How to Play Backgammon for Beginners

By Aaron Kopf

Backgammon is one of the oldest board games in the world and is enjoyed by players of all ages. Similarly to chess and checkers, backgammon incorporates strategy, thoughtful planning and outsmarting the opponent. However, unlike chess and checkers, backgammon play includes dice, which add probability and chance to the mix. Playing backgammon doesn't take long to learn, but it is difficult to master.

Setting Up the Game

Lay the game board lengthwise between both players and assign each player a color, either red or white.

Note that the board is split in half vertically by the "bar," with 12 triangles--or points--on either side. For each player, the 12 closest points are numbered 1 to 12 from right to left, and the farther points are numbered 13 to 24 from left to right.

Place your checkers. Each player places two checkers on their 24-point, five checkers on their 13-point, three checkers on their 8-point, and five checkers on their 8-point.

Playing the Game

Roll the dice to determine which player goes first. The player who rolls the highest number goes first. If both players roll the same number, roll again. For the rest of the game, players alternate turns.

Roll the dice on your turn and use the displayed numbers to move your checkers, either moving one checker for each die amount or moving one checker the combined amount. The goal of the game is to move all your checkers onto your "home board," which contains points 1 through 6. Once all 15 of your checkers are on these points, you can begin to "bear them off."

Attempt to "bar" your opponent's checkers by moving your checker onto a point occupied by one of your opponent's checkers. Their checker must be moved to the bar and removed on their next turn. You cannot move a checker to a point occupied by two or more of your opponent's checkers.

Remove your checkers from the bar, if necessary, as you cannot perform any other moves until all of your checkers have been debarred. To do so, roll the dice. You may move your barred checkers to your opponent's home board points of the corresponding number (1 through 6), but only if they are unoccupied.

Winning the Game

Bear off your checkers once all 15 are within your home board (points 1 through 6). To do so, roll the dice. You may remove your checkers from the game if they are sitting on points corresponding to the dice numbers.

Move checkers as usual if you do not have any checkers on points corresponding to the dice numbers. If you cannot move any checkers or remove any checkers from play, your turn is over.

Win the game by removing all of your checkers from the board.

About the Author

Aaron Kopf graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with honors in 2009, holding a Bachelor of Arts in communication. While enjoying his time at college, Kopf was published in The Echo and Vortex magazine.