Friday, October 2, 2009

Is Backgammon Broken

I distinctly remember learning backgammon while on a family vacation. Every year we would vacation to the same place and I would watch the old men (old they seemed) play with these leather bound sets with leather bound dice cups. It was all very tactile and I can close my eyes and remember the smell the beach and the yummy hot dogs.

It has been 20+ years since I last played backgammon, but I am a gamer. The other day I decided to play backgammon on my iphone instead of chess. I was trying to remember the rules, learning from my mistakes as I went along - and then I got my backgammon mojo back.

I think backgammon is much easier than chess. At least easier for me. I think this is because there are limited backgammon strategies that work. If your opponent lacks skill, you dont even have to take his/her strategy into account. In chess, you really cannot avoid acting or reacting to your opponents moves. (Maybe this points to my chess weakness since really you should be acting not reacting)

The chance element, the dice roll, indicates a weakness with the game core mechanic. It means you cannot play the game on strategy alone - that to keep the game interesting you need to include chance. I wonder if you explicitly use probability to guide your moves if you could 'break the game'. Chance, although a weakness, is not a game killer. If the game is long enough I suppose the law of large numbers will remove any bias. The doubling of double rolls, however, really provides an unfair advantage beyond skill.

Is backgammon broken? Perhaps. But the weakness is from the limited strategies, but not because of the chance element.

Let the backgammon savants flame me - I am ready


  1. Hey, you asked for it :-)

  2. Thanks for the response! - nice article - I am can definately relate to the life-like chance element of backgammon