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Backgammon: 25+ Interesting Facts (History, Origins, Trivia,…)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Did you know that Backgammon is one of the oldest board games of all time? Only games, such as Go and Chess, come close to Backgammon’s rich and illustrious history. Many historians consider the earliest origins of the game to date back some 5,000+ years. To put that into perspective, that is nearly 2,000 years before the Trojan War.

The premise of the game is to move checkers on a Backgammon board (based on your dice rolls) in a manner where all 15 of your pieces are removed from the board. The first person to do this wins! The game relies on a combination of skill, strategy, and luck to topple your opponent, making it an intense and entertaining two-player game. 

If you are an avid player, history buff, or a trivia legend, you will love the amazing facts and events we have listed here for you. We chose the 27 most interesting ones for your reading pleasure!

1. Backgammon’s Invention

The answer to the question “Who invented Backgammon?” is still shrouded in mystery. Historians are still debating the origins of where the game was first played, let alone uncovering the name of the person who invented it. 

2. Backgammon’s Origin

A recent discovery, made in 2004, unearthed the earliest Backgammon board ever made. Carved out of ebony and turquoise stone, the board is estimated to date back some 5,000+ years. This historical treasure was discovered in the ancient Mesopotamia city of Sumer (found in modern-day Iran). 

As such, many historians now agree that the credit for the invention of the Backgammon should go to the ancient civilization of Sumerians, who, among many other things, are also accredited for the invention of the wheel, Math, and even the first-ever written language. 

3. The Game Of Kings

As the popularity of Backgammon grew, variants of the game began to be played across many parts of the world. Early civilizations in India, China, Rome, Greece, and Egypt took a particular liking to the game, and its popularity grew immensely, earning it the title “The King Of Games”. 

The game was even more popular amongst the society’s elites at the time, with aristocrats, royalty, and upper-class citizens being quite fond of the game. Thus, in some parts, it was also known as “The Game Of Kings.” 

4. The Roman Variant

The Romans were the first civilization that made the game truly famous. The Romans created their own variant of the ancient game, which was remarkably similar, or nearly so, to modern Backgammon. The game was called Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum (“Twelve-lined Game”) or “Duodecim Scripta et Tabulae,” (Tables).

5. Backgammon In Literature

The first mention of the word “Backgammon” first appeared in print literature all the way back in 1645. It is still disputed where the name Backgammon originated from; however, many scholars believe that it is extremely likely that the name originated from Middle English, specifically, from the words baec = back and gamen = game.

The game is also mentioned in famous literary works such as Shakespeare’s ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ and ‘Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales’. 

6. Representation In Art

As the game was so widely popular throughout the pages of history, it is not surprising then that it has made many appearances in art as well. The most famous paintings include “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch, “The Triumph of Death” by Pieter Brueghel, and the “Backgammon Fight” by Jan Steen. 

7. The Doubling Rule

The famous or infamous “doubling rule’ first originated in New York and Boston, around 1925, as a means to double the stakes on any given game. This triggered the invention of the ‘doubling cube’, which added a whole new dimension to the game, making it widely popular once again in the gambling arena.

8. The Evolution Of Backgammon

The current variation of the Backgammon game we all love to play stems from an early variation of the game, tables, that was widely popular in 17th century England. The rules of Tables are almost identical to how modern Backgammon is played on a board or online.

9. The First Set Of Rules

The earliest set of rules in written form was authored by Edmond Hoyle, a famous writer of games, in 1745. The published treatise mentioned an entire set of rules along with key strategies and tips that are still valid to this day.

10. The Royal Game Of Ur

The earliest origins of Backgammon can be traced back to a game played in Mesopotamia called The Royal Game of Ur, somewhere around 2,600 BC. As interest in this game died, it gave way to the earliest versions of Backgammon. 

11. World-Wide Popularity

Even though the earliest versions of the game originated in the Middle East regions of modern-day Iran and Iraq, the game Backgammon is not limited to these regions alone. In fact, the game is widely popular in countries such as Italy, Syria, Greece, Israel, India, Palestine, Turkey, Cyprus, Japan, China, America, England, Lebanon, and even Canada. 

12. Historical Figures That Played The Game

Mentions of Backgammon’s earliest variations being played by famous historical figures are found throughout the pages of history. For one, the famous philosopher Plato was a big fan of the game. Caesar Antonio, supposedly, played tables with Cleopatra. So did Mark Anthony. 

Records suggest that Domitian was considered a pro player at the time while Caligula was considered a cheat. Emperor Claudius was also a keen player, and so was Emperor Nero. The list goes on.

13. Relation To Astronomy

The earliest variations of Backgammon were inspired by astronomy and our solar system. The game’s architecture and dice design are both loosely based on this phenomenon.

14. The Invention Of Dice

The earliest form of dice was made from bones. However, our early ancestors soon realized that it was easy to build dice as a cube. They found that the cubic shape was best for rolling and was easy to make. Many games were born as a result of dice. Backgammon is also one such game.

15. The Most Popular Game In Rome

At its peak, Backgammon