Setting up the board is easy.
The backgammon board has 12 triangles which are called points and four areas which are called quadrants. Every point is numbered from one through twenty-four.
The bar is in the middle of the board. It's where the bumped checkers go until a player rolls an open number. Each player moves their checkers in a horseshoe around the board from point one to home. Each player has two dice, a dice cup and fifteen checkers of their own color.
The checkers are placed as pictured on the left: Two on each player's twenty-four point, five on each player's six and thirteen points, and three on each player's eight point.
Upping Your Backgammon Game with the Doubling Cube
Whether you’re new to backgammon or have been playing for years, you may not have incorporated the doubling cube into your strategy. But you should. Let’s explore what the doubling cube is, how to use it and some ways to incorporate it into your winning backgammon strategy. Enjoy some fun backgammon factoids at the end!
PLAYER 2 HOME
Start the game with each player rolling one die. If both players roll the same number, then roll again. The high roller is the first to make a move by combining each player’s die. For example, if one player rolled a 6 and the other rolled a 2, then the player who rolled the 6 would go first using the 6 and 2 as their roll. Make sure to roll the dice on one side of the entire game so if one player is rolling in the home-board side they will continue to roll on that side throughout the entire game while the other player rolls in the outer-board side throughout the entire game.
You may split the moves between two checkers based on the number on each individual die. For example, if you roll a one and a five, you can move one checker one space and another checker five spaces. You can also move the same checker twice as long as neither move lands on a blocked point.
A point is blocked if your opponent has two or more checkers on that point. You are allowed to land on a point where the opponent only has one checker. By doing this, you bump their top checker to the bar, and they have to roll in order to bring their checker back into the game. You must roll a number of an open point to come back in the game.
A special move in the basic backgammon rules is called, "doubles". If a player rolls doubles, (e.g. two and two) you are able to move one checker two spaces time four, or move four checkers two spaces, making it double your move. Once all of a player’s checkers are in their home quadrant, they can begin bearing them off. The winder is the first player to "bear off" all their checkers off the board.
Doubling Cube Basics
The doubling cube is a die included in backgammon sets used to raise the stakes of the game. Instead of pips, it has the Arabic numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64 written on it and is usually larger than the other dice.
When the game starts, the game is placed on the bar with 64 facing up. At this point, the die is considered to read “1”, essentially meaning the game has the same stakes as if the cube were not in play. For the purpose of this article we will assume that the players are wagering lunch.
No one owns the cube at the start of the game. This changes if a player offers a double, at which point the other player may drop or take the double. Dropping a double ends the game and, in this case, one lunch is owed to the winner. Taking the double flips the doubling cube to show “2” face up, and now two lunches are at stake. If the double is taken, the player who offered the double now owns the cube.
If the first offered double is taken, the person who took it owns the cube. They can now offer a double at another point. Only the player to most recently take a double (the owner of the cube) may offer a double.
How to Use The Doubling Cube in Backgammon
Confused? How about a few helpful scenarios?
- Player A and Player B sit down for a friendly game of backgammon. They place the doubling cube on the bar with “64” facing up. A few turns into the game Player B is doing well. They offer Player A a double. Player A takes the double and the doubling cube. The game continues and Player B wins. Player A buys Player B lunch twice.
- Player A and Player B sit down for a friendly game of backgammon. They place the doubling cube on the bar with “64” facing up. A few turns into the game Player B is doing well. They offer Player A a double. Player A doesn’t want to buy lunch for Player B twice so they drop the double. Player A buys Player B lunch.
- Player A and Player B sit down to a civil game of backgammon. They place the doubling cube on the bar with the “64” facing up. A few turns into the game, Player B is doing well. They offer Player A a double. Player A takes the double and the doubling cube. Player A comes from behind and offers Player B a double. Player B accepts and takes the cube, turning it to show “4” facing up. Player A wins. Player B takes player A to lunch four times.
There is no fourth scenario. Player A and Player B no longer play backgammon.
Doubling Cube Strategy and Variations
There are some important things to keep in mind when using the doubling cube.
First, if you are less experienced than your opponent, be conservative. If you get far ahead, offer that double but don’t get too excited: you’ll want to keep your head in the game.
Second, keep track of total points. Many people play several games of backgammon with a certain number of points set as the end. It can be better, in these cases, to drop a double rather than lose too many 2-point games.
More experienced players may want to try some variations on traditional doubling cube use.
Beavering is allowing a player to immediately double down. Rather than lose control of the cube when the opponent takes the double, the player retains control. Dropping a beaver forfeits at the doubled amount. Be sure to determine whether or not you’re playing with beavers before commencing play!
Many players start the game with the cube on the bar but showing “2”. This happens if the players roll the same thing in the opening roll of the game. After this point, normal doubling rules apply. This is called automatic doubling. Some players choose to include this rule throughout the game but often set a limit as to how high the cube can go off of automatic doubling.
Backgammon is one of the world’s oldest board games, likely going back over 5,000 years to modern-day Iraq. Evidence of this has been found including dice made of human bone. The doubling cube, however, came into play in the 1930s and, as far as we know, has never been made of human bone.
Do you have a doubling cube strategy? What is it?