Forum Archive : Variations

Backwards play

From:   Colin Bell
Date:   23 February 1996
Subject:   Re: Variation of BG
Google:   4glerq$

John Heckler wrote:
> There might already be a game or variation of the rules of Backgammon
> in which this has already been tried, but I was thinking the other day
> that it might make for an interesting twist if the rules of BG allowed
> you to move backwards. All other rules being basically the same.
> Does anything like this exist?

A group I'm in likes to try out variations on standard games like this, and
we've played what you suggest and several others. What you suggest doesn't
really work very well as a game: once separation occurs, the correct
strategy for the player who is behind seems to be to move pieces backward
chasing the other person, and playing a sort of reverse-backgame while
making their entire homeboard (or as good as they can manage). If a blot is
hit, the other player comes on, and if they're now behind in the race as
they usually are, the position reverses, so it's essentially who can get
their men off without ever leaving a blot: a bit random.

Playing with two forward dice and one backward one (doublets including the
backward one have no effect) is more of a game, but very long-winded
(hitting is far too easy).

The best version we've had along these lines seems to be that you have to
declare whether your dice are forward or backward before you throw. In this
variant you can move backward from your opponent's home board onto yours,
but only bear off forward. The strategy is quite odd: control of the 1
points tends to be crucial.

Other variants: two rolls versus choice. One player rolls (and plays) two
rolls per turn, the other doesn't roll but may choose whatever roll they
wish, except for doubles. This seems to be reasonably balanced and a fair
degree of skill is involved.

Another involves one person starting with five pieces on the opponent's 1
point and two on the midpoint (this was played first when someone set up
the board incorrectly by accident). More balanced than you might expect,
and good practice in backgames and some holding games (the 'odd' player
almost always makes an advanced anchor very early - or loses a gammon).

Finally, normal backgammon but with each player rolling three dice, and the
opponent selecting which two are to be played. In subsequent turns only two
dice are rolled and the third number is one removed last time.

Needless to say, none of these games is as good as regular backgammon, and
the better ones seem to be the ones that resemble it most. But they're fun
to try once in a while.

Colin Bell, Dept of Pure Mathematics, University of

Cindy Stauffer  writes:

(September 2011)

I have been playing Backgammon here in Turkey for many years. The other day
a friend and I were bored and had the idea to allow backward play. The
rules are the same as the game typically played in Turkey, except one can
choose to move forward or backward. When no moves are possible forward, the
person must then move backward. We found this Reverse-Backgammon to be
extremely interesting and fun to play. The game takes a bit longer but also
requires much more strategizing.

I came on this site to research if anyone had ever played it like this as I
became a fan and believe everyone who plays should try this newer version.
It might be necessary to play 2-3 games to really get into it and also to
have a situation where the Reverse (Back Play) becomes a key play.
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

Do you have any comments you'd like to add?     



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