The 10 Best Backgammon Sets
This wiki has been updated 29 times since it was first published in September of 2015. As one of the oldest board games ever made, backgammon is a classic that never goes out of fashion 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, ranked here by portability, material quality, and style. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 26, 2021:
In this update, we removed the Silverman & Co. Premium and Rolling 66 Deluxe due to availability concerns. We also removed the GrowUpSmart Premium because, despite its name, it had a tendency to fall apart over time, so we decided to opt for models with more reliable construction instead.
New to the list, the Chess And Games Mosaic is a hand-crafted wooden option that's meant to be a decoration and conversation piece as much as a playable game, though it's certainly satisfying to use it for its main purpose, thanks to its raised edges and large playing surface that make it easy to roll the dice.
The Galison Frank Lloyd Wright has a design based on the work of the eponymous architect, and its foil-stamped box and board have an eye-catching shine that is complemented by orange and white darts and pieces. The inside of the box contains a short biography of Frank Lloyd Wright, and a quote of his runs down the spine of the board.
Although there were already a few travel-size options on the list, we added the Uwantme 3-in-1 because of its versatility. If you want to mix things up, you can flip the board over and play checkers or chess on the other side. All of the components can be stored inside the folding board when not in use, though you have to make sure that all of the chess pieces are lying perfectly flat if you want it to close securely.
February 02, 2020:
Given the age of the game, there's not a whole lot of innovation driving this category forward, though there are some companies putting out modern versions of the game that might be a little surprising. The Rolling 66 Deluxe, with its clear acrylic case and unusual colors, is a great example of this. Other models, like the Da Vinci Leatherette, move in this opposite direction, as that offering features an old world map harkening back to the early days of the game.
We sent the Trademark Games Deluxe packing for availability concerns, but also because many multi-games like these tend to suffer in quality the more boards you add to their design. In its place is the Silverman & Co. Premium, which offers a decidedly sleek exterior that doesn't scream fake leather like many other PU finishes.
Working on our list for travel games, we learned that there was a large market for certain board games in the luxury goods sector, many of which are made by hand from the finest possible materials. Most of these are absurdly expensive, but if you take your backgammon seriously enough, it might not be a bad investment.
Aspinal Of London Travel When rolled up, this portable option looks like a strange leather scroll. When you unfurl it, it reveals a finely crafted playing surface with well-selected colors that complement each other while contributing to the whole board's aesthetic. Despite its high price compared to the normal portion of this category, it's actually one of the less expensive luxury choices out there. aspinaloflondon.com
Elie Bleu Royal Ebony It might require a magnifying glass to truly appreciate the detailed French craftsmanship that has gone into this particular model, but close inspection reveals just how much time it must have taken to fit is elegant gold hinges, to carve its dice and checkers, and to design and execute the build of its specific and satisfying latch mechanism. artedona.com
Geoffrey Parker Multi Avid competitors with significant disposable incomes are the only people who might be seriously interested in this model. It offers a surface for both chess and cards, as well, and its square shape makes it perfect for a game of bridge. It's custom-made in England, and has storage space for decks, pieces, scorecards, and more. geoffreyparker.com
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.
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.
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.
You also need to study, and that means reading books and articles, as well as thinking about the game.
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.