Backgammon set up and rules

After the backgammon line-up, the board stands between the players. Each player has an inner square and an outer square on the backgammon board. There are two colors (dark/light) and the object of the game is to bear off all your checkers on your side before your opponent does. The game of Backgammon is related to Tavli or Tavla and has for this purpose the same basic formation or starting formation of blots.

Which technical terms should you know about backgammon?

The two fields are separated by the so-called bar. The individual „spikes“ (playing fields) are also often referred to with the English word „point“. There are several stones, a single stone on a point is called a „blot„. It can be hit by the opponent and placed on the bar.

Darstellung Backgammonspielbrett
Arrangement of the stones: Backgammon setup and formation

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  • The game pieces are placed in their basic position as shown in the figure above.
  • The direction of white’s move is in the direction of the inner white square 19-24 (numbered through from top right to bottom right).
  • The moving direction of black is towards the black inner square 6 -1.

Backgammon rules and game target

After the Tavla or Backgammon set up, the moves are determined by the number of two dice rolled. Each player endeavours to gather all his 15 checkers in his own field, also known as home field, after the tops of the board have circled, in order to then bear them off the board. White from your own inner field with points 19-24 out, black from your own inner field with points 6-1 out. The first player to do so wins. There are different methods and tactics to prevent the opponent from reaching the goal.

Tavli vs Backgammon Rules

The rules of a normal backgammon game are very different despite the same line-up with Tavli. For example, Tavli has 3 rounds which contain different rules: Portes, Placato and Fevga Portes is the round that has the most similarities with backgammon, with the following differences:

  • There is no doubling cube (64 cube)
  • There is no backgammon (3 points), but one point for an easy win and two points if the opponent still has all his checkers on the board
  • Instead of moving the first move with the initial roll, which determines the starting player, Tavli rolls the dice again

Backgammon set up & playing equipment

To start and set up a backgammon game you need a board, for example in a backgammon case, fifteen light and fifteen dark pieces (blots), two pairs of dice and a doubling cube. The arrangement, formation, or structure of Backgammon is as follows in the basic formation/starting formation:

Backgammon Aufbau
Backgammon setup and starting line-up

The doubling cube/doubling cube is used to double the stake during the backgammon game. The numbers on this cube show the possibility of increasing the stake from 2-fold to 64-fold. If there are two dice and no backgammon case, it is also possible to print out a field and the checkers and to make the field yourself (DIY backgammon). Backgammon cases can be ordered online at a reasonable price.

You want to use the doubling cube once against real opponents for backgammon for money? You have the opportunity to do so in online platforms for playing backgammon.

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The doubling cube – how it works

Backgammon Dopplungswürfel
doubling cube

The offer to double may be made by the player whose turn it is to roll the dice. The stake is doubled – if you play for points you can do so until the maximum number of points is reached. As a rule, players should only use the doubling cube if they are aware of their own chances at the time of the offer – for example, if they expect to win the game. To maximize the chance of the opposing player accepting the offer, however, the odds distribution must not be too extreme.

Reject the doubling offer

If the offer is rejected, the opponent immediately loses the game and pays the existing stake at the time of the rejection. The game is over and a new game can begin. If you are in a position to accept the offer to double, you have to decide whether you can still win the game or what the chances are of losing the game.

Duplication offer acceptance

Assuming the doubling, it is your turn next when it comes to doubling. If the offer is accepted, the doubling cube (starting with the two) is placed on the bar as the score indicator. However, only the player who has accepted the previous one can make another offer to double. This position of power should always be kept in mind as a player, both as the player who initially plays the cube and as the player who accepts the offer. From the next move on, the player who accepted the doubling cube can play the cube again, as long as he considers the situation to be positive.

How to win in Backgammon, or how the game ended, can be read in the next section.

Score of the dice

A checker may be moved out if the point value of one die is sufficient to move that checker beyond the edge of the board. You may use part or all of a roll of the dice to move checkers further inside the board instead of bearing off.

If a roll is suitable to bear off a checker from a point that is not occupied, that roll must be used to move a checker from the highest occupied point. The player may choose which number he wants to move first.

By playing out the checkers, individual checkers can also stand without a block. If the opponent still has checkers that have been hit and must be played back into the game, this is a potential risk. If you want to avoid this situation, you should first move your own blots inwards as far as possible in your own field, if this is possible.


Backgammon setup and line-up

The structure of backgammon and the set-up or starting position of the board is relatively easy to explain:

  • There are a total of 24 points (spikes), 12 white and 12 black points
  • The 15 white and black checkers are positioned on the points
  • The positioning depends on the direction of pull and the goal: Two points with 5 stones, one point with 3 stones and one point with 2 stones
  • As a rule of thumb you can remember White outside, black inside and black inside, white outside – at the start there are 2 stones of your own colour in the outer field 3 stones

Once the blots or checkers have been placed on the board and the players are ready to start the game, each player rolls one die and the player with the higher number starts playing. If a double was rolled at the beginning, the dice are rolled again until one player has a higher number of points on a die. The backgammon set-up is now complete and the game can begin.


