How to Play Backgammon – A Concise Guide

Before you learn how to play backgammon, we should look into the history of the game. Basically, the game of backgammon is a race between two players to remove all of their pieces from a board using dice to determine the number of spaces to be moved. Variations of the game are played in Europe, as well as the Far East.

The Basics

This 2-player game involves a game board that features four different quadrants. The spaces on the board that are triangular-shaped are referred to as “points.” The numbers that can be found on the top and bottom of the backgammon board are used to identify the different points on the board. For example, White’s 1-point can be located at the lower right point of the board. The winner of the game is the player who is able to remove all of their checkers from the board.

The Pieces

There are 15 checkers that each backgammon player must play with. Sometimes these checkers are also referred to as pieces or men.

Rolling the Dice

To begin the game, each player rolls one dice. Whoever rolls the highest number will move that amount of spaces and take their first turn. In the event that both players roll the same number, a repeat roll is needed. When moving a checker, the player places one of their men by moving the exact amount shown on one die. Another checker can then be moved to match the number shown on the other die. For example, if a player roll a 1 and a 3, then one man is moved 1 space and another man will be moved 3 spaces. If both moves are possible with two separate pieces, a player could choose to move only one man the total of the two dice. In this case, it would be moving one man for four spaces.

Rolling Doubles

If a player rolls the same number on both dice, then they will be required to move double the amount shown. For example, if a player rolls a pair of fours, then that player is allowed four moves consisting of four spaces each. These four moves can be divided between whichever checkers the player desires. Another way to move the pieces on a double roll is to move one checker the total amount of spaces.

Moving Your Pieces

When playing backgammon, depending on the color of the pieces, one set only moves clockwise and the remaining set moves counterclockwise. When nearing the end of the game, checkers must always move the exact amount shown on a die, with the exception of bearing off. Pieces are allowed to pass over points that are occupied, but the end result of the move must end at an unoccupied space. A player’s checkers cannot land at a point that holds two or more of the opposing player’s pieces.

When moving checkers, there is such thing as an illegal move. Let’s say a player rolls a 3 and a 4. It is illegal to move a checker 7 spaces if the points that are 3 and 4 spaces away are occupied.

Understanding Blots and Bars

When a player’s piece lands on a point that is holding one of the opposing player’s checkers, this is called a blot. The opposing checker is then removed from the space and sent to the bar, which is a vertical strip that section off the right and the left sides of the backgammon board. Sometimes a player can hit as many as four blots on a single turn (as seen in the case of rolling doubles).

A player must bring all of the pieces back onto the board before they are able to move any of their pieces from the board. A checker can be returned to the board by using the rolls of the die to enter the opponent’s inner table. When no legal moves are possible, a player will lose their turn. Until that time comes, both numbers on the die must be used.

Bearing Off

A player can “bear off” when all of their men have made it over to the home board. Checkers that are beared off of the board cannot be replayed in the rest of the game. Players cannot bear off their pieces when they have a piece on the bar or located outside of the home board.


The winner of the backgammon game is one who has removed all of their pieces from the board. When a player is able to remove or “bear off” all of their checkers before the other player, it is known as a gammon. A game is referred to as backgammon when the loser of the game has at least one checker in the winner’s inner board.

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