeited.
As you move your pieces around the board during the game each point must be what is called ‘open’. This means the point must have your pieces on it already, be empty or have less than two of your opponent’s pieces on it.
A single piece on it’s own on a point is known as a blot. If your opponent lands on this piece then the piece is ‘hit’ and removed from the playing area and placed in the bar in the centre of the backgammon board.
The hit piece can only re-enter the game via the home board of the player who controls that piece.
Once a player’s pieces are in the bar the player must use their next turn to get them out. The player is not allowed to move any other pieces until this is done.
The pieces must exit onto the player’s home board and the point onto which they exit is determined by the dice roll.
For example, if the player rolls a 2 and a 3 then the piece or pieces must be placed on the 2 or 3 point in the player’s home board. If either of these points is blocked by the other player (i.e. the point contains two or more of the opponent’s pieces) then the player cannot make their move and they loose a turn.
Once all of the player’s pieces are out of the bar the player can then continue to move other pieces as normal.
If the opposing player has all of the player’s home board points blocked then the player cannot make a move until the opposing player moves their pieces away.
This creates a situation where a player can prevent their opponent from moving for a number of rolls.
Winning the game
A game of backgammon is won when a player is able to take all of their pieces off of the board.
This process is called ‘bearing off’ and you must have all of your pieces in your home board before you can start to do this.
If, while a player is bearing off, one of their pieces gets hit and put in the bar then the player must get that piece out of the bar and all the way round the board and back into their home board before bearing off and continue.
How the player bears off depends on the dice the player rolls.
Bearing off takes place in the direction of the number 1 point in the home board and as mentioned before, can only be started once all of the player’s pieces are in the home board area.
One way to visualise bearing off is to treat the place just off of the board as a point (i.e. the destination for all of your pieces).
So, for example, if you have two pieces on each of the six points in your home board and you roll a 5 and a 6 then you can move one piece from the 5 point off the board (onto the imaginary final point) and one piece from the 6 point off the board.
Eventually, as the player bears off they will get to a point where they will roll numbers which are higher than are necessary to bear off.
In this situation, the player simply has to use the roll to move the piece furthest from the bear off point off the board.
For example, if the player has two pieces on each of the 1, 2 and 3 points and rolls a 5 and a 6 then they simply use the roll to move the two pieces on the furthest point (the 3 point) off the board.
The first player to bear off all of their pieces wins the game.
However, the game can actually be won in 3 different ways.
If the player bears off all of their pieces before their opponent and their opponent has started to bear off (i.e. has taken off at least one piece) then the player wins a single game.
If it is a money game, the player wins 1 x the stake (i.e. if £5 is at stake then the player wins £5).
If the player bears off all of their pieces and their opponent has not begun to bear off at all then the player wins with a ‘Gammon’.
If the players a playing for money then the player wins double the stake (i.e. if £5 is bet then the winner wins £10).
If the player bears off all of their pieces and their opponent has both not begun to bear off AND still has a piece or pieces in the bar or the player’s home board then the player wins with a ‘Backgammon’.
Again, if money is involved then the winner wins triple the stake (i.e. £15).