Basic backgammon rules

backgammon rulesBackgammon is a game of skill and chance. Below, we will take a look at the basics rules of backgammon. These rules are used by most backgammon sites and backgammon networks online, but it is of course possible for someone to offer backgammon online with a different set of rules. Therefore, it is always important to check the rules of the specific backgammon game you wish to play.

One of the many upsides of playing backgammon online is that you do not need to know all the rules before you start playing. The software will automatically prevent you from carrying out movements that are against the rules. If you don’t know how to play backgammon but wish to learn, our advice is to go to one of the many sites where you can play backgammon for free with play-money. Once you have familiarized yourself with the basic rules below, you can start playing for fun, without having to lose any real money. For most of us, learning by doing is easier than only reading and memorizing rules without any practice.

Below, you will find basic rules. For advanced rules, please visit our page about advanced backgammon rules.

About backgammon

Backgammon is a very old board game where the playing pieces are moved according to the roll of the dice. It is played with two players, and you win the game by removing all your pieces from the board before your opponent.

Backgammon is traditionally played with 15 pieces per person. (These pieces are known under several different names in English, including checkers, pawns, discs, stones, draughts, nips or chips.)

The board sports 24 points that look like narrow triangles. These points are grouped into 4 quadrants with each quadrant consisting of 6 points. Each side of the board has two quadrants, i.e. 12 points. The points are numbered 1-24. In the most commonly used backgammon setup, each player starts with 15 checkers. Two of your checkers are placed on your 24-point, three on your 8-point, five on your 13-point and five on your 6-point.

Backgammon involves a combination of skill and luck. The result of rolling the dice is pure chance, but it is up to the player to decide how to move his or her checkers – within the limits given by the dice.

Points 1 through 6 are called the home board or inner board, and points 7 through 12 are called the outer board. The 7-point is referred to as the bar point, and the 13-point as the midpoint.

Starting a game of backgammon

Who will make the first move?

At the start of the game, each player will roll one die. The player who gets the highest number will make the first move. That player must use the number of the two dice for his or her first move; rolling the dice again to get other numbers is not allowed.

Moving the checkers

Rules will dictate how you can move your checkers.

  • Backgammon is played with two dice. You roll both dices and must then, if possible, move checkers according to the numbers on each die.
  • Each die must be used for a separate move. Example: if you get 3 + 6 you cannot use it to move one checker 9 steps. The 3 is one move and the 6 is another move.
  • No checker can be moved into a position where two of more of the opponent’s checkers are present.
  • The two players move their checkers in opposing directions, from the 24-point towards the 1-point.

backgammon oardGetting to the home board and bear off

You aim is to get your checkers to the home board and get rid of them (bear off). Your home board is diagonal from where you started, on the opposite side, and there are six points that you need to get your checkers to.

You bear off by rolling a number on the dice that matches to the point number where the checker is on the board. (This part of backgammon is chance based.)

You always have to play

You are not allowed to pass your turn when playing backgammon. You roll the dice and must move your checkers, provided that it isn’t impossible. You must move your checkers even if staying put would be strategically better.

Both numbers must be played, unless it is impossible. If it is only possible to play one of the numbers, but any of the them, you must play the larger number.

The Doubling Cube

The doubling cube is a large die featuring the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64 on each of the sides. It is used to keep track of the stakes.

Before it is your turn to act in a game of backgammon, you have the option to double the stake – provided that your opponent agrees. Your opponent does have the right to refuse.

You can not double two turns in a row.