Backgammon is a game that immediately seems complicated to those that have never played. The board, pieces and rules are foreign, even though the game has been around for centuries. It therefore amazes novice players to learn that there are so many different backgammon variants out there to choose from.
Regional Variations of Backgammon
Unsurprisingly, one of the first places to start with different backgammon variants is with the different regions. There are mixed views on the true origin of backgammon in the first place. Most settle on the idea that this is a Middle Eastern game at heart, but that other Europeans molded it into the game we recognize. Then, of course, there is the American influence. In both Old English and French Backgammon, all checkers are off the board and doubles are played on both sides. The Russian variant turns the game into a race with play moving in the same direction. The Swedish Tables game is similar, but provides alternative ways to win. Then there is the Greek Plakoto game where the checkers are trapped.
Backgammon is an ever-evolving game with modern and ancient variations to enjoy.
These regional backgammon variants highlight the subtle differences between cultures, as the game evolved across the continents over centuries. This also means that we have a range of old and new games to enjoy – the modern ones perhaps a little more so with their shorter playing times and easier rules. Understandably, many enthusiasts will love to preserve games like the Roman Tabula version, or French Trictrac. Others will prefer the faster pace of Hyper-Backgammon or the oddity of Propositions, where different rules apply to each player.
Competitive Backgammon Variants
Then there are the competitive forms of backgammon – the games where players join together to play for more than pride. The most well known of these is Chouette, a team game with a captain and his players. Still, even this variant isn’t as straightforward as it may originally appear. It all depends which rules you play by. There are the 1931 rules of the New York Racquet and Tennis Club and the Atlanta Backgammon association – undoubtedly alongside countless others – have their own way of doing things.
The choices of rules and options appears almost endless.
Finally, there are the altogether more extreme and creative backgammon variants. This is where keen players have become a little bored by the same old approaches and created their own version to up the ante, or shorten the play. Interesting examples include Duodecagammon, with its 12 sided dice, the “No Hit” rules and the potentially disastrous Nuclear Backgammon, where players can launch an attack and send all the blots to the bar.
This is one of the joys of backgammon as a board game. We are so fuzzy on the true origin and the true rules of the game, and there are so many regional forms, that it is easy to branch off into different backgammon variants. Some will differ on the small details, others will take an extreme twist. The best approach is to find the one that suits you and enjoy it.