The 10 Best Backgammon Sets
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. As one of the oldest board games ever made, backgammon is a classic that never goes out of style and is a great activity to play on rainy days, cold winter nights, or during long car rides or plane trips. The sets on our list include wooden, plastic, and leather models in a variety of sizes and colors to suit anyone's taste. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best backgammon set on Amazon.
A Brief History Of Backgammon
While backgammon isn't quite as popular now as it once was, it's still played by millions of people worldwide.
If you've ever seen a bunch of old men playing in the park, then you may already realize that backgammon is an ancient game, but you likely don't realize just how old it actually is.
In fact, it's one of the oldest games in the world, right up there with Go and chess. There's evidence for it dating back over 5,000 years to Mesopotamia, at a time when players used dice made of human bones, which undoubtedly raised the stakes for every session.
It remained popular through the years, and the Romans even developed their own version, which they gave the catchy title "Duodecum Scripta et Tabulae," or "tables" if you want to shorten it even further. There are many frescoes from that time depicting people playing the game, and even a few emperors — such as Claudius and, of course, Nero — who got in on the fun.
The game popped up in literature as well, including references in classics like The Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost. Painters such as Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel also included it in their work — often as a pastime that precipitated a vicious bar fight.
However, backgammon would soon find that it had a powerful enemy on its hands: the church. Moral authorities didn't approve of the fact that players often wagered large sums of money on matches, or that it was often played in taverns and houses of ill-repute. There were frequent attempts to ban it all together, but they proved about as effective as modern efforts to stamp out illegal wagering.
Ironically enough, however, gambling would play a huge role in the decline of the game's popularity. In the early 1920s, players were upset that the length of each game didn't allow them to wager enough, and so many people abandoned it in favor of other pursuits, like poker or sports betting.
As a result, a new innovation was needed: doubling. The ability to double — and keep doubling — the stakes allowed the game to catch on again, and soon multi-player versions were introduced, allowing for even more money to quickly change hands.
While backgammon isn't quite as popular now as it once was, it's still played by millions of people worldwide. In fact, next time you see a couple of old men playing it in the park, show a little respect — they may be betting much larger amounts than you realize.
Picking The Right Backgammon Set
Most people get their first backgammon set quite by accident, merely because it was included with the chess or checker set that they really wanted. However, once you get hooked on the game, chances are you'll want to step up and buy a high-class, dedicated set.
However, once you get hooked on the game, chances are you'll want to step up and buy a high-class, dedicated set.
If you play all the time, you can justify getting a larger set made of quality wood or even rare minerals, if you're super-dedicated. The higher-end models usually come with classy leather carrying cases, so you can properly intimidate your opponents when you roll up on them with the most sophisticated set they've ever seen.
However, if it's more of an occasional pastime, there are smaller sets that are perfect for taking with you to the park or to a friend's house. They're less substantial, in terms of both price and durability, but they should be more than enough to get the job done. Some even use magnets to hold the pieces in place, so you can play on long road trips — unless you're driving, of course.
Ultimately, though, as long as you have all the necessary pieces, you can still get a good game regardless of which set you buy. It comes down to how much money you want to spend on it, and whether you care if other people judge you for owning a ratty set.
If they do, though, tell them you can buy a new one with all the money you just won off of them.
Tips To Step Up Your Game
If you're going to take up backgammon, the first thing you should know is that it's a game of skill, so don't complain about getting unlucky if you lose. The good news is, you'll be less likely to get unlucky if you put some of these tips into play.
It's smart to try to get all of your pieces off immediately at this time, so forget about defense and just go on the attack.
Becoming an expert player takes practice, but you can't be great by playing alone. You also need to study, and that means reading books and articles, as well as thinking about the game. Watch better players in action, as well, and consider why they make the moves they do. It's a lot of work, but it will pay off when you go up against others who aren't putting in the same amount of effort.
There's a lot of math in play for every game, and if you understand some of the higher-end concepts (like match equity) you'll have a huge leg up on the competition. You also need to keep track of pip counts, which is the number of moves it will take you and your opponent to get all of the pieces off the board.
Once the pip count is in your favor, that's when you need to strike and make a run for it. It's smart to try to get all of your pieces off immediately at this time, so forget about defense and just go on the attack. Similarly, when the count is against you, it's time to build your home board and make blots.
Perhaps the most important thing, though, is your attitude. Play confidently and ruthlessly, and always be studying the board — and your opponent. Keep the pressure on (and a little trash talk never hurts), and you may be able to get a better player to crack.
If not, well...you can always take up some other, easier board game.
Statistics and Editorial Log