Basic Rules of Backgammon

Since its origins, backgammon has increased in popularity throughout the ages. The game of backgammon is a two player game played on one board. Each player gets fifteen checkers which are arranged on the board's twenty-four triangles, called "point." During a player's turn, the checkers are moved around the board depending on how the dice are rolled. Once a player gets all of their checkers off the board, they are considered the winner of the game.

Backgammon Blue Table

Throughout the game, the players' objectives are to hit and block their opponent's checkers in order to hinder their progress around the board.

In order to play backgammon, there are several things you need. First, you'll need a backgammon board with thirty "counters," (checkers.) The checkers must be in two different colors, whereby each player gets fifteen of the same color. Then you'll need a pair of dice with the numbers one through six. If you'd like, each player can get their own pair of dice to use throughout the game. Finally, a dice cup or two are needed for rolling the dice, as well as a doubling cube for keeping track of the game. This is simply a cubical block with the numbers two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two and thirty four printed on it.

To set up the backgammon board for play, you can conduct the game in one of two ways.

Let's say you are the white checkers, while your opponent uses the red. The white checkers will move counterclockwise around the board, while the red checkers will move in the opposite direction. Each player will start off to the right, one in the lower right corner, the other in the upper-right. The other way to set up the board is essentially the exact opposite of the previous setup, except you and your opponent will start off in different directions.

In deciding who goes first, one die is rolled. In the event of a tie, keep rolling until one player rolls a higher number. That player will then start the game, but they do not get to roll again. They will play the numbers they rolled to start the game. The numbers on the dice are what indicate how many points (also referred to as "pips") the player needs to move their checkers. The checkers must move forward, to a lower numbered point. In order to move the checkers, you must only move to an open point, one that isn't occupied by two or more opposing checkers.

Since you are rolling two dice, those numbers indicate separate moves. For example, if a player rolls a four and a six, they may move one checker four spaces, and another checker six spaces. Alternatively, they may move only one checker ten spaces, but only if the intermediate point (in this example, either four or six spaces away from the starting point) is open. If a player rolls doubles, they are allowed to play the numbers shown on the dice twice. If it is possible, a player must play both numbers shown on the dice. If they can't, their turn is lost.

Once you understand the basic rules of play, additional features such as hitting and entering are also essential components of the game. First and foremost, if a point is occupied by a single checker, that is called a blot. Now, if an opposing player's checker lands on a blot, the blot is considered hit and placed on the bar. If a player has one or more checkers on the bar, they must enter those checkers onto their opponents home board. How this works is the checker is moved to an open point that correlates to one of the numbers on the dice roll.

As an example, if a player rolls a three and five, he has the option of entering a checker onto either the opponent’s three point or six point, as long as it isn't occupied by two or more of the opponent's checkers. Once again, if it's not legally possible to make this move, the player loses his turn. As long as the player is allowed to enter some of his checkers, they must do so and then lose the rest of their turn.

Backgammon's main objective is to "bear off" all of your checkers before your opponent does. Bearing off occurs when a player has successfully moved all fifteen of his checkers into his home board. Players then bear off a checker by rolling a number that correlates with a point on which the checker resides, and removing that checker from the board. For example, rolling a three allows a player to remove a checker from the three point. If in the event a checker is hit during the bearing-off process, it must be brought back to the home board before continuing. Eventually, the first player to bear off all fifteen of their checkers wins the game.

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