A Trip Back in Time: How Did the Game of Backgammon Originate?

Big fan of board games? Then, you must’ve heard of backgammon. Backgammon is one of the oldest classic board games, which has not lost its popularity through the ages. It is a two-person game that is known to be popular in coffee houses. In terms of popularity, this game can be compared to modern slots in United States world of online games. Here we will take a closer look at the course of the emergence of backgammon.

The Backgammon Background (Origin)

Backgammon is a dice game, and dice games have been around for a very long time. The origin of dice is very intriguing since dice used to be made of bones. The game has passed a long way, and it has an intertwined history similar to the history of blackjack game. But even before that, people used to throw animal bones to predict the future, which paved the way for turning those bones into a cubic figure in a way that each surface of the cubic figure was represented by a number or a picture. The reason for choosing the dice was that once the dice stopped rolling, there was a clean surface on top, and also because it was easy to roll the cube, and it stopped early. After the invention of dice, the next step was the creation of the layout, or rather the surface that was used to move the game pieces and the throwing of the dice.  

It is believed that the first version of backgammon originated in India or China. This is due to the popularity of chess in these countries, which was a strategic game. The fact that backgammon was also included in the category of strategic games helped the game acquire demand among the population. The origin of backgammon is also associated with the Indian game “Parcheesi,” which is a board game for four people, but the rules and purpose of the game are similar in many ways. In the Far East, you can find references to some varieties of backgammon. In China, there is a game called shwan-liu. In Japan, locals for centuries have been playing a game called sunoroku, which omits the bar. 

In Korea, ssang-ryouk was popular, in Thailand len sake or saka was considered very prestigious, and in Malaya, locals played main tabal in the evenings.

History

The origins of backgammon go back to the Mesopotamian kingdom, which was located on the territory of present-day Iraq. Ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean East were known for their board games around 3,000 B.C. Ancient games called “Senate” and “Ur” were known in that era. Interestingly, archaeologists believe that backgammon is a descendant and evolved form of such board games, although it does not come directly from Egypt. 

In ancient Rome, it was known as Tabula, which means “table” in Latin. The game rules were similar to backgammon, but the board and chips were made of stone.

The Arabs conquered Persia in the 6th century AD, which made backgammon popular in the Muslim world and spread all the way to Europe. In that era, the game was called Nard or Nardshir, and written records appeared in Babylonian and Persian literature from 300 to 850 AD.  

In the middle age, backgammon grew popular in the European region. The Jeux De tables, a predecessor of modern backgammon, first appeared in France in the 11th century. It reached Germany and Iceland in the 12th century and Spain in the 13th century.

The Term Backgammon

The board with twenty-four points and thirty checkers (or pieces, or men) has existed for a long time, but the game has not always been called backgammon. The term “backgammon” first appeared in 1645 in a letter that also referred to the Irish game, a simpler predecessor that did not include paired games or levels of winning found in the modern game.  No one knows exactly where the name came from, but most scholars agree that it probably comes from the medieval English “baec,” which means “back,” and “gamen,” meaning “game.”

Modern Backgammon Rules and Setup

Backgammon is a game for two players; the following are the requirements:

  • This historic game is played with twenty four triangles marked on a board. Each of them is called a point.
  • These marked figures on the board are divided into four quadrants, with each quadrant having 6 triangles, and the colors are alternating. 
  • The quadrants simply mean the player’s side of the board and his outer board, his opponent’s side of the board, and their respective outer board. 
  • The internal boards of each player are separated by a ridge right down the middle of the board.
  • The points are numbered for either player starting in that player’s home board. The outermost point is the twenty-four point, which is also the opponent’s one point. 
  • Each player has 15 checkers of a particular color. 
  • They can move two stones, one die per stone. Or, if no point between numbers on each die is occupied, they can move one stone the total distance shown on both dice. Thus if a player rolls one and five, and points two, three, and four are unoccupied, they can move one die to point six. When dice pair, their value doubles. For example, two sixes count as four sixes.

The object of the game is to move all your checkers into your own home board and then remove them from the board. The first player to bear off all of their checkers wins the game.

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