Backgammon is a deceptively simple game. A backgammon board features four quadrants, each with six long triangles, aka points, and the first player to clear his 15 checkers from the board wins. Sounds easy enough, but backgammon is a game of wiles and strategy and frustrating tactics. Like chess, the more you play backgammon, the richer the game becomes.
The Amazing Race
Backgammon is a race game with handicaps. Each player begins with two checkers on the point farthest from their home board (either 1 or 24), five checkers on their 13th point, three checkers on their eight point, and five checkers on their sixth point.
Despite the game's name, backgammon rules do not allow backward movement. Checker movement is determined by rolling two dice. A 5-3, for example, would allow a movement of five points and another of three points. A single checker could be moved eight spaces provided the third or fifth point is a permitted move.
If doubles are rolled, i.e. two sixes or two fours, then backgammon rules allow four moves of that number instead of just two.
What makes backgammon interesting are the traffic jams. If a point is occupied by two or more of your opponent's checkers, backgammon rules state that you can't move there. This rule plays a big role in backgammon strategy.
Then there is the dreaded blot. If your opponent lands on a point occupied by just one of your checkers, your checker is relegated to "the bar," a backgammon limbo in the middle of the board.
Backgammon rules for blots are tough. Your blot must reenter play before any of your other checkers can be moved. For example, a rolled 4-2 could place the blot at your 23rd point or 21st point. But if the rolled points are blocked by your opponent's checkers, you must forfeit your turn.
Similarly, if there are no blots on the bar yet no permitted moves are available for a rolled number, that play is forfeited.
The Violent Bear It Away
Backgammon rules do not permit bearing off checkers until all 15 have been brought into a player's home board. Checkers on low points may not be cleared before the checkers on higher points. An exact roll is not necessary for bearing off, i.e. a checker on your fourth point can be cleared by rolling a four, five, or six.
Because backgammon games are usually short, backgammon is often played in matches, with the winner taking the best of three, five, or seven games.