Advantages Fun to play. Can blame dice if you lose and clain skill when you win
Disadvantages Can easily lose track of time when playing this game.
|Value for Money|
|Playability & Enjoyment|
|Design & Presentation|
Some board games such as chess and Othello are games of strategy, whilst others, where the throw of a dice determines the number of moves along the board, such as in Ludo and Monopoly, are usually games of luck or chance.Backgammon however, is an exception to this general rule, for it employs a combination of luck and skill and is much easier to play than to describe, so bear with me.
Backgammon is an ancient, Eastern game, thought to be the oldest game known to man, designed for two players and said to be suitable for all ages from five upwards, although I would start the age of suitability at about nine or ten.Evidence has been found to suggest that this game was in existence over 5,000 years ago, and no doubt with the passage of time, some rules of play have changed, for there are several variations to the game, even today.
A backgammon set comprises of a board, thirty plastic or wooden discs called stones or men, fifteen of which are light coloured, fifteen dark. Four regular die - two for each player; one doubling cube and two dice shakers.Although it is described as a board game, all the backgammon sets I have ever come across are in the form of a double sided, shallow tray, rather than a flat board; though there are flat boards sets.
I bought my set over 30 years ago in Hong Kong for the princely sum of $20, which was then equivalent to £2.00. A similar set can be bought at WH Smiths today for £7.99 and on line from about £20 to £30....Now comes the tricky part - describing the layout and set up, though both are simple in practise...
The board might better be described as two, shallow, rectangular trays, hinged together in the centre. This centre piece, called the bar, is an important area of the game, as I will explain later. When not in use, the two trays fold and fasten together to form a narrow case in which the stones, dice and shakers are held.In each of the two trays, are twelve elongated triangular shapes called points, six of them are positioned next to each other at one end, with the points facing the middle and towards the remaining six on the opposite end. The two trays are divided down the centre by a raised bar(the hinged sides) so in all there are twenty four points on the board; twelve on one side, facing twelve on the opposite side.
Each player chooses a set of stones. The board is positioned so that each player will have six points to their left, facing their opponent's points and six to their right, with the bar dividing left from right.To make it a little easier to follow the positioning of the stones at the start of play, I shall describe the placing of one set; the light coloured ones. The dark stones will be positioned exactly opposite the light ones, as in a mirror image.
As I said earlier, the board is divided into quadrants; two on each side of the bar, but the points (six in each quadrant) are numbered from 1 to 24, going clockwise around the board for one player and for the other, sitting opposite, the numbering goes in an anticlockwise direction. However, in play, the numbering is not important when playing face to face and is only used in this instant to describe the stone set-up positions.The light-stone player, with his 24-point position in his left quadrant and working anticlockwise, places his first two stones side by side on his 24-point position; then five stones on his 13-point position, three stones on the 8-point position and the remaining five on the 6-point position.
The dark stones are placed exactly opposite the light stones; for example, the two light stones are exactly opposite the two dark stones, the five stone colours are opposite each other, as are the three stone sets.Points 1 to 6 are called the home-boards, or inner-tables, so the home positions are the quadrants directly opposite the 19-24 point quadrants.
For example; at the start of play, the stones furthest from their home-board are the two positioned on the 24-point. The only stones already in their home-board at the start of the game are the five on the 6-point position. (Remembering that each colour's 24-points, and therefore subsequent positions are on opposite sides of the board to each other.)Each player therefore moves their stones in the opposite direction to their opponent, travelling along the same horseshoe-shaped path of points. Are you still with me?
The aim of the game is for each player to move all his pieces into his own home-board quadrant, once all the player's stones are in their home-board, the player can then and only then, start to move them off the board; this is called 'bearing off.' The winner is the first player to remove all his stones from the board. There are three classes of wins.
1. A win, is when you bear off all your stones before your opponent.
2. A Gammon or double win, is when you manage to bear off all your stones before your opponent has born off any of theirs.
3.A Backgammon, or triple win is when you have born off all your stones whilst your opponent still has one or more of his pieces on the bar and has not born off any of his stones.
All will be revealed about the bar in due course. (no drinks served there though)
For the sake of simplicity I shall describe the moves of one player - Light-stone and shorten the name 'home-board' to home.If Light-stone throws a 6 and a 3, then he can either, move any one of his stones three points towards his home, and another stone, six points, or he can move one stone nine points towards home.
If he throws a double, say 3+3, then this counts as a total of twelve moves, taken in the same manner as described previously, four stones can be moved three points each, two stone, six points each, or one stone a total of twelve points.
This is where skill and tactics come into play, as will later become clear.
The opponent cannot continue moving any more of his stones, once blotted, until he has managed to re-enter his blot or blots into play.In order to get off the bar and back into play, both die are thrown and if there is a vacant point on the 19 to 24-point quadrant - in this case, the light-stone's home, he can re-enter his stone into play.
The rule is that if a throw of the dice turns up a one, the stone is placed on the player's 24-point position (if not occupied by two or more of the opposition's stones)
If the number thrown is a two, then the stone can be placed on the 23-point position, a three thrown allows the stone onto the 22-point position and so forth.
I think it is clear now where the skill and strategy come into play.
If, when the dice are thrown, and it is not possible to place a stone on a vacant point, a blot, or one occupied by one's own colour, then that turn has to be missed.
Lady luck has just as great an influence on the outcome of the game as that of the player's skill.
The wooden, case-like boards are well constructed and will remain in good conditions, longer than the less sturdy printed boards.
Mine, thirty years on still looks almost as good as new. The traditional case-like boards come in two sizes, 11” and 15”. The 11” can be bought on Amazon for around £20, the 15” games for £32.
Free on-line games are available, one such site is www.gammonish.com
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