Backgammon

Also called Shesh Besh, for the five and six needed to roll to get fully across half of the board. It’s a great game. Portable (boards come in different sizes) and easy to learn. It’s more entertaining than checkers, while it’s less of a games7head-scratcher than chess. It’s a Middle Eastern tradition, and you can often find cafes or other hangouts where older gentlemen congregate to play the game. But alas, it’s not only for the older folks. I’ve been playing the game since I was young, and it helped me learn strategy, math, and critical thinking. It also provided plenty of bonding opportunities for me with my parents as they taught me the game and slowly, slowly stopped letting me win and played for real. And it was obviously a big plus when I managed to beat my boyfriend in the game (three times!) after he kept trash talking how good he was at it.

So what’s the deal with backgammon? Well, it has a weird name and I’m not exactly sure where that came from. But other than that, everything about the game is great. It starts with a very specific set up, and depending on how you’re looking at the board this can be in one of two possible position options. There are different ways to begin the game, but I’m used to each party rolling one die and then the person with the higher role beginning. Their first spin includes their one roll as well as their opponents. And then, let the games begin! There are different combination which give you a good bang for your buck.

For instance, any roll that involves numbers spaced two apart typically calls for moving two pieces into your home base. And a five and six is a good way for you to get your pieces in your opponent’s home safely to other pieces of yours on the board. Be careful about leaving any of your pieces exposed and alone, though, as this leaves you open to getting knocked off of the board. And when this happens, your turn is halted until you spin a number that is open in your opponent’s home and you’re able to safely return your piece to the board.games8

The general goal of the game is to first get all of your pieces into your home and then get them all off of the board. However, if one of your pieces winds up getting knocked off and then lands back on the other side of the board, you must wait for it to return to your home before you can take off any more pieces. And beware of not getting your pieces back into your home in a timely fashion. If your opponent wins the game without you getting your pieces into your home or taking any pieces off of the board, it’s as if they’ve won two games.

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