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History of Backgammon

History of Backgammon

Backgammon is one of the first board games designed for two players. There are several variants of the game such as Acey-Deucy, Gul Bara, Hyper-Backgammon, Diceless Backgammon and Narde. Tactics, strategies and luck are required to win the game. According to scholars, the origin of the game are in a Persian game. Similar games were played in other parts of the world as well.


Origin – Persian Board Game Played in 6th Century

A game called Nard was played in Persia. Back then, Ferdowsi, a poet from Persia, named Burzoe, a Persian physician, as the inventor of the game. Burzoe introduced the game when he was visited by an Indian ruler. The dice used in the game was made from a combination of teak and ivory. This version is called Nard to this day in the Middle East and differs in rules and strategies from the original game.


Similar Games Played in Iraq, Rome and Egypt

In Egypt, an illustrated board game called Senet was exhumed from the tombs of royalty. In old Mesopotamia, the Royal Game of Ur was uncovered. It is considered the predecessor of today’s table games. In Rome, Game of Twelve Lines or Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum was played as a board game.


11th Century – First time Played in Europe

In France, a game called Game of Tables or Jeux de tables was played in the 11th century. It was one of the favorite games of gamblers. By mid 1200s, the game was prohibited from being played by a decree issued by Louis IX.


The game reached Germany in the 12th century. A century later, Iceland was introduced to the game. Towards the end of the 16th century, the game had caught on in Sweden. Artifacts from this century such as paintings done by the German and Dutch included these games. One such painting is by Carvaggio, titled Cardsharps. The people in England were prohibited from playing table or board games due to regulations from the church. In 1650, it was included in the Oxford English Dictionary for the first time.


18th Century – English Priests Popularize the game

It took almost two centuries for the board game to become widely-played in England. It was a favorite pastime of the clergy of English churches. By the  mid 18th century, a book on the strategies and rules of the game was published. The name was coined from ‘back’ and ‘gamen’ which means play or game.


Early 20th Century – Doubling Cube Introduced in US

By the early 20th century, the game underwent several transformations. Gaming clubs in New York City introduced the doubling cube. The new feature allowed players to calculate their odds of winning based on their position in the game.


Mid 20th Century – Rules Established

Prince Alexis Obolensky was responsible for the growing popularity of the game in the 1960s. He established the rules of the game. The prince created the first club of the game in New York and organized a system for holding international tournaments. The tournament was attended by members of the media, nobility and film stars.


Today, there are several sites that specifically offer Backgammon and its variants. The games can be played for free or real money.


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