The History of Backgammon

The History of Backgammon

The history of backgammon – backgammon is one of the oldest board games in the world. We can call it that since, like so many of the other games we know and love today, it is has the simple premise of pieces to move across a board and the roll of the die. There are many people that look at backgammon today and immediately assume that it will be far too complicated to learn. Game boards with chess boards built in tend to have a backgammon board too, but it is the skilled, keen player that tends to use it. This hasn’t always been the case as there is a strong history of backgammon. The game has been popular in many forms for centuries.

Which ancient civilisation started the trend?

The History of Backgammon - Backgammon Table GuideThere is much talk of the Roman love of the game, known then as tables, but this was more of a revival. It is hard to pinpoint an exact origin of backgammon when talking about the history of backgammon because it depends slightly on the definition used. The word backgammon comes from England from around the mid 17th century, so this is when the game first earned the name we know and use today. Baecgamen, “back-game”, morphed into backgammon. Yet, there are archaeological examples of boards, or at least similar ones, from many centuries prior. The issue comes when we see a similar game and a predecessor to backgammon, while the people of the time may have made clear distinctions. Many suggest that the true origin of the game lies in Persia, as boards were found that could relate to the game and predate the Royal Game of Ur. It appears that each civilisation has its own version, with there own rules and approaches to the board, but they all stem from Persia.

The history of backgammon and the love of the game continued across Europe, from Turkish plazas to the Victorian bars and halls in England. By the turn of the 20th century, however, the game had fallen out of favour a little in both gaming and gambling circuits. This wasn’t the modern pastime of the new century, not when there were cheaper, more accessible thrills to enjoy. Yet, the game lived on with families and keen players passing the rules and skills down through the generations. The arrival of the doubling cube in the 1920s meant those that played for money, rather than skill, had a new reason to come back to the game. Others turned to the Chouette derivative as a way of adding a new dynamic and social element to the gameplay.

Backgammon in today’s society

Saturday Afternoon Backgammon - Backgammon Table GuideIn many ways, backgammon maintains a reputation and popularity today that is similar to chess. It is till played, still perfected and still popular in its circles – just with fewer clubs and high-profile major tournaments. That said, professionals can still win thousands of euros in European competitions via the World Backgammon Association. Today, there are still many generations playing backgammon on traditional boards on a weekend, as well as computerised technology taking over a little. As developers continue to perfect robot minds to play against humans, modern players turn to mobile gaming and apps for a quick game. The gambling halls and social affairs of the bars and pubs have moved online, and there is still a thirst to play.

(Image Source: By Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia (Saturday Afternoon Backgammon) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)