Backgamon game set

Backgammon: How to Play

Backgammon is a dueling board game. The goal is to get your checkers out of the game board by moving them according to precise, yet simple rules.

Contents and Object of the Game

Backgammon is played on a special board. It is made up of 24 points (called points) of alternating colors. These points are grouped into 4 zones of 6. The board is divided in two by a bar, which itself is a part of the game. It serves as the jail of the game.

Each player has 15 colored checkers, for a total of 30 checkers (white and black, white and red, etc.).

To play backgammon, you will therefore need: 

  • the board
  • the 15 checkers per player
  • 4 dice with 6 numbered faces.

A final item is the doubling cube, which is used by the pros. It is a large die used to multiply bets. If you’re just starting out, there’s no need to bother with it. 

Before You Start

Unfold the game board, then position the checkers according to the following starting position:

Backgamon position

The white player positions themselves so that their 2 white checkers are in front of them. In the same way, the black player (or red as in the image) will place themselves so as to have their 2 checkers in front of them.

So, as in the picture, the white player will be on the bottom, and the other player on the top.

Understanding the Game

Backgammon works in an interesting way. Considering the previous image, the white player will have to move their pieces from the black 24 point to their white inner table. Thus, the two white checkers of point 24 will have to move from the black point 24 towards the black point 1 in the direction 24 – 23 – 22 – etc.

For their part, the red player will have to move their checkers from the black 1 point in the direction 1 black – 2 black – 3 black – etc.
Following this rule, the players should then have their respective checkers in their corresponding inner tables (directly in front of them).

The Game Begins

The starting position is set up, the checkers are set in place. So the game can begin.

Each player takes 1 die, the two players roll their dice at the same time each in a different half of the board. The player who starts the game is the player with the highest score on the dice. In case of a tie, the players will make a new dice throw. 

Once it is known which of the players starts, they will have to play the sum of both throws that determined which player will go first (the first player’s throw + their opponent’s throw). For example, White rolls a 3 on the dice, and Black rolls a 5. Black therefore starts the game, and will have to play 3+5. they can therefore move their checkers 3+5 squares. To do this, they must respect a few rules:

  • Each player moves their checkers according to their assigned direction (see previous section)
  • The player can move their checker according to the result of the dice respecting the numbers obtained on each die (example: if they obtain a 3+5 on the dice, they will have to move 1 checker 3 points then another checker 5 points, or move the same checker 3+5 points)
  • The player can play the result of the dice in any order (3 then 5 or 5 then 3, they are both authorized according to the previous example)
  • If a player cannot move their checkers according to the result of the dice, they pass their turn
  • It is forbidden for a player to place their checker on a point where there are already at least 2 checkers of the opponent. They can however be jumped over if the result of the roll of the dice allows it
  • If your opponent’s checker lands on a point that has only one checker of yours, that’s considered a hit, which causes your hit checker to be sent to the bar.
  • If your checker is on the bar, you must first move it by making it resume the course from the point 1 of your direction of play
  • If your roll of the dice does not allow you to move your checker from the bar, you pass your turn, even if you can move another checker
  • There is no limit to the number of checkers that can be on the bar
  • There is no limit to the number of checkers of the same color that can be on an point
  • In the event that a player rolls doubles (the same number on both dice), the player must move their checkers twice the result of the dice.

The players continue taking turns following these rules until the end of the game.

End of the Game

Once all your checkers are in your inner table, you can begin bearing off, which is the process of taking your checkers out of the game to win.

Checkers of backgamon

Here, only the white player has the right to start taking out their checkers. The red player will first have to bring their last checker back to their inner table before they are able to bear off. 

The bearing off rules are simple: 

  • To bear off a checker is to place it in the empty space located at the end of your inner table.
  • To bear off a checker, you must achieve a result on the dice greater than or equal to the position of the checker.
  • If your checker is on point 1, you must therefore roll 1 or more on a die to take it out.
  • If your checker is in position 5 in, you can take it out by performing 5 or 6 on a die
  • If your roll does not allow you to bear off a checker, you can advance your other checkers according to the result.

Since you need a roll greater than or equal to the value needed to get a checker out, you will understand that the closer your checker is to the exit, the more obvious and easy it will be for you to get it out of the game.

The game ends when a player succeeds in taking all of their checkers off the board.

Rules in PDF

Explore the Backgamon rule in PDF.