How to Play Backgammon for Beginners

Updated April 17, 2017

Backgammon is one of the oldest board games in the world and is enjoyed by players of all ages. Similarly to chess and draughts, backgammon incorporates strategy, thoughtful planning and outsmarting the opponent. However, unlike chess and draughts, 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.

Lay the game board lengthwise between both players and assign each player a colour, 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 draughts. Each player places two draughts on their 24-point, five draughts on their 13-point, three draughts on their 8-point, and five draughts on their 8-point.

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 draughts, 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 draughts onto your "home board," which contains points 1 through 6. Once all 15 of your draughts are on these points, you can begin to "bear them off."

Attempt to "bar" your opponent's draughts by moving your checker onto a point occupied by one of your opponent's draughts. 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 draughts.

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

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

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

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

Things You'll Need

  • Backgammon board
  • 15 red draughts
  • 15 white draughts
  • 2 six-sided dice
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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.