Backgammon has been a much-loved board game for over five thousand years, making it older than chess. Here at New Casino Sites, we think it’s just as fun to play online as it is on land!
In this guide, we explain what backgammon is, how the board is set up, and crucially – how to play. We also talk about the best strategies to use in this game of skill and logic.
What is Online Backgammon?
Online backgammon is virtually the same as the physical board game we have played for centuries. The obvious difference is that you won’t physically move the tokens or shake the dice to play, and your opponent probably won’t be sat opposite you.
The aim of the game is to move all fifteen tokens to the safety of your home board – faster than your opponent! We talk about the layout of the board next – so you can see how this can be achieved and how things move.
The Online Backgammon Board Setup
To give you a clearer idea of online backgammon, let’s look at the setup of the game – as the arrangement is fairly simple visually.
See below an explanation of the board itself:
- The backgammon board features twenty-four ‘points’ (long narrow triangles) with alternating shades – for instance, red and white or green and black.
- ‘Home’ and ‘outer’ boards are created by separating the triangles into four groups of equal measure.
- The two home boards are usually on the right – yours at one side, with your opponent at the other end. Notably, some variants have the home board on the left instead.
- A ridge in the centre of the board called ‘the bar’ separates the outer board and the home board quadrants. When your pieces have been ‘hit’ – they will be sent here.
- The outmost point for you is the twenty-fourth triangle, which is also the other player’s number one point. This makes sense when you consider that in real life your opponent would be sat opposite you.
- Each game has two dice.
- There are thirty tokens – that’s fifteen for you in one colour and the same number for the other player, in a different shade.
To start with, these tokens are placed in pre-defined points on the board – see below:
- Two of your tokens will be placed on the twenty-fourth triangle
- Two of your opponent’s pieces will be on your number one triangle (their twenty-fourth)
- Next, five tokens will be placed on both your and the other player’s thirteenth triangle
- Followed by three on each player’s eighth triangle
- The next five will be placed on both your and your opponent’s sixth triangle
Today we are using the most commonly played and best variant of backgammon, which will see your tokens moving counterclockwise – starting with the upper right point. Your opponent will begin the opposite way – counterclockwise.
How to Play Online Backgammon
Now that you know how the board is laid out and the basic elements the game includes, let’s see how to how play it:
- Both yourself and the opposing player will roll a dice.
- The highest roll wins, and that player uses both dice to make the first move of the game.
- You move your tokens in a horseshoe formation – starting from the home board of your opposition.
- After that, each time, a player will take their turn.
- Both dice are rolled to determine how many places you can move your next token.
- Each one is a separate move. For instance, if you roll a four and a three – you can move one piece four spaces and another one three. Alternatively, you could opt to move your token four points and then shift the same one a further three.
- You should begin by moving the token closest to the pointy end of the triangle, in accordance with the dice you threw.
- Continuing in a clockwise direction – you need to move your piece to a triangle that does not have more than two opposing tokens – this is called ‘an open point’.
- If you land on a triangle already containing one of your opponent’s pieces – theirs is ‘hit’ and sent to the bar.
- When you have successfully got all of your tokens safely on the online backgammon home board, you can begin ‘bearing off’. This entails removing tokens – necessary to win.
So, to recap – the board has four sections. On one side is player one and player two’s outer board, on the other side is each player’s home board area. Your home quadrant will usually be located to the right closest to you and outer to your left.
Online Backgammon Rules
You will see below some online backgammon rules to help you gain a better understanding of the fundamentals:
- If both dice say the same number – this can be taken as though there were four dice with identical numbers.
- A piece can be moved to a point with nothing on it, one containing your own tokens or a triangle with one of your opponent’s pieces.
- If your token is moved over to the bar in the centre, you will not be able to play again until each piece is back on the board – starting from the beginning again.
- You need to use all dice, you cannot just use the number thrown on one and pass on the other.
- You can ‘bear off’ immediately if the dice rolled correlates with the number of remaining points required to exit the board.
- You may also bear off a token that is further away from the end if the unrealised die has a higher number than what is needed.
Notably, neither you nor the other player can bear off until all of their pieces are located in the respective home board. Whoever does this first wins the game!
Online Backgammon Lingo
This brings us neatly onto online backgammon lingo. Before playing any game online, it’s a good idea to have a grasp on the jargon you might see, so you know what to do.
- Gammoning: If you manage to get your tokens onto your home board prior to your opponent bearing any pieces off – this is known as ‘gammoning’.
- Backgammoning: If you have a minimum of one token left in the bar or the first quadrant, and you win prior to the other player bearing any pieces – this is known as ‘backgammoning’.
- Ace Point: This is your number one, and your opponent’s 24 – and the same vice versa.
- Blot: If a triangle only has one token in it, this is known as a ‘blot’. If your opponent lands on one of these, it is a ‘hit’ – meaning it’s relocated to the centre bar of the board.
- Bear in: This references you moving your tokens onto your home board.
- Bear off: You can do this once your tokens are safe and sound in your home board area.
- Accept Double: This is to embrace the offer of a doubling cube – meaning you and your opposition agree to increase the currency stake twofold.
- Bump: You’ve hit a token.
- Anchor: This refers to a triangle point that is guarded by a minimum of two tokens in the area of the other player’s home board.
Understanding some of the above lingo will help you to learn online backgammon!
Best Online Backgammon Strategies
When researching how to play backgammon, you will have probably seen many strategies mentioned – see some of the most commonly used below:
- The Priming Game: This entails blocking your opponent’s pieces and usually focuses on the ones at the back. You will attempt to line up blocking points to capture your rival’s tokens. Most players opt for a five-point prime and then move on to a six-pointer. You should be looking to keep your prime longer than the opposition – creating a barrier that’s impossible to bypass. Whilst you are working on your wall – you can strategically leave some pieces on the opposition’s board – this is called anchoring.
- The Running Game: This one will see you getting all of your pieces on the inner part of the board and then bearing off as quickly as you possibly can – like a race against time. Most people start the running system when they are at an advantage – with fewer tokens. It makes little to no sense to adopt this strategy when the other player has fewer pieces remaining.
- The Holding Game: If you are feeling a bit behind in the race to bear off all pieces and finish – you might try the holding system. This entails maintaining an anchor high on the other player’s home board, say point twenty – or on the bar. If you manage to roll a high double, you might be able to get ahead and take the lead.
- The Lovers Leap: This is often simply called ‘6-5’ and involves you relocating one of your back tokens from the other player’s inner quadrant to your 13. This starting roll enables you to move a piece from the twenty-fourth to the comfort point – meaning the middle of the board.
The aforementioned online backgammon strategies are used by players to try and get one up on the opposition. As we said, the aim of this game is to get all of your pieces to safety before the other player does and then bear off – so why not try a few tricks.
We at New Casino Sites think that the best online casinos will be able to offer you a free backgammon demo to practice and strategise!
Online Backgammon Guide: Conclusion
There you go, that’s online backgammon explained. One of the easiest ways to enjoy this game to its fullest is to read up on the fundamentals – such as the rules and how the board is set up.
Always try to get your tokens out of the opposition’s home court and into yours as soon as you can. You could either try the game for free at some of the best online casinos or keep it fun by learning with small stakes – so you don’t burn through your backgammon budget.
Will you be the first to bear off and win the game? It’s worth trying a few strategies. Common ones are the priming system, as well as running, holding, and the lover’s leap.