How to play Backgammon

You have probably seen them at the pub, flipping a dice manually, having a good time, playing a game that seems alien to everyone else. With a beer and a couple of quid on the table they are having a really good time. As a matter of fact it's not that hard once you know how to play backgammon it's a fairly simple game.

Backgammon is a game for two players and its played on a board with twenty four triangles called points. These points are divided in to four separate areas with six points each. They are separated n your home board and your outer board. In the center of the board there is a ridge that separates the outer from the home. The general idea is to get all your little checkers to your home board and then off the board completely. The player that first gets his players of the board is the winner but there are of course variants to this as we don't want to make it to simple.

You start with your checkers spread out over the board and your mission is to collect them back in the home board so that you can get them off the board. The first thing though is to set up the game properly. If you count the points starting with the one that is your number one point. This actually differs depending on what color you are playing so listen carefully. If you are playing white your number one point is the one most left on ”your” side of the board, if you are playing black it is to the right.

If you then count around the table, counter clovk wise if you are white and clock wise if black, you can number the points from 1 to 24. Each players place checkers of their color according to the following: 2 checkers on point 24, five checkers on point 13, 3 checkers on on 8 and 5 checkers on point 6.

To learn how to play backgammon properly you need your own dice and your own cup for the dice (this wouldn't of cours be important but if you want to do it properly we'd better stick to tradition). Each player has two dice and both players share the doubling cube, which is a die with the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64. We will explain this die a bit further later on but for your peace of mind I can tell you that it is used to raise the stakes later on in the game.

After setting up the board the first thing you need to do is to decide who starts. This is done by throwing a single die. The player with the highest number on the die move first and the die-roll is actually also used to start the movement. In the following movements each players throw his two dice alternating to determin the movement. This first move though the player that rolled the higher moves his checkers as both dice show. If the dice show the same number they should be re-rolled to determine the player who starts.

How to move the checkers on Backgammon

The two dice shows the amount of pips (points or triangles) that the player can move his checkers. The checkers can't be moved backwards in backgammon but have to be moved forward (counter clock wise for white and clock wise for black). The basic move is to move two checkers according to one die each. If you rolled 3 and 5 you move one checker 3 pips and one checker 5. You can chose to move the same checker for the total value 3+5.

There are a few limitations to how you can move your checkers in backgammon though. It can't finish on a point with two or more of your opponents checkers for example. This is of course one of the fundamentals in backgammon strategy as you can block your opponents movements by having two or more checkers on a point. The same applies for any intermediate steps for the checkers. On a 3 and 5 roll where the point 5 steps forward and the point 3 steps forward are both blocked you can't move to the point 8 steps forward with a checker as it has to ”land” on either the 3 point forward or the 5 point forward.

On a double roll, where the both dice show the same number you count each die twice, tthis is the same as if you had rolled 4 dice and it those numbers. This means that you can move 1 checker 4 x the amount on the dice, or 2 dice 2 x the amount or 1 checker 4 x the amount on the dice. You can even chose to move 2 checkers 1 x the amount and 1 checker 2 x the amount. It is as if it was the same amount on 4 dice.

If there is a point with a single opponent checker (a blot) and you land on it while moving your checker your opponent has to move it to the bar (in the center of the table). If you manage to hit your opponent like this he has to get it back in play before doing anything else. If you have a checker on the bar you need to roll to get it off the bar in your turn. In your turn you roll and you can use either of the dice to move your checker back on the board. If both numbers are blocked by 2 or more opponent checkers your turn is lost as it would be if you couldn't move ordinarily.

When all your checkers are in your home quadrant, the last quadrant in your path, you can start taking them off the board. There are six points in your home quadrant and you can take checkers off thhe board as you roll. If you roll a six and a four you can remove a checker from point 6 and one from point 4. If there is no checker on the point you rolled you can must take one from the point one step closer to home. You can chose to move checkers instead of taking checkers of the board.

The doubling Cube

Learning how to play backgammon is fairly simple but the doubling cube increases the skill level. You play backgammon for an agreed amount of money but if a player fels that he has the advantage he can chose to double (and flip the doubling cube to the next level). If a player offers to double the other player may chose to concede, he than has to pay the original bet and has lost. If he choses to accept and continue he becomes the owner of the cube and is the only one from now on tha tcan chose to double. If he choses to double the same offer is made and the opponent can chose to pay or accept and become owner of the cube.

The amount you win in Backgammon

If the loosing player has managed to get at least one checker of the board he loses the bet x the figure on the cube. If the loosing player hasn't managed to get one chekcer off the board he is ”gammoned” and loses twice that amount. If the losing player hasn't even managed to get all checkers out of the winning players home board or off the bar he is Backgammoned losing three times the amount fo the cube.

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