There are basically three ways in which a game of backgammon can be played, or sometimes a mixture of two or all three ways; the running game, the blocking game, or the back game. Which game you play is determined by the rolls of the dice, and how you want to play depending on your opponent's moves.
The Running Game
This involves getting your counters round the board and bearing them off, faster than your opponent. As long as you can avoid leaving blots and hopefully throw higher than your opponent, you will win the game.
The running game is easier to play, and easier to understand, but some points to remember are:
- try to avoid leaving blots
- bring your counters round gradually, try to avoid leaving counters "stranded" in your opponents home board
The Blocking Game
This involves trying to block your opponents in your inner board, giving you time to bring in your counters into your inner board and bear off, maybe even scoring a gammon or backgammon in the process!
This is achieved by building a "prime", which consists of making six points in sequence usually from your 8 point to your 3 point inclusive. This then makes it impossible for your opponent to get out of your home board until your prime is broken.
When building a prime, you should do so progressively, starting with either your 5 point or your bar point and gradually making the other points as you go, this may well involve leaving possible blots in your inner or outer board in the early stages of the game; you have been warned.
The Back Game
If a player has a succession of poor throws and clearly at a disadvantage early on in the game, it may be advisable to reverse his tactics and play a back game. In order to do this, the player keeps their counters back as much as possible and spreads them out in a series of blots. The idea of this is that the opponent will hit the blots, and so a number of the player's counters will re-enter into the opponent's inner table. There they can impede the progress of the opponents counters and are poised to hit any counters that occur in the opponents inner or outer table. This is a difficult game to play, but if played well can put the game back in the player's favour.
The Opening Roll Strategy
There is a distinct advantage in making certain points early in the game. These in order of priority are, the player's 5 point, bar point, and 4 point (a good start roll is 3-1 shown below).
Conversely, if it is an advantage for the player, it is also an advantage for the opponent. So to make the opponent's 5, bar, and 4 points is a disadvantage to the opponent also. The reason for this is that the 4 5 6 7 and 8 points control the movement of the opponents counters out of the player's inner table. These two opponent's counters can be effectively blocked in, while the player continues to bring his own counters nearer his inner table.
Blots should not be left, especially in the player's inner or outer table, since the number of blots lost if the blot is hit is considerable. Blots are also dangerous towards the end of the game when the number of vacant points in the opponent's inner table, usable for re-entry, may be small or even non existent (the latter is called a shut out).
It is strategically advantageous if a player can move his back two counters from his opponents 1 point to his opponent's 4 or 5 point. There they are poised to hit any blots left in his outer table, far enough out of the inner table not to become blocked in.
There are a number of opening throws which can be used to put the player in an advantageous position.
- 1-1 - Move two counters from your 6 to your 5 point, and move two counters from your 8 to your bar point (the disadvantage of the blot left at the 8 point is outweighed by the fact you now have your 5 6 and 7 points).
- 4-4 - Move two back counters to your opponents 5 point. Move two counters from your opponents 12 point to your 9 point.
- 6-6 - Move two back counters to your opponents bar point. Move two counters from your opponents 12 point to your bar point.
- 2-2 - Move two counters from your 6 to your 4 point. Move two counters from your opponents 12 to your 11 point.
- 3-3 - Move two counters from your opponents 12 to your bar point, or move two back counters to your opponents 4 point and move two counters from your 8 to your 5 point.
- 6-1 - Move one counter from your opponents 12 point and one counter from your 8 point to make your bar point.
- 3-1 - Move one counter from your 8 and one from your 6 to make your 5 point (as in pic above).
Hopefully this article has given you some pointers on how to improve your backgammon strategy.