How to play

Many of our professional customers will be able to give an in-depth view on how to play but here’s a beginner’s guide to backgammon from the team who’s been making boards since 1961.

How to play Backgammon, and the rules of the game are simple. It’s a game that’s quick to learn but takes a lifetime and dedication to master!

Where to Begin

A backgammon set should come with everything you need. If you are buying a luxury backgammon set like a Geoffrey Parker this will include the board, 30 checkers (playing pieces) of which 15 of each should be different colours. You will also need 2 pairs of dice.

You may find included in your set are a pair of dice cups, designed to help ensure a fair roll; and a doubling cube which looks like a dice but the numbers go up to 64. This is designed to add an element of gambling and added competition to the game.

Now we have all the pieces.. can we learn how to play backgammon?

 

 

Backgammon is a game enjoyed by two players, traditionally unfolds on a board featuring 24 opposing colour triangles, known as ‘points.’

You will be able to see the board is easily dissected into 4 quarters with the middle bar separating the points into six areas. These quadrants are aptly termed as a player’s ‘home’ board and ‘outer’ board, as well as the opponent’s corresponding ‘home’ and ‘outer’ boards. A central fixture on the board, known as the Bar, which serves as the divider between the home and outer boards, adding a strategic element to the game’s dynamic play.

Tournament Backgammon Set | Geoffrey Parker Tournament Board
How To Play Backgammon | Backgammon Board Layout

Backgammon Setup

Backgammon Seup – How TO SET UP THE BOARD

 

To lay out the board you can simply copy the image on the left. We always lay our boards out with the phrase ‘light is right’ so you will almost always find the lightest colour point on the bottom right corner. This is your home.

Every player has 15 game pieces in their chosen colour, set up on the game board according to the diagram provided. You will find that the sides of the board mirror so from right to left it goes 2 on point 1, 5 on point 6, 3 on point 8 and 5 on point 12. This is then mirrored on the opponents side of the board on points 13, 17, 19 and 24.

Players move in opposite directions during the game, starting from their respective ‘start’ bars and ending in their own ‘home’. This means that each player moves towards their opponent’s ‘home’ area while aiming to reach their own ‘home’.

The object of the game, a little like chess is to get all of your playing pieces to the opposite side of the board.

 

How To play backgammon

 

To start the game, take your one of dice each in your dice cup. You will both take it in turn to throw the die. Take note of the number rolled. The highest wins the opportunity to start the game. If you roll the same number, re-roll until there’s a winner.

The winning player will then take both dice in their cup and take the first roll. The number rolled from the two dice can be used either as a whole to move a single playing checker or two different checkers based on each dice.

Each playing checker can be moved to any point on the board, whichever colour, as long as it has no checkers on, or your own. The acceptation to this rule is when a point has just one of your opponents playing checkers on it, here you can take their piece and place the opposing checker on the bar. 

Your aim is to get your opposing checkers on the bar as your opponent cant move any checkers until they throw a number 1-6 on the dice for it to be returned to an available point in your opponent’s ‘home’.

It is important when you begin a game of backgammon that you establish with your opponent their rules. For example some like to limit the number of stones on a point others, like to leave it open.

 

How To Play Backgammon | Backgammon Board Layout

How to layout a backgammon set

Once You Reach Home

When a player has succeeded in getting all of their playing pieces (sometimes known as checkers or stones) into their ‘home’ they can start to take all of their pieces off of the board and store them back in the stowage area.

To take the pieces off the board they must roll the dice and take the pieces from the board from the corresponding points. For example if point 3 has 4 stones on I would need to roll a double 3 to remove two stones. In the HOME, the points are numbered 1-6 from the stowage area towards the middle bar.

Backgammon Lingo & RULES

 

stowage area

 Where the playing pieces are stored. At Geoffrey Parker, we store each colour  in 3 sets of 5. If you try to stack them all lengthways you will find they all fit except one stone. So to prevent damage to your backgammon board please keep them in 3 X 5 rows of each colour.

Playing pieces

You will find different players name them something different, from stones to checkers. They are often made of different materials, ours are specially weighted to ensure they feel nice in your hand and slide across the board perfectly. While this wont matter while you start playing speed, will quickly become important as you become more competitive.

5 bar point

5 Bar Point – also known as the golden point. Getting your opponent to dance on the bar and getting to take two turns in a row is a huge advantage.

The five point increases your chance of that happening and helps to start priming your opponent.

You may be wondering, what exactly is the 5 bar point? It refers to pairs of numbers that are two spaces apart, such as 1 & 3, 2 & 4, 3 & 5, 4 & 6. These pairs can create strong points in your home board to block your opponent’s pieces. Focus on securing point 5 and then point 7. And always remember, don’t leave a lone checker vulnerable outside your home board!

Risk & Reward

Take more risk at the start of the game while your opponents home is less busy, it will allow you to get in off the bar quicker. As the game progresses take less risk & protect your backgammon checkers more.

Bearing off

This is a term used for when one of the player’s pieces are all within their ‘HOME’. Once this has been achieved the player can begin bearing off, which means removing checkers to the stowage area according to the numbers on the dice. 

Throwing A Double

What happens when you throw a double?  Great news, you can now move 4 of that number! A great way to get ahead or catch up with your oponent 

  7 BAR POINT

The 7-point is referred to as the bar point, and the 13-point as the midpoint.

The bar-point is the 7-point on your outer board. It is crucial in the beginning of a game to secure the bar-point along with the 6 and 8-points to create a three-point prime, which is very significant. This point is named because it is immediately adjacent to the centre bar on the backgammon board. 

 Doubling Cube

A doubling cube is a large die with the numbers 2, 4, 8 16, 32 and 64 on it. The doubling cube is a die which is included in almost all backgammon sets and is used to raise the stakes of the game.

It will usually sit on the side of the game between the two players until a player feels like they have the upper hand in the game… At this point the payer who feels they may win can take the cube and place it on the middle bar on the 2 to raise the stakes of the game.

The opponent can accept the double or concede the game.

You have now learnt to play backgammon – have fun!

When you start you’ll be counting points and working your way around the board but before you know it you’ll be competing and falling in love with this simple yet challenging game. Over the years you’ll learn that we’ve only just scratched the surface with this little guide.

Professional players use strategy, odds and mental agility to stay ahead in the game working out their next moves and their opponent’s next moves before the dice has even rolled. For now, all that matters is you enjoy the time away from your phone & stresses of life!

Now you’ve learnt to play backgammon, you’ll need to seek out an opponent. At Geoffrey Parker, we’re a proud sponsor of the UKBGF and USBGF. If you’re looking for assistance with detailed guidance on playing backgammon, these organisations offer valuable resources and their social media platforms can provide additional support and information. For those who are seeking help with more in-depth information on how to play backgammon, these federations have great resources and their social media pages will be able to help.