Backgammon Variations

Backgammon variations can make this ancient game simpler or more difficult. They may increase the effect of chance or decrease it. In any case, they change a player's strategy, allowing a player who is a backgammon shark to sometimes be beaten by a weaker player who has more experience in one of the game's many variations.

Backgammon itself, a game of strategy and chance, is easy to learn but difficult to play well. Pieces are arranged on the points, the spaces of the board, before the game begins. Players roll dice and move their pieces according to the number they throw, one moving clockwise and one counterclockwise. Each can knock off another's piece if it is alone on a space, and each can block the other from occupying spaces with two or more pieces. Players vie to complete their circuit and remove their pieces from the board first. The doubling cube is also an important element of what is often a gambling game.


Acey-deucey itself has many variations. It starts with no pieces on the board. A player may move any piece he likes on his roll, whether or not he still has pieces to bring on. When a player rolls a one and two, he first plays that move and then plays any number he likes four times, as if he had rolled doubles. If he is able to use all his rolls, he gets an extra roll. Then, if he rolls another one-two, he can repeat the process.


Narde, Nard or Nardy is a variation of backgammon played in the Middle East and Russia. It uses the same board and 15 pieces, but players can only move a piece to a point that is completely open. Both players move their pieces in the same direction instead of moving toward each other as in traditional backgammon, and no piece can ever be knocked off the board.


Tabula is an ancient Greek variation of backgammon. Players use three dice instead of two. Each moves his pieces in the same direction, trying to reach the end and remove all his pieces first.

Blast Off, Blocking Backgammon and Eureka

These games introduce children to backgammon. Blast Off is an American game in which players cannot knock off one another's pieces. It's essentially a game of luck, in which the player with the highest rolls will win.

Blocking Backgammon is sometimes the first game taught to children in the Middle East. Players start with their pieces off the board. They can block a point with one piece. But if they have two pieces on a point, the opponent can land on it. The last player to land on a point is the first to move off it.

Eureka is a game of pure chance. Players arrange their pieces on their home board, and then take turns bearing them off. The pieces are not moved around the board; the contest is to be the first to remove them.


Tapa is played in Bulgaria and in Greece, where it's called Plakoto. Players try to pin the opponent's pieces rather than knock them off. Each player starts with all his pieces on the first point of the opponent's side. One piece can trap an opponent's piece on a point by landing on it, and two pieces can forbid an opponent from landing on a point.

Misere: backgammon to lose

In Misere, the object is to be the last player with pieces on the board. All the other rules are the same as for the standard game. Players must move if possible and must hit if they have no other move.

Bad Advice

In Bad Advice, opponents tell one another what move to make. Each player can refuse but will then have one move of his choice vetoed by the other player. Specifically, each player rolls and then names two possible plays. The opponent selects one. If a player has only one legal move, he makes it.

These are only a few of the hundreds of variations of backgammon. Each is a testament to the game's long history and the absorbing interest it holds for players.

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