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Backgammon Rules

Preparing the game

Backgammon is a game played by two players. It is played on a board which has 24 thin triangles which are called points. These triangles are grouped into 4 sections which have each got 6 triangles, and the colours of the triangles typically alternate.

The 4 sections are split into the players side and the opponents side, and each side has an outer board and a home board. The home and outer boards are split by the bar in the middle of the playing board.

Outer Board Blue's Home Board
Outer Board Red's Home Board

Fig A. This is the initial position of the pieces on a backgammon board.

Each player has 15 pieces in the above starting configuration. The aim of the game is to get all your pieces home. Each player will also have a pair of dice and a dice shaker. There is also a doubling dice in the game, which keeps track of the stakes in the game.

Object of the Game

The main objective for both players is to get all of their pieces onto their home board and then bear them off. The first player to bear off all of their pieces wins the game.

Fig B. The green arrow shows the direction of the red's movement.
Blue would move in the opposite direction.

Starting the Game

Each player throws 1 dice. The person with the higher number get's to go first using the 2 numbers thrown. If both are equal, then the dice are thrown again. After the first roll, subsequent rolls are with 2 dice.

Moving Pieces

The roll determines how many pips the player is allowed to move. The pieces are moved forward according to these rules:

  1. A piece can be moved only onto an open point. This is a position that is not taken by 2 or more opposing pieces.
  2. Each dice number represents one move. Therefore a and means one piece can move 4 pips and another piece (or the same piece) can move 5 pips.
  3. If a double is rolled (a pair of same numbers eg ), the player can move twice with those numbers. A total of 4 moves in any combination.
  4. A player must use both numbers to move unless it is impossible to make a move. In this case, move only the number which can be moved. If neither number is playable, then a turn is lost.

Hitting and Entering

A point occupied by a single piece of either colour is called a blot. If an opposing piece lands on a blot, the blot is considered hit and placed on the centre bar.

Anytime a player has pieces on the bar, the first thing then must do is to enter those pieces before they can move other pieces on the board. A piece is entered by moving it to an open point on the opposing home board (starting point) based on the numbers rolled.

For example, if a player rolls and , he may enter a checker onto either the opponent's four point or six point, so long as the prospective point is not occupied by two or more of the opponent's checkers.

Bearing Off

When a player has all of his pieces on his home board, then he can start to bear off. For each dice roll, the pieces that hit the position of the dice can be removed off the board.

If there is no piece on the point, then a normal move must be made using a higher point piece. If no move can be made, then the player is allowed to bear off the next highest point. If you cannot move then you can bear off, otherwise you must make a move first.

Fig C. Rolling a and would bear off like this.

 

A player must have all their pieces on the home board to bear off. If a piece is hit by the opposition, then you must get that piece all the way round the board to the home board before you can bear off other pieces.

Doubling

When playing backgammon for money, there is an agreed wager for each point. Every game starts on one point, and as the game is played, a played may feel that they have enough advantage to propose a doubling of the wager.

You can only do this at the start of your turn. The player offered the double can refuse, at which point the game is conceded and a point is paid. If they accept, the game continues at the raised wager.

Following this, the accepting player owns the doubling dice, and only he can then double the wager again. Subsequent doubles (redoubles) are treated in exactly the same way. At any point when a player refuses a double, then the payout is the current wager of the game.

Winning Conditions

When the game is concluded one of 3 situations can be applied to the losing player.

  1. If the loser has at least 1 piece borne off, then they lose only the wager on the doubling dice.
  2. If the loser has not borne off any pieces then they lose 2x the doubling dice stake. This is called gammoned.
  3. If the loser has not bourne off any pieces AND they still have a piece on the BAR, then they lose 3x the stake on the doubling dice. This is called backgammoned.

Optional Rules

Here are some rules which are often played around the world.

  • Beavers - when a double occurs, the offered player can immediately redouble and keep the doubling dice. The original doubler can accept or refuse as normal.
  • Automatic doubling - if a pair is thrown on a players 1st roll, then an automatic double occurs. Normally played with an agreed maximum number of automatic doubles per game.
  • The Jacoby rule - gammons and backgammons do not count unless a double has occurred during the game. This rule prevents situations where a player avoids doubling so they can play on for a gammon.
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