Backgammon Variants

The popular game of backgammon has been around for centuries, and as such has spawned many variations of the game throughout the years. There are also several games that are similar to backgammon, and can actually be played using a backgammon board. The various games have similarities to backgammon, but the differences are what set it apart from the traditional game. Some games have a bigger element of luck or chance than traditional backgammon, and others are much more fast paced. Whatever game you decide to play, there are different rules and regulations for each backgammon variant. Gaining a basic understanding of each game is the first step to mastering them.

Acey-Deucy

The game Acey-Deucy is one of the most common backgammon variants around. The game starts with all of your men on the board at the same time. In one way similar to backgammon, your men enter and move around the board the same way. For instance, the white pieces will enter into the black pieces home board and move around the black’s outer board as well as the white’s outer board until they end up in white’s home board. Once that occurs, the white player can start to bear them off. Conversely, the black player will start to enter his pieces into white’s home board and continue on from there.

The rules for this game are pretty much the same as for backgammon, only in Acey-Deucy, you can move any of your men at any time, wherever you want. More importantly, the roll 1-2 (Acey-deucy, hence the name of the game) is the most valuable roll you can have. With this roll, a player starts by playing their ace deuce and can then choose any doubles they wish. You’ll also get an extra roll, and if the roll happens to be 1-2 again, you still get the same extras as before.

One Point matches

Another backgammon variant is called One Point matches. Play similarly to backgammon, there are a couple of important differences all players should be aware of. In One Point matches, the traditional backgammon cube is never used, and backgammon/gammons do not exist in game play. This game tends to be more strategic than most backgammon variants, especially because you cannot cube your opponent out since the cube isn’t used in the game. These types of games regularly occur in tournament matches, and Double Match Point as well as Crawford backgammon games are similar to one point matches.

hyper backgammon

In another variant of the game, hyper backgammon, the rules almost remain the same as traditional backgammon. However, each side of the board starts with 3 checkers on their 24, 23, and 22 points. With hyper backgammon, the cube is used in play, and the Jacoby rule is in effect. All matches for this game start at 7 points and can increase as the game progresses. Similarly, “Nackgammon” is practically the same as backgammon, but players start out on different points. While in traditional backgammon, you end up with five men on both your mid-point and 6-point, in Nackgammon you only put four men. The remaining men are then placed on the 23 point. This backgammon variant was created by a man named Nack Ballard, which gives the variation its name.

Tapa

Another popular variation of backgammon is referred to as Tapa, which actually means “bottle cap.” This name aptly describes the game, because in this version players attempt block out their opponents pieces as quickly and effectively as possible. You move in the direction as you would in typical backgammon, and your objective is practically the same. The one major difference with this game is the fact that blots (single men) cannot be taken out when hit by an opposing player. In other words, rather than taking out a blot, the opponents man sits atop the blot and thus forms a point. Points can also be formed the same way as traditional backgammon, when two or more of your pieces are located on the same spot.

In Tapa, if you happen to leave a blot at your home slot and your opponent covers it, you will lose a backgammon. The only exception to this rule is if your opponent has done the same thing, in which case it is a tie. In the beginning of the game, your most advantageous roll would be a “long doublet” (either a 5 and 5 or 6 and 6.) This can be very beneficial for you, because it gives you the opportunity to cover the blots in your opponents home board. A game that depends largely on strategy, Tapa offers a unique twist on traditional backgammon for players who would like a little something different. This game also tends to be much slower than most backgammon variants. As a matter of fact, the majority of the game would be better off played slower than at a fast pace. Surprisingly enough, this version of backgammon is very popular in Bulgaria.

narde

In countries like Russian, a game similar to backgammon is played. Referred to as “narde” the game is played with 15 checkers each. Both players actually move in the same direction, and a point is already made with one checker on it. Additionally, there’s no hitting in the game, making it different from backgammon in that respect. Different from backgammon, in narde rolling doubles doesn’t mean anything special for the player. Players will bear off the same way they would in traditional backgammon, and the game is based almost entirely on chance or luck. It’s an interesting twist on the typical game of backgammon. Gul Bara, a game very similar to Narde, is pretty much the same only doubles are extremely powerful. For example, if a player rolls 1-1, that means they get to roll 4 ones, 4 twos, 4 threes... so on and so forth.

Feuga

A Greek variation of the game, Feuga starts out with each player setting their checkers on the same starting points. Players move counterclockwise around the board and attempt to bring their checkers into home base and bear them off, just as in backgammon. One major difference from this game and backgammon is that hitting is not allowed, thereby meaning that a point is made with only one checker. A few additional differences between backgammon and Feuga are that, for one, the initial starting point is called “head.” Players can only move one checker from the head per roll. If they cannot abide by that rule, then he cannot play his entire roll. The only time this changes is if the roll is 4-4 or 6-6; then, a player can move two checkers from the head. Gammons for this game are the same as in backgammon, and backgammon doesn’t exist. Additionally, the cube isn’t used in this variation of backgammon.

diceless backgammon

There’s also a unique variant of the game referred to as diceless backgammon. Very popular in countries like Uzbekistan, diceless backgammon is quite interesting for a number of reasons. For one, players start off moving around the board in the same direction, basically counterclockwise for the most part. The starting position is different from normal backgammon, and players are not allowed to hit. This changes a player’s strategy quite a bit, because players are forced to look at the board and see what other avenues they can pursue. There are also tournaments for diceless backgammon, where skilled players call their rolls since dice are not used. It’s an interesting twist on a game that’s been played for many years.

There are also several old games backgammon originated from.

Chasing the Girls

One, called Chasing the Girls came from Iceland but may date from as early as Roman times. In this variant, the players receive six checkers each. Players move in a counterclockwise direction and will continue to move around the board until one player doesn’t have any checkers left. In this game, only the rolls that contain a 1 or a 6 are played, as well as doubles. Hitting is allowed in this version of the game. When a player ends up with one checker left, that checker is referred to as a “Corner rattler.” The method of play changes in this instance, because a corner rattler can only move to the points numbered 1, 6, 7 and 12. A corner rattler can also not be hit if it happens to be sitting within two of their opponent’s checkers.

There are many variations of backgammon in addition to the ones listed above, all with varying rules and similarities to the traditional game.

Because backgammon is arguably one of the oldest games around, there have been many backgammon variants in many different countries prior to the modern day game. Some versions are based more on strategy while others are based on almost pure luck or chance, so pick and choose backgammon variants according to what interests you the most. Because backgammon is such an ancient game, there’s a strong reason to believe that even more variations will arise as time progresses.