Many modern backgammon books refer to Trictrac simply as the French name for backgammon, however real Trictrac is quite a different game.
Trictrac (Grand Trictrac)
Trictrac was invented in France about 1500. Over the years, a several important changes were made to the rules. And by the time of Louis XIV, the game had evolved into two separate games, known as le Petit Trictrac and le Grand Trictrac. Trictrac remained popular in France until the middle of the nineteenth century.
The equipment is much the same as in backgammon. Players have fifteen checkers each which they move around the board according to rolls of the dice. However, unlike backgammon, racing plays only a small role in Trictrac.
All fifteen checkers for both players start on that player's talon and move toward his coin de repos (coin), then around the board to the player's jan de retour where the checkers are borne off.
Object: The object of the game is to score points for different plays or different configurations of checkers as described below. Twelve points make one trou (hole), and twelve trous make one match.
Each player rolls one die and the player rolling higher goes first. That player then rolls two dice to begin his first turn.
Movement is similar to backgammon except that doubles are played just once each and there is no hitting. Unlike in backgammon, if you touch a checker, your opponent can force you to play it.
The roll of the dice indicates how many points, or pips, the player is to move his checkers. The following rules apply:
- A checker may be moved only to an open point, one that is not occupied by an opposing player's checker.
- The numbers on the two dice constitute separate moves. For example, if you roll 5 and 3, you may move one checker five spaces to an open point and another checker three spaces to an open point, or you may move the one checker a total of eight spaces to an open point, but only if the intermediate point (either three or five spaces from the starting point) is also open.
- If you can move one but not both of the two numbers rolled you must move the higher number.
- You may not move a single checker to your own coin if it is empty. To occupy your coin, you must move two checkers together with one roll. And if you have exactly two checkers on your coin, you may not move one of them without moving the other.
- You may not move any checkers to your opponent's coin, however you may touch down there on your way to another point.
- If you roll two numbers that would fill your opponent's coin, and your own coin is still empty, you may move the checkers to your own coin instead, filling it par puissance. But if you have a choice of either making your coin directly or par puissance, you must make it directly.
There is no actual hitting in this game, however the potential to hit an opposing checker scores points.
If you have at least two checkers on each of the six points in your petit jan, grand jan, or jan de retour, you are said to fill that table. (You cannot fill the opponent's grand jan because you cannot occupy the opponent's coin.)
If your roll allows you to fill a table, you must. And once having filled a table, you must preserve the table as long as possible.
A checker may not stop on a point in the opponent's grand jan or petit jan if the opponent is still able to fill it.
Once you have moved all fifteen of your checkers into your jan de retour, you may begin bearing off. You bear off a checker by rolling a number that corresponds to the point on which the checker resides, and then removing that checker from the board.
If there is no checker on the point indicated by the roll, then you must make a legal move using a checker on a higher-numbered point. If there are no checkers on higher-numbered points, you must remove a checker from the highest point that has a checker.
At each turn, you roll the dice and look to see which ways your roll might be used. These are the possible ways to score points.
- Jan de trois coups, 4 points. Scored if your third roll of the game allows you to end up with exactly one checker on each of the points two through seven. You are not required to actually make this play to score the points.
- Jan de deux tables, 4 points (6 points if by doubles). Scored if only two checkers have been played off the talon and your throw would enable you to move one checker to both your own and your opponent's coin. (You score, but you cannot move there.)
- Petit jan, grand jan, and jan de retour 4 points (6 points if by doubles) for each way possible. Scored if you pile checkers on each point of the jan. For every move which preserves the jan, the player scores again, even if the position is merely preserved by the inability to play all or part of a roll.
- Jan de mezeas, 4 points (6 points if by doubles). If you have played only two checkers off your talon and they are now on your coin and you roll a 1 or a 1-1. However, if the opponent's coin is already filled, it is contre-jan do mezeas and the opponent takes the score.
- Potential hit, 4 points for each potential hit in a petit jan, 2 points for each potential hit in a grand jan (2 extra points for doubles).
- False hit, 4 points for the opponent for a false hit in the petit jan and 2 points for the opponent for a false hit in the grand jan (2 extra points) for doubles). A "false hit" is a potential indirect hit which is blocked because the intermediate point or points are occupied.
- Battre le coin, 4 points (6 points if by doubles). Scored if you have made own coin, the opponent's coin is empty, and you roll numbers which would make his coin.
- Unplayable number, 2 points each. Scored for your opponent for each number you cannot play.
- First off, 4 points (6 points if by doubles). Scored if you are the first to bear off your checkers.
Marking the score:
A Trictrac board has twelve holes along the base of each side of the board used for scoring. For every twelve points a player scores, he moves a peg along the holes on his side of the board. When the peg reaches the hole at the base of the coin, the match is over.
Three small tokens are used to record points. The tokens start between the talons to indicate no points have been scored. As a player acquires points, he moves a token to the tip of a triangle on the board as follows: the second triangle represents 2 points, the fourth triangle represents 4 points, the sixth triangle represents 6 points, the seventh triangle represents 8 points, and the twelveth triangle represents 10 points.
When a player accumulates twelve points, the token goes back to the talon and a trou is scored by moving the peg to a new hole.
Example. If a player has 10 points and scores 6 new points, he moves his peg to the next hole, scoring one trou, and moves the token from the twelveth triangle to the fourth triangle to show the 4-point surplus (10+6 = 12+4).
If you score a trou on your own roll, you may either:
If you score a trou with no intervening scoring by your opponent from the time you first moved your token off the talon, you score two trous instead of one.
- Continue playing. In that case you return the opponent's token back to the talon. It it is now his turn.
- Reset the game. Both players' tokens go back to the talons and all checkers are returned to their starting position. It is still your turn, and you roll again.
That is the purpose of the third token. If one player scores first, moving his token forward, and then the other player scores, the second player can still win a trou bredouille. So he uses two tokens to mark his score. If the first player scores again, he will return one of the second player's tokens back to the talon to indicate that trou bredouille is no longer possible.
Ecoles: You must mark your score before making your move. If you omit counting any score or claim one wrongly, the opponent takes that score. This is called an école. The scoring of écoles is not obliged, but if you score an école you must score it totally.
After all the scores have been credited, the player makes his move and it is the opponent's turn.
For a more complete description of the rules, see David Levy's page, Rules for the Game of Trictrac. Thank you to Philippe Lalanne for his helpful corrections and explanations.
World Wide Web
- H. J. R. Murray: A History of Board-Games other than Chess; Oxford University Press, Oxford, England; 1951 (pages 124-126).