> Can you have too many men back? If so, about how many do you want
> (assuming reasonable timing)
Once you are committed to a back game (meaning that losing a
gammon is a foregone conclusion--unless you win!) the critical
issue is maintaining timing. Often that means having more
back men, but sometimes not. Let's take a few cases.
First, if the opponent has a full prime, or even 5-prime, then
any back men might not be able to escape. In that case the entire
burden of playing the dice falls to the forward forces, and these
may not be able to handle the load. This is a case where extra
men back can be harmful.
Another problematic case is where you have lots of men on the bar.
One of the best times to get a shot is as the opponent clears his
outside prime. There are two benefits to hitting such a shot.
First, the opponent hasn't borne off any men, so you can win with
the cube once you complete a prime (or even threaten to prime).
Second, the shot comes earlier, so you need less timing. Against
this is the downside that the opponent still has an inner table that
poses a threat, but that's life. So the problem with having a lot
of men on the bar is that they might not enter in time to hit
an outside shot.
If we exclude those cases, then we have a position where the opponent
cannot scramble home while you are on the bar, and any back men
have an exit pathway to join the forward forces. In that case, you
are better off with more back men, since every back man improves your
The key to playing such a position is to concentrate on extricating
back men one at a time. Avoid playing your forward men, since the
larger the gap between the back and forward forces the longer it
takes to build a prime. JF (2.0) mishandles this aspect of
back-game play, so don't rely on its judgment too much.