Forum Archive : History

Backgammon variants

From:   Raccoon
Address:   racgammon@yacannedmeathoo.com
Date:   22 August 2003
Subject:   Re: Global reply
Forum:   rec.games.backgammon
Google:   eikckv4uikvefnl87ulgqjv7a2c70de652@4ax.com

Alexandre Charitopoulos wrote:
> Oriental playing is not a mere variant but a complete game. I
> distinguish backgammon from tavli. Those are two different games.

Quite so. As you yourself pointed out, the Greek tavli is actually
three different games, one of which -- portes -- closely resembles
backgammon but with certain differences in rules of movement, scoring,
and of course the doubling cube.

Portes, plakoto, fevga, acey-deucey, hypergammon, nackgammon, tapa,
narde, cubeless "backgammon," gul bara, "Russian" backgammon,
trictrac, longgammon, duodecagammon, jacquet and feuga have each their
own rules and likewise demand particular strategies.  Whether you call
any or all of these games "variants," each is a "complete game."

While most discussion in this newsgroup is about "backgammon,"
rec.games.backgammon is certainly the appropriate Usenet forum for
discussion for all variants, if you will excuse the term, of

All variants of the game we play today with two dice, 30 checkers and
24 points stem, as best we can tell, from Middle Eastern board games
much, much older than the middle ages.

One or more forms of the game spread to Egypt, to India, to China, to
Greece, to Rome. The legions of Rome spread "Tabula" through that
empire, and the game seems to have survived the middle ages in at
least some parts of Europe (cit. England, 1025 A.D.). A form of
backgammon called "Nard" appeared, perhaps in the 700s, perhaps in
Persia, and spread eastward and westward with the Moslem expansion and
the Crusades. Apparently, it is to this later "variant" that we owe
the use of two dice instead of three, and renewed popularity of our
ancient game. The written word "backgammon" appears in English for the
first time in 1645.

You have written of your dislike of "American backgammon" and its
culturally imperialistic doubling cube -- this 1920s late addition
which has disgracefully turned a respectable tavli fit for
grandfathers and coffee drinking friends into a professional,
disreputable gambling game.

Certainly backgammon's doubling cube is an American invention, and it
is a popular invention, and it is a popular gambling device. But
surely gambling on backgammon hardly began with the addition of the
doubling cube! If you are familiar with any of the many online
backgammon servers, you would find players from all over the world,
including Greece, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, enjoying backgammon with the
doubling cube. You would also find that the vast majority of online
players playing with the doubling cube do not gamble. And yet they
enjoy the game. Most online players use backgammon for precisely the
same reason that you find so admirable among cafe players: it's a way
of socializing.
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Backgammon in China  (Mark Driver, Jan 2001) 
Backgammon variants  (Raccoon, Aug 2003) 
Books on the history of backgammon  (Albert Steg, Aug 1998) 
Changes in backgammon over the years  (Joe Russell, July 2009) 
Doubling in the 17th Century?  (David Levy+, Dec 2003)  [GammOnLine forum]
Murray's "History of Boardgames Other than Chess"  (Dean Jameson, Apr 2002) 
Origin of backgammon  (Greycat Sharpclaw, Oct 1997) 
Recent changes  (Joe Russell+, July 2009) 
The effect of bots on the game  (Daniel Murphy+, May 2005)  [GammOnLine forum]
The name "backgammon"  (Jive Dadson+, Dec 2002) 
The name "backgammon"  (Marina Smith, Jan 1998) 
The name "backgammon"  (Albert Steg, Mar 1995) 

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