Backgammon Basics for Beginners

Backgammon is a timeless board game that combines strategy, skill, and a bit of luck. Whether you’re new to the game or looking to refresh your knowledge, this step-by-step guide will take you through the fundamental aspects of Backgammon, from setting up the board to making your first moves. By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid foundation to enjoy this classic game with confidence.

Setting Up the Backgammon Board

Let’s start with the basics: setting up the Backgammon board. Before any dice are rolled or checkers are moved, you need to create the game environment. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Get Your Backgammon Board and Checkers

First, ensure you have a Backgammon board. These boards come in various designs, but they all have 24 narrow triangles called “points” arranged in two rows of 12. Each player has 15 checkers of a distinct color. Make sure the checkers are set up as follows:

  • On your side, the home board, you should have:
    • Five checkers on your 6-point.
    • Three checkers on your 8-point.
    • Five checkers on your 13-point.
    • Two checkers on your 24-point.
  • On the other side, the outer board, your opponent’s checkers should mirror yours.

Position the Bar in the Middle

Place the bar in the middle, separating the two sides of the board. This is where hit checkers will go if they are knocked off a point.

Arrange the Dice and Doubling Cube

Both players should have access to a pair of dice. Additionally, place the doubling cube in the center, setting it to 1 at the beginning of the game.

Now that you’ve set up the Backgammon board, it’s time to understand the game’s rules.

Understanding Backgammon Rules

Backgammon has straightforward rules but offers a deep level of strategy. Here are the core principles to get you started:

Goal of the Game

The primary objective in Backgammon is to move all your checkers off the board before your opponent does. The first player to bear off all their checkers wins the game.

Moving Your Checkers

  • You use the dice to determine how far each checker can move. The numbers on the dice represent the number of points a checker can move. For example, if you roll a 4 and a 2, you can move one checker four points and another checker two points, or one checker a total of six points.
  • You can choose to move a single checker by the full value of one die or two different checkers for each die’s value. For instance, if you roll a 3 and a 5, you can move one checker 3 points and another 5 points, or one checker a total of 8 points.

Hitting and the Bar

  • If you land on a point occupied by only one of your opponent’s checkers, you hit it. The hit checker is placed on the bar, and your opponent must re-enter it into their home board.

Bearing Off

  • Once all your checkers are in your home board, you can start bearing them off the board. You must roll the exact number needed to remove a checker from the highest point in your home board. If a checker is on a higher point, you can use a higher roll to bear it off.

Now that you understand the basics of Backgammon, it’s time to make your first moves.

Making Your First Moves

When you’re just starting in Backgammon, it’s essential to build a strong foundation for your game. Here are some strategic tips for your initial moves:

Start with a Split

At the beginning of the game, it’s often a good strategy to split your back checkers. Move one checker from your 24-point to your 13-point and another from your 13-point to your 8-point. This provides a good balance between offense and defense.

Establish an Anchor

Creating an anchor in your opponent’s home board, like the 24-point, is crucial. It gives you a safe point for your hit checkers to re-enter the game.

Form Points in Your Outer Board

To slow down your opponent and build a strong position, consider creating points in your outer board. These points can block your opponent’s checkers and create obstacles for their advancement.

Prioritize Your Back Checkers

Focus on moving your back checkers first. These checkers are the furthest from your home board, and getting them closer will give you more flexibility as the game progresses.

As a beginner, don’t be discouraged if you make mistakes or if the game doesn’t go as planned. Backgammon is a game that rewards practice and learning from your experiences. The more you play, the better you’ll become at understanding the intricacies of the game.


Backgammon is a classic game that offers a delightful blend of strategy and chance. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’re well on your way to mastering the basics. As you continue to play and gain experience, you’ll discover new strategies, develop your own style, and, most importantly, have a great time with this captivating board game. So, set up your Backgammon board, grab your checkers, and let the games begin!

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