I had always believed that the doubling cube was invented or introduced
to backgammon in the 1920's. It turns out that something much like the
doubling cube was used in a backgammon-like game in the 17th century!
Yesterday, I received my copy of of Francis Willughby's Book of Games,
edited by David Cram, Jeffrey L. Forgeng and Dorothy Johnston and
published by Ashgate in 2003. It is the first publication of a
handwritten manuscript written in England in the 1660's. It predates
Cotton's Compleat Gamester (1676) and Hoyle's Treatise on Backgammon
It has quite intelligible rules and strategy for Irish (backgammon, but
doubles are played only twice rather than four times) and Backgammon.
Nack and Paul Weever would appreciate that it discusses backgammon
opening rolls! Willughby also has rules for the game of Ticktack, a
sibling of Trictrac, a game that has much interested me over the years
(see the Trictrac Home Page,
http://pages.sbcglobal.net/david.levy/trictrac/). Like Trictrac, Ticktack
is played on a backgammon board and is not a race, but a game where one
scores points for making certain positions.
The discussion of Ticktack contained this astonishing passage (spelling
and punctuation preserved):
"Vie Ticktack is when one has as hee thinks the advantage & is likely
to win, hee saies to the other, I Vie. If hee thinks there bee no
hopes of it hee yeilds the game. But if hee have a mind to venture
longer and not yeild, hee saies, I See It. This doubles whatever they
play for. If the game bee not wun the next throw, it may be vied
againe, and then what they plaied for at first is trebled. If it bee
vied againe, the stake is quadrupled, &c., there beeing as many stakes
to bee plaied for as there have bene vies besides the stake at first,
as if there has bene 4 vies & they play for 6 pence the stake will
bee ½ a crowne. They use either to stake as often as they vie or reckon
the vies with counters. A double game doubles the stake & all the vies.
There are some interesting differences between the "vie" and the doubling
The doubling cube always doubles the stakes. It is only the initial "vie"
in Ticktack that doubles the stakes. In deciding whether to take a double,
a player can give up a single stake, or agree to play on for a double
stake. Thus by accepting, the player risks a single stake (lose two
instead of lose one) to gain three (win two instead of lose one) and needs
to win one game in four to accept the double (ignoring double games which
can also occur in Ticktack and ignoring the extra equity provided by the
exclusive option to double next).
The second vie in Ticktack is different. The player can give up a double
stake or agree to play on for a triple stake. Thus by accepting, the
player risks a single stake (lose three instead of lose two) to gain five
(win three instead of lose two). Thus the player needs to win only one
game in six to accept the second vie. Similarly the player needs to win
only one game in eight for the thrid vie, one in ten for the fourth, etc.
Wouldn't this drive us all crazy? What would Neil's MET look like?
Willughby also mentions the vie applied to the card game Gleek.
Is anyone familiar with other games that use the vie?