Backgammon Setup and Rules: Guide For Beginners

In backgammon, setup is the initial position of the pieces belonging to you and your opponent. The pieces will be distributed on the two sections of home-board (inner-board) and two sections of outer-board.

So, what are the rules to play backgammon?

Backgammon rules are the means of protecting a player from faults committed by the other. They can also prevent a player from committing mistakes and wrong moves. In short, they organize the game and keep it fair.

In this article, we introduce you to the basics of backgammon setup and rules that you need to learn in order to be able to play backgammon without any issues.

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How To Set up Backgammon Board Game?

Backgammon uses two sets of 15 pieces for the two players with different colors. They could be black-white, red-black, and red-white, etc.

In this article, we consider black (your color) and white (that of your opponent) as an example.

Your inner-board is from 1-8 and your opponent’s inner-board is from 24-18. Points 7-12 are your outer-board and points 18-13 are on your opponent’s outer-board.

Backgammon standard Setup:

Black: Two pieces on point-24, five pieces on point-13, three pieces on point-8 and five pieces on point-6.

White: Two pieces on point-1, five pieces on point-12, three pieces on point-17 and five pieces on point-19.

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What Are Backgammon Rules?

You and your opponent will have one pair of dice for each. You will also have a dice-cup each in which you shake the dice before rolling onto the right side of your board end.

If the dice rolls onto the wrong end or moves onto the board, you have to shake and roll the dice again.

– Initial Roll In Backgammon

You (or your opponent) may start the game by rolling a single dice. Then the other player rolls his dice. The player with higher dice value will make the first move using the combination of dice values.

For example, you may roll first and get a 3. Your opponent then rolls his dice and gets a 2. Now, you can make the first move with the 3-2 combination.

Movement Direction: The movement direction of the pieces (yours and your opponent) will be in opposite directions. For example, your opponent may start moving from point one to 24 in the forward direction. Then you move from point 24 to 1 reverse direction.

Note: Opening movement should carry your pieces to open points on the board. For example, you may get 3:2 on the two dices. Then you can move the first piece by three and the other pieces by two.

But you may not be able to move one piece by the 3+2 =5 value, because that point is occupied by the opponent’s pieces.

If you get a combination of 5:5, you may not be able to move the dices. Then your opponent gets to roll the dice. If you get a combination of 5:3, you may move one of the pieces by three and let go of the five on the other dice.

– Movement Rules In Backgammon


The game continues after the initial move. You can move your pieces onto any point on the board as long as it is open (or contains your own pieces less than five in number) or contains only one opponent’s piece.

If the point contains two or more of opponent’s pieces on a point, you can’t move your pieces onto that point.

If you get a combination of 3:2 on a roll and it is possible to make only one move, you have to choose the one and let go of the other whichever is not applicable.

Note: You can’t PASS your move if one of the dice values turns out to be a valid move. If both the dice values are not applicable, the chance to make the next roll automatically passes onto your opponent.


if you get a double (6:6) on a dice roll, it is possible to roll again. Then you have to move the first piece according to the sum of the first dice values and the second piece according to the sum of second dice values.

If that is not possible, you have to move the pieces according to the combination of the first or second set of dice rolls.

If you get two doubles, you have to move the two dice sums of 6+6:6+6.

If that is not possible, the match referee will decide on the next action, depending on the game situation and position of the two players. The standard rule is you have to roll once again.

– Rolling Rule

You must use a rolling-cup authorized by the referee for shaking the two dices. The two dices must hit the table on to your right of board simultaneously.

If there is a time gap, it is an illegal roll. Then you have to roll the dice again. If you make two subsequent illegal rolls, the referee will decide about passing the next roll to your opponent.

– Completion Rule

A game is slated to be complete when you have shifted all your 15 pieces out of the board using the bear-off method.

– Bear-Off Rule

All your 15 pieces should be within your home board for the initiation of Bear-off.

– Hitting Rule

You may hit the opponent’s piece if there is only one on a point, and your dice allows you to move your piece onto the same point.

If the point has two or more of your opponent’s pieces, you can’t move your piece onto that point.

– Appeal Rule

You may claim the opponent’s dice throwing or piece movement to be illegal to the match referee.  But you have to do it before the opponent makes the next move.

The decision of the referee will be final and binding. In some cases, the referee may take the help of audiences, if he finds it necessary. But it is not mandatory.

– Piece Placement Rule

The maximum number of pieces on a single point is five. You may not exceed the limit at any situation of the game.

Conclusion: What Next?

You have to understand the initial setup and the basic rules of backgammon completely during the training period.

They can be helpful in avoiding illegal moves and penalties. Understanding of rules will also allow you the freedom to focus on your game and techniques fully. Then you can master the game within a short time.

Now, it’s time to put the rules you learned today into practice. That’s the only way to find out if you really understand these rules or not.

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