Backgammon Chips

The History of Backgammon

Backgammon from ancient to modern times.

Backgammon’s history can be traced all over the globe. It is believed to be the oldest board game in history and was played on wood surfaces normally with dice made from anything from bones to rocks or even pottery. Persians, Romans, Egyptians and Sumerians were believed to play a form of backgammon. Normally only the rich and high ranked members of any society played board games at all. Game boards about three inches by ten or twelve inches were found in Egypt and was called the ‘Game of Thirty Squares’ or ‘Senat’ for short. Such things date back to 3000 to roughly 1800BC. It is unknown if dice were used in these games as only the boards were found. For the same reason, the rules have been long lost to the ages.

The Roman game of Ludu Duodecim Scriporum using leather boards and thirty markers, fifteen each of ebony and ivory, dates back to 600AD. This game has been thought to link its origins back to the Egyptian Senat. In the first century, the game shifted to more closely resemble today’s game. The lines were changed to two inches by twelve inches instead of three by twelve inches. When the Romans conquered Britain, the game came with them. It was now called simply Tabula, which was the same name for the generic board it was played on. The game became very popular with Emperor Claudius. In 50AD Claudius wrote a history of the game, which has not been found as of yet. It is believed destroyed. His royal carriage had a board for playing Tabula inside so he could pass the time on long trips. The game is mainly responsible for a ring of gambling that hit Rome before it was declared illegal.

‘Tables’ was played throughout the Middle Ages and was descendant from the Asian form of the game ‘Nard.’ Because of the gambling element, it was popular in taverns. Under Elizabeth I the game was banned for a period of time because of the gambling attached to it. The name ‘backgammon’ is said to have come from the fact that the board was on the back of the chess board, but this does not seem likely. By now the game was played with two dice, the idea of adding the rule for doubles has been recently introduced.

The doubling cube was not added until the 1920’s in New York. It was said to have been thought up by a gambler with a special skill for the game. With the addition of the cube, backgammon became more popular as there was more skill involved in it now. Backgammon was played mostly by the upper class just as it was in its Egyptian days. It was played oftentimes in private clubs that would cater to this class. In 1931 the rules were changed to closely match what is played today and became more widespread. Now it is a game that anyone can play regardless of class.

Backgammon Doubling Cube

Ready to learn more about Backgammon? Try How to Play Backgammon, read up on the finer points of Backgammon Etiquette, or find a Backgammon Board to play on.