Backgammon Tactics and Strategy

The aim of backgammon and how to win

There’s so much to the game of backgammon. In other pages we have tried to set out some background and history, as well as an overview of the rules of the game, plus setting up and how to get started. Below we have included a brief overview of the aims and strategy of a game of backgammon, plus some tips on tactics.

Backgammon Strategy

The first roll or two of the die for a player will determine the type of game the player will use through most of the rest of the game. A player can play a “running game” to get as many stones as quickly around the board as possible, but leaving stones here and there vulnerable for a turn or two. Or a player can play a “holding game” by forming blockades to control the movements of the stones of the opposing player. Rolling high numbers and doubles are perfect for a “running game” while rolls that allow stacking of stones from different origins to form the blockades are the core of a “holding game.”

Each player should try to move all their pieces out of their inner board as soon as possible, but without leaving any of these moved stones vulnerable by sitting them alone on a point. Always be aware of the numerical difference between stacked points of your own stones – in that way, when you roll two die that match that difference, you can easily build or add to a blockade. Avoid creating blockades of only three stones.

Backgammon Tactics

Learn the table of opening “roll-outs” that show the best moves for every permutation of the die roll. For example, because of the opening positions on the 6-point and the 8 point, any rolls with a difference of two should take a stone from each of those points to form a blockade in the opposing player’s inner board. Any rolls following ones that force the player to leave a stone vulnerable should move that lone stone out of danger.

When knocking off a stone, keep moving the stone used for that purpose to a safe point if possible. However, if it is possible to knock off two stones of your opponent with one roll, do so – the opponent must still get their stones off the bar before they can try to knock off any of your stones that you’ve left all alone.

Contiguous blockades are excellent, especially if they can be formed within the opposing players home board. Doing so will stop any stones on the bar from re-entering the board and completely stall the opposing player.

A player should switch to a running game as soon as a clear path appears where stones will not be left vulnerable.

The Doubling Cube

In the 1960s, the doubling cube was added to the game. Though it may look like a die, the doubling cube is not rolled, but is instead used as an indicator of the current status of the stakes of the game. The six sides of the doubling cube has the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64. The game begins with the doubling cube in the middle of the bar with the 64 showing on top. As the game progresses, either player, before rolling, can declare a doubling of whatever stakes were decided upon at the start of the game. If the opposing player does not accept the doubling, the game is over and the declaring player wins at whatever the stakes were prior to the declaration.

If the opposing player does accept the doubling declaration, the cube is flipped to show the next value up – for the first instance, though, the cube is flipped from 64 to 2. Once a player declares a doubling and it is accepted, the declaring player cannot double again — that option passes to the other player and is indicated by moving the doubling cube to that player’s end of the bar. When the game is over, the loser pays whatever stakes are indicated by the doubling cube. Doubling is intended as a way for a player to announce that their position on the board is so superior that it is not necessary to finish the game. However, a player may double early on in the game in order to psych out the opposing player.