Forum Archive : Variations

Old English

From:   Nick Wedd
Date:   11 February 1996
Subject:   Re: Is this legal?
Google:   7b3dYFAMZcHxEwjg@abcd.youcom

There is a set of rules which no-one around here seems to mention, that:

1.)  Allows you to use part of a throw so as not to be able to use the
     rest of it;
2.)  Forbids you to put more than five pieces on one point.

I first came across these rules on a leaflet that came with a backgammon
set that I bought here in England.  I have heard them described as "Old
English".  IMHO, they make for a poorer game, as back-games are easier
to set up, and too successful.

Nick Wedd

Ben Fairbank  writes:

About three years ago I played a game against an Englishwoman
in her eighties who was visiting this country.  She too
played that one could have not more than five checkers on a
point.  More interesting, however, was the way she said the
opening roll was played in England.  The player who casts the
higher die has a choice of playing the roll as it lies, OR
rolling again and playing the resulting roll.  Thus one can
have the chance of opening with doubles, for example.  Anyone
ever hear of that rule in England?

Ben F.

Albert Steg  writes:

I encountered players in Scotland who played by this "5 on a point" rule.
My own guess is that the variation is born of the fact that on most bg
sets the proportions are such that 5 checkers fill up a point perfectly.
The notion that that represents a limit is a natural misconception.  Of
course, as soon as someone puts it in print somewhere, it gathers

It's a bad rule because (1) BG is already a game with limited enough
options, (2) It would make for all sorts of artificial problems in the
bearoff, such as not being allowed to play an only available 5 from the
6-point to a stacked ace-point, an unfair forfeit of 6 pips in a race, and
(3) until the endgame it is not desirable to stack more than 5 checkers on
a point--stacking checkers is its own punishment, so it doesn't need to be

Marina Smith  writes:

I have met both these rules here in England. While many people seem to
believe in the not-more-than-5-on-a-point one, I have only heard of
the opening-roll-choice one, not met a proponent. While Albert is
right, 5 chequers do "fill up" the point, it is not helpful that some
instructions perpetuate the "rule". When we first started our Reading
club, all the locals who played were convinced of the 5-on-a-point
rule. It turned out that all had been taught by the same person.

mas on fibs.

Maureen  writes:

I work in a men's prison here in England and sometimes play bg with the
prisoners and yes, ALL of them play by the five only on point rule.  Very
frustrating.  But since they are chaps best not to argue with I go along!!

G. Lock  writes:

I have games books going back to 1840 and all have backgammon as no more
than 5 on a point and player has choice to throw again or take first throw.
Also bearing off we are obligated to take off if we can.
These rules are particularly English and make for a very difficult and
complicated game.
The mid european game is very similar to the USA.
There is another variation where, not whilst bearing off I believe, one can
move backwards after reaching the end point. EG a piece on point 2 can go
onto point 1 with a die of 3.

John Jackson  writes:

Nearly everyone I've met in England plays the "5 on 1 point" rule and many
play the rule that you can only cast off from the numbers rolled, i.e. not
moving along to stay 'safe'.  The "5 on 1 point" rule makes for a much
more interesting and tactical game and cuts down the chances of ending up
in a boring race round the board.  The casting off rule is, in my
opinion, another great rule, as it brings a whole different dimension to
the game in the sense that a player can leave pieces in their opponent's
home for nearly all the game whilst working the rest of the board and
using moves to create blocks rather feeling the need to rush out of your
opponent's home at the first opportunity.  This rule creates the
opportunity to do all this and still have a good chance of hitting your
opponent when they come to casting off.

In summary, I believe these two rules make for a more interesting and
tactical game.  What is more, most of England agrees!
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

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



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