Today we’re going to be taking a look at one of the oldest board games still in play: Backgammon.

Backgammon is a game that I’ve never particularly liked, but due to it’s extreme age and broad play-base, most people have at least heard of it. Backgammon is a game that has existed in some form or another for about 5000 years, so it’s one of the handful of games still played today that is older than chess.

Backgammon is a two player game. Each player has 15 markers which are arranged as seen above. Each player also has 2 dice (or there’s one set of 2 dice that are shared). The board consists of 24 points (as seen above). The players move their tokens counter to each other. In the case of the above board, each player starts on the right, with the white moving counter-clockwise and the brown moving clockwise. The players take turns rolling their dice. On a roll, the player must move their tokens as shown by the pips on the dice. Each dice counts as one full move; for example if you were to roll a 2 and a 4, you would need to move one marker 2 spots, and another, or the same marker, 4 spots. If using both dice on the same marker, each move must still be valid, so you would move the marker 4 and then 2 (or vice versa). If you roll doubles, then each die is moved twice.

For a move to be valid, the token must end up on an empty point, a point occupied by only your color, or a point with only 1 of the opponent’s color. In the last case, your opponents piece is “hit” and placed on the center bar of the board. Pieces on the bar re-enter play at the 24th point, so protecting your pieces is important.

Moves are also compulsory. If you have at least 1 valid move, you have to take it, even if it puts you at a disadvantage. If you have no valid moves, then your turn is forfeit. The game is won by the person who gets all their tokens off the board. To remove a piece, it must exactly leave the board. This is by rolling 1 greater than you would need to reach the last point on the board. In the case where you manage to roll more than would be needed for any piece to leave the board and you have no other valid moves, you can remove the highest point token from the board.

If you want to know more about backgammon there is quite a bit of information available online. As a fairly popular game the world over, it has a following of comparable voracity to that of chess, if a somewhat smaller population of players. There are many free online game sites that offer backgammon, so giving the game a try is certainly as easy as a quick Google search. And, also like chess, there are a variety of backgammon boards available to buy, ranging from plastic pieces on a board made of heavy card, to those made out of Swarovski Crystal. Sets like that make me wish I actually liked the game.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

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