Play Backgammon online for free

Play unlimited games of backgammon.  The dice are automatically rolled for you. Start by moving your white chips. Afterward your computer opponent will make a move, and then it's your turn again. 

How to play Backgammon

Backgammon is a classic two-player game of luck and strategy. One of the oldest board games around, it remains popular today, thanks to its simplicity. The goal of the game is simple: You must remove all your checkers from the board before your opponent.

So, is backgammon a hard game to play? Backgammon is not a hard game to play once you master the rules. Plus, playing online means you can avoid basic errors that you wouldn’t know about in a real-life game.

In these basic instructions, we’ll go over setup, game rules, scoring, and how to win backgammon.

Setting Up

To set up a game of backgammon, you’ll need the following:

  • A backgammon board. This patterned board is split into quadrants. Each quadrant has 6 long triangles called “points” or “pips.”
  • Checkers. There are 15 white and 15 black checkers.
  • Dice. You’ll roll 2 dice to determine how many places to move each turn.
  • A doubling cube. This special die doubles the stakes as the game goes on.
  • A dice cup. You’ll use this to roll the dice.

Of course, with Backgammon-online, all of this is taken care for you!

The Board

  • Home board: For online games, this is the right half of the board where players can remove checkers.
  • The outer board: This is the left half of the board where players cannot remove checkers.
  • The bar: This is the ridge that divides the two halves — some checkers may be placed here (more on this later).

If you’re playing with a real backgammon set, the home board for white is the right side, and the home board for black is the left side. 

The game is assymmetrical, meaning players will move their pieces in opposite directions — white checkers move counterclockwise, while black checkers move clockwise.

Placing the Checkers

Each player will place their checkers on the board, counting from their first point. For white, the first point is the bottom right; for black, the first point is the bottom left. Starting positions are as follows:

5 checkers on the sixth point

3 checkers on the eighth point

5 checkers on the thirteenth point

2 checkers on the twenty fourth point

The Object of the Game

As we said before, the goal is to remove — or “bear off” — your checkers first. However, checkers can only be removed from your home board.

Backgammon. You achieve a backgammon if you remove all your checkers while any of your opponent’s checkers are still in your home board or the bar.

Gammon. A gammon doubles the point value of the game. This is when a you remove all your checkers before your opponent has removed any of theirs.

Choosing the First Player

To determine who makes the first move, each player rolls their dice. Whoever rolls the higher number gets to start the game.

Gameplay: Dice & Moves

Players take alternate turns rolling a pair of dice and moving their checkers accordingly. You can add the dice value for a single move, or use the values for two separate moves. For example, if you roll a 4 and a 3, you can move one checker 7 spaces (4 + 3), or you can move one checker 4 spaces and another checker 3 spaces.

If you can’t make any legal moves that correspond to a die, you skip it and hope for better luck on the next roll.

If you roll a double, you gain two extra moves. Let’s say you roll double 5. Instead of moving 10 total spaces, you double the total. So, you end up with 4 5-place moves for a total of 20 pips.

Players must roll dice on the right side of the board, allowing the dice to roll. If a die lands on a either player’s pieces or outside the board, the player must re-roll.

Once you’ve rolled your dice, it’s time to move your checkers to an open point. 

An open point is any of the following:

  • A point with no player’s checkers on it
  • A point with exactly ONE of your opponent’s checkers on it
  • A point with one or more of your own checkers 

You can move any checker you would like to begin, but the faster you move your checkers out of your opponent's home board, the better. 

You may not pass on your turn.

Hitting & Entering

A point on the board with a single checker of either is called a blot. If you land on an opponent’s blot, the blot is then hit and placed on the bar (the separator between boards).

If your blot is hit, you need to move your checker back to the other player’s home board before moving any other checkers. You can only do this if you roll a die with a number that lets you move to an open space. Otherwise, you’re stuck and have to skip your turn.

If you hit more than one of your opponent's checkers on a turn, the opponent must move all their checkers from the bar back into your home board before moving other checkers.

Hit-and-runs are when you hit a blot with one checker and immediately move it to a different point. This requires using both dice for a single checker, but it lets you move your checker to safety.

Once the checker re-enters the board, simply resume play as normal. If you were able to re-enter the checker with a single die, go ahead and use the other one!

Bearing Off

Bearing off is your main objective. Follow these guidelines to bear off. 

Before you start bearing off, all 15 of your checkers must be on your home board.

In order to bear off, you must roll a number that corresponds to the a checker’s position. So, if your checker is on the second point, you can move it by rolling a 2.

There is often no designated space to bear off checkers. In our online version, you just click the space outside the board to bear off and the checkers disappear.

If you roll higher than your farthest checker, you can bear it off. So, if you roll a 6, but the farthest checker is on the fourth point, you can bear it off. This only applies to the checkers that are farthest behind.

Scoring Backgammon

Backgammon is meant to be played in a series of games, usually 5, or up to X amount of points per match. There’s no standard amount of points — home matches might stick to 5 points total, while tournaments can set the amount to 25 points or more.

  • Single game = 1 point
  • Gammon = 2 points
  • Backgammon = 3 points

At the end of the game, you’ll add the number of points you earned to a running tally for the match.

Using the Doubling Cube

The doubling cube is used to raise the stakes of each game. It includes the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64.

At the beginning of each game, place the doubling cube in the center of the bar — midway between the players — with 64 facing up. This indicates that no one has doubled the stakes yet. The number facing up on the doubling cube will always indicate the current stakes.

At any point in the game, you can choose to double the stakes of the game. You must do this at the beginning of your turn, before you roll your dice. You’ll take the doubling cube and turn it so the 2 is face up.

At this point, the other player can either accept the double and take the doubling cube to their side of the board, or forfeit the game. 

If the other player accepts the double, they now “own” the doubling cube. If the tides turn and they gain the advantage, they are now free to redouble the stakes to 4. If they redouble, you are then given the choice of accepting or forfeiting the game. This can go back and forth until the stakes reach 64.

The same player can’t double the stakes twice in a row.

Ready to get started?

Now that you know the basic backgammon rules, check out our free online backgammon game and start playing now!

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