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Home > Traditional Games (Parlor Games) > Board Games > Backgammon Board Game Rules & Strategy

Rules and Strategy

Backgammon is a traditional board game of strategy for 2 players enjoyed all over the world. It traces its origins back some 5,000 years to similar games played in Ancient Mesopotomia. Over the millenia, the game has evolved to be a popular past time among gamblers, scholars, clergymen and generals.

Gameplay takes place on a specially designed game board and uses 30 tokens in 2 colors and 2 dice.

Let's Play Backgammon!

Play Backgammon!


What's Needed to Play a game of Backgammon:

* 2 Players

* a Backgammon board

* 30 flat playing pieces in 2 colors, light and dark (15 per color)

* 2 pieces 6-sided playing dice

Objective of a Game of Backgammon:

* To advance all of one's fifteen (15) playing pieces off the game board. The first player to successfully remove all of his/her playing pieces from the game board wins the game.

About the Backgammon Game Board:

* The Backgammon board features 24 long triangles, called "Points", situated in 4 quadrants -- 6 Points per quadrant. Refer to Diagram Zero, and notice the Points are numbered 1 through 24.

* The playing pieces are called "Checkers", and are moved from point to point starting from Point 24 towards Point 1.

Note: The 24 points are regarded as being 'attached' sequentially. Notice on Diagram Zero that the checkers are supposed to move along a sideways 'U' or "horseshoe" path from Point 24 towards Point 1.

* Points 1 through 6 are called the "Home Board" or "Inner Board". The empty vertical space that divides the board at the center is called the "Bar".

The Backgammon Board

The Backgammon Board: Initial Set Up (with diagram illustrating the sideways "horseshoe" path along which checker pieces are supposed to move.
Initial Position of Playing Pieces :
The initial position of playing pieces on the Backgammon Board.
The sideways "Horseshoe" path for moving the playing pieces is illustrated.

Backgammon: throw the dice!

Playing a Game of Backgammon:

Determining who moves first: Each player rolls 1 die. The player who rolls the higher number takes control of the board and uses the numbers just rolled to make his/her move.

Moving checkers:

* Basic Roll: Rolling 2 dice provides 2 numbers, each corresponding to the number of Points that a player may move his checkers. The 2 numbers must be "spent" separately, although the player may spend it using the same checker piece. To illustrate: Assume a player rolls "4-2". The player gains the ability to move 4 and move 2. He may choose to move any checker 4 points, then any other checker 2 points. Or, he may choose to move a checker 4 points, then move the same checker another 2 points.

* Rolling Doubles: A lucky roll, this gives the player 4 moves instead of 2. Once again, the Player may choose to spend his moves on different checker pieces, or all on the same checker piece, or any combination thereof. To illustrate: Assume a player rolls "3-3". The player gains 4 chances to move his pieces 3 points forward.


* Guidelines on Moving: In order for a move to be valid, the following conditions must be met:

** The Destination Point must be vacant; or,

** The Destination Point must be occupied by checkers belonging to the player; or,

** The Destination Point must be occupied by only 1 checker piece belonging to the opponent, also called a "blot". In this instance, the player's checker displaces the "blot" from the game board. The "blot" is then placed on the "bar" where it waits to be redeemed by its player by means of an applicable die roll.

* A Limitation on Moving: Having rolled 2 dice thereby gaining 2 moves, a player must spend both moves during his turn. Stated another way: a player cannot choose to spend one move, then discard the other, when it is possible to spend both moves.

* The Dice Roll Decides for the Player? There will be instances late in the game when this would seem to be so. Early in the game, a player may liberally choose which among his checker pieces to move. However, late in the game, the die roll will decide for the player. This is a direct result of the rule that the player must spend all his moves during his turn.

Winning the Game:

About Hitting, and Being Hit: When only one checker piece resides on a Point, it is vulnerable to being hit by the opponent. Hitting is accomplished by landing one's checker piece on a Point that is occupied by only 1 checker piece belonging to the opponent (also called a "Blot"). Once hit, the blot is transferred to the Bar and rests there until it is redeemed by its owner through a valid die roll. The hitting checker then occupies the point.

Redeeming a Checker from the Bar: A checker piece resting on the bar is like a checker piece occupying an "imaginary" Point # 25. The player must throw an applicable die roll that can be spent to move the "barred" checker. The "barred" checker then re-enters the game at the opponent's home board. To illustrate: On a die roll of "1", the barred checker re-enters at Point 24. On a die roll of "2", it enters are Point 23. And so on.

* Important Note: A player must redeem all his checkers from the Bar before he can move any other checker on the board.

The Home Board: When a player has navigated all his 15 checkers to his Home Board, he can start to remove his checkers from the game board by moving his pieces to an "imaginary" Point # 0. This is known as "Bearing Off". To illustrate: Assuming a roll of "6-4". The roll of "4" allows the player to remove pieces occupying Point 4. The roll of "6" allows removal of pieces occupying Point 6.

* Important Note: When bearing off, the player must spend the exact die roll. This means a roll of 3 only applies to a piece residing on Point 3, not on Point 2 or Point 1. However, this rule is ignored when all remaining checkers need a lower number than the die roll. To illustrate: assume that all remaining checkers occupy Points 1, 2 and 3. In this case, any die roll greater than 3 can be used to remove the remaining checkers, starting with those from the farther Points. Naturally, a roll of 1, 2 or 3 can only be used to remove checkers from Point 1, 2 or 3 respectively.

Backgammon with animated dice

Backgammon Game Board in detail

Winning with a Gammon or a Backgammon:

A Backgammon game can be quite short. For this reason, a match is played with score kept until a player reaches a certain number of points to win the match.

Should a player win the game with his opponent unable to bear off a single checker piece, this victory is called a Gammon and is worth twice as much as a normal victory.

Even better, should a player win the game with his opponent unable to bear off any checker piece, and at the same time, if the opponent still has checkers on the bar or in the winner's home board, then the victory is a Backgammon, and worth three times as much as a normal victory.

When applied to bets and gambling, a player who loses a Gammon pays twice the normal value, and a player who loses a Backgammon pays three times as much.

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Animated GIF FreeFree Printable Backgammon Game Board
(download, print and play!)

Use this game board to play Backgammon. With 2 pieces of 6-sided dice, and 30 flat tokens in 2 colors (light and dark), you are all set to play one of the oldest favorite games of all time!

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