Backgammon is simply a board game played between two people whose ultimate objective is to bring all their pieces "home". Each player controls 15 pieces arranged in their respective starting positions on a board containing what are called points. The movement of the pieces is dependent on the roll of two 6-sided dice.

A Brief History of Backgammon

Backgammon is believed to have come from the words "back" and "gamen" which means game. This game is known differently in several countries like in Greece, it is called portes. In the Middle East, it is known as ifranjiah while in China, it is called Shuang Lu. Hebrews call it shesh besh, in Turkey, tavla and in Iran, takhte nard.

Following is a chronology of what is currently believed to be the origin of backgammon:

Timeline Description Circa 3500 BC Ancient Egyptians played a game called senet that has a board set on a table which was similar-looking to backgammon. Its pieces were also moved around through die rolls. Circa 3000 BC Another similar table game was found in Iran. Circa 2600 BC Mesopotamia developed the game called Royal Game of Ur which is believed to be the progenitor of modern board games. Prior to 1 BC Ludus duodecim scriptorium or "Game of 12 lines" was an ancient Roman game also similar to backgammon. Circa 400 AD Byzantine Emperor Zeno mentions the game tabula, which is also said to be a descendant or refinement of the Roman game Ludus duodecim scriptorium. 6th Century AD It is believed that Persians introduced the game card nards to India and the game also makes use of dice. 11th Century AD The game jeux de tables made its first appearance in France. This is the earliest acknowledged version of modern-day backgammon and was a considered a favorite pastime for gamblers. 17th Century The game spread to Sweden and apparently has evolved to become a board game. 1743 An Englishman named Edmund Hoyle first published the rules of the game backgammon in his work "A Short Treatise on the Game of Backgammon". The set of rules established in this book is mostly the same set of rules being applied today.

Basic Gameplay

The backgammon board is made up of 4 "chambers" with each player having his or her own inner and outer board. Each of these boards contains 6 points each where a player's piece can be situated. This means that there are 24 points in all. A point is represented is a long thin equilateral triangle and colored on the board in light and dark shades alternately. A player's inner board is directly opposite the other player's inner board. The bar separating the inner and outer boards is called the bar.

A player starts off with 15 pieces (one player controls a light-colored set of pieces and the other controls the dark-colored set) situated in pre-determined positions much like chess having its own starting positions for each player. One player moves his pieces in a clockwise direction. The opposing player moves his own pieces in a counter-clockwise direction. The first player to move is the one who manages to have the higher die roll.

Pieces can then be moved according to the roll of 2 dice. 2 pieces can be moved for each die or 1 piece can be moved for the total number on 2 dice. If the die roll is a double (1-1, 2-2, 3-3, up to 6-6), the player treats the roll as if there were 4 dice having the same value and as such, he or she can move anywhere between 1 to 4 pieces. For example, if a player rolls a 3-3, he has option to move 1 piece across 12 points, 2 pieces moving 6 points each, 4 pieces moving 3 points each or 2 pieces with one moving 3 points and the other moving 9 points.

There are only a few rules in the game. irst, a player would have to bring all of his pieces to his own inner board. A point can only be occupied by a single player's pieces. When moving, a piece may end movement on an unoccupied point or a point that contains ones own pieces. A piece may jump over an opposing player's piece but may not end its movement on a point that has 2 or more opposing pieces. It may end movement on an occupied point only if there is only one opposing piece on that point. That lone piece also called a blot is thus bumped to the bar. If a player has at least one piece on the bar, movement will have to begin with these pieces. If movement is not possible for either of the 2 die rolls, then that player forfeits any other possible movement. If a player has more than one piece on the bar, the die rolls should satisfy possible movements of these pieces before other pieces can be moved.

Once a player has all pieces in the inner board, that player can then start bearing off his pieces (i.e. take the pieces off the board "permanently"). The die roll should be higher than the remaining number of points a piece can land on before it can be borne off. For example, if a piece has 3 points ahead of itself, the player needs a 4 to bear off. If for some reason, a player's piece in the inner board gets hit and bumped to the bar, any moves to bear off the other pieces will have to be postponed until that other piece "finds itself" back in the inner board.

The first player to bear off all his pieces wins the game.


Normally, players would make a bet for each game played. If a player believes he is in a currently superior position to win, he can issue a challenge to double the stakes in that particular game. The opposing player has to accept the new stakes or else automatically lose the game. Control of doubling then passes on to the player who last accepted a doubling challenge.

To signify the doubling of stakes, a doubling cube is used to identify how many times the stake is multiplied. This cube, unlike normal dice which have the numbers 1 through 6 on each side of the cube, has the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64 instead. The first doubling challenge would have the 2 facing up. The next would have a 4, and so on.

Gammon and Backgammon

If the game is being played as a series of games in a match (say playing to win 7 games), there are a few other rules observed. When a player manages to bear off all his pieces with the opposing player not being able to bear off a single piece, the loser is said to have suffered a gammon. This is taken to mean that the player effectively lost 2 games. If the loser hasn't borne off a single piece AND has at least one piece in the bar or in the opponent's inner board, then that player is said to have lost a backgammon and effectively loses the equivalent of 3 games.

The game has other rules and variants to which the players need to agree on (in tournaments, the players are forced to agree to these rules and variants if they want to play). But what has been discussed is essentially what's needed to enjoy the game.