Backgammon game instructions, start and backgammon rules

The backgammon rules are easy and quickly internalized. After the playing field has been set up, come the beginning: The start of the game of backgammon is a little bit different than the other moves. To start backgammon, you must roll the dice for the first move. The two players each roll their own dice once. The player with the higher number has the choice of checker colour for the first game. He starts the game according to the rules by using both dice to make the first roll. He must therefore use the two numbers thrown by the different dice. If both players roll the same number, the roll is repeated until there are different numbers.

According to the numbers on each die, he then moves one or two checkers over the tops of the board towards his own inner square, white counterclockwise, black clockwise.

Download the game manual with backgammon rules and line-up as PDF for free

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Frequently asked questions about Backgammon

Who starts in backgammon?

In backgammon, it is decided who starts with the higher number of points on a cube. So each player rolls one of his two dice. The player who rolls the higher number starts and uses his and the MI player's dice to move the first checkers. Then each player uses his own dice.

How many checkers does one need in Backgammon?

Backgammon uses 15 white and 15 black checkers. The checkers are distributed around the board, both on the home board and on the generic board, and are moved over the individual points into the player's own home board as the game progresses.

What does doubling mean in backgammon?

When playing for money or points in a backgammon game, the doubling cube can be used to double the stake. The player can accept or refuse the double. If the double is refused, the game is over and the player who wanted to double wins the game.

Play Backgammon online

Besides the possibility to play with a backgammon case directly with friends and acquaintances, there is also the possibility to play backgammon online since a few years. There are different ways to do this:

Blots setup

According to the Backgammon rules of play, checkers may be placed on any of the 24 points if they are unoccupied, or occupied by your own checkers, or occupied only by an opponent’s checker (blot).

The number on the dice can be moved separately to bear off two checkers or combined to move one checker, provided that it is possible to move that checker according to the numbers on the dice. Each of the two numbers can be moved first. Note that each of the numbers on the two dice must be moved separately, i.e. the numbers on a roll may not be added together and then moved; it must be possible to „land“ on the corresponding point.

In principle, there is – as far as possible – a move constraint for the number of both dice. If only the number of one die can be moved, it must be the higher number, otherwise the roll is forfeited completely and it is the opponent’s turn.

Special throw doubles

If a double (both dice show the same number of points) is rolled, the player draws twice as many points on a roll of e.g. 2 + 2, the player may move one checker over 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8 points or four checkers over 2 points each or any other possible combination.

Hit blots

A single stone on a point (blot) can be hit by the opponent and placed on the bar (middle). It must remain there until its player can put it back into play in the opponent’s inner field.

A player can fire one, two or more blots in the same eye roll (e.g. 3 or 4 blots by a double).

As long as a player still has one or more checkers on the bar, he may not move any other checker. This applies until he has brought all the bar checkers back into play. This can only happen if he can reach a point in the opponent’s inner field with the eyes of one of the two numbers on the dice. If the bay player does not manage to bring his checker into play with one roll of the dice, the roll is lost and it is the opponent’s turn with the next roll.

Dice out

Once a player has gathered all his backgammon checkers (blots) in his own inner field, he can start rolling them out of the game. If one of his checkers is hit during the bear-off, he must bear it off the bar, first into the opponent’s inner field and then back into his inner field before he may continue playing.

Backgammon game end

The player wins a simple game if the opponent has also moved one or more of his checkers to the „target louse“.

The player wins a double game (gammon) if no opponent’s checker could be moved to the „destination laus“.

The player wins a triple game (Backgammon) if no opponent’s checker has been moved into the „Zielaus“ and one or more checkers are on the bar or in the opponent’s inner field.

The doubling cube now also comes back into play – the number of times the player has doubled must now be counted and this number is multiplied by the value of the doubling cube. This allows for high winnings, depending on how often the player doubled and whether they won a double or triple game. For example, if a single game was rolled, the number of the doubling cube applies.


 Einfaches SpielGammonBackgammon
Einfaches Spiel1 Punkt2 Punkte3 Punkte
Dopplungswürfel 22 Punkte4 Punkte6 Punkte
Dopplungswürfel 44 Punkte8 Punkte12 Punkte
Dopplungswürfel 88 Punkte16 Punkte24 Punkte
Dopplungswürfel 1616 Punkte32 Punkte48 Punkte
Dopplungswürfel 3232 Punkte64 Punkte96 Punkte
Dopplungswürfel 6464 Punkte128 Punkte192 Punkte

After the last game is before the next game: The stones are now removed from the playing field and set up again.

Read more about how to win at backgammon with strategy or check out backgammon rooms to play online backgammon.

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