How to Set Up & Play Backgammon

By Usha Dadighat
This is the starting position for backgammon pieces.

Backgammon has a simple setup and game play process. With one player on each side of the board, you each move your 15 pieces in a counter-clockwise direction around the board. When you move a piece off the board by an exact roll at the end it is called "bearing off" the piece. The first person to move all of his pieces around and off the board wins.

Set Up

Count all of the game pieces before you begin. In addition to the board the game should have 15 white pieces, 15 black pieces, a dice cup and at least two dice. Some backgammon sets also include another set of dice and a doubling cube.

Check the triangles. They should be numbered 1 to 12 from right to left at the bottom of the board and 13 to 24 from left to right on the top of the board.

Place six of your pieces in a vertical line on triangles 6 and 13, two pieces on triangle 24 and three pieces on triangle 8. Have your opponent place her pieces in the same arrangement mirrored from the other side.

Game Play

Roll the dice and let the person who rolled the highest number go first.

Roll both dice using the dice cup when it is your turn. Use the result of each die for a separate piece or checker. For example, if you roll a 4 and a 2, you can move one checker four spaces and another checker two spaces or you can move one checker six spaces. You can only move the checkers forward toward your home area. You can only move checkers to spaces occupied by one or none of your opponent's checkers.

Move your pieces a second time if you roll doubles. For example if you roll double 3s you have four 3s to work with.

Land one of your checkers on a triangle with one of your opponent's checkers to send that checker to the bar dividing the center of the board. The checker can only re-enter game play from the bar with a roll of the dice and if the spot indicated by the dice is not occupied.

Move your pieces off of the board or "bear off" your pieces after all 15 of them are in your home quadrant. This takes the piece out of play.You may only bear off pieces on an exact roll. For example, if one of your pieces is three triangles away from the edge of the board in your home quadrant, and you roll a 3 you can remove or "bear off" that piece. Move all of the pieces off the board to win.

Tip

If you play with a doubling cube, you can use that at any point if you think you are winning; your opponent has the option to decline and forfeit the stakes.

About the Author

Usha Dadighat has been writing since 2008. She earned a Bachelor of Science in computer science and a minor in psychology from the Missouri University of Science and Technology in December 2010. She currently works as a software development engineer and has extensive technical writing experience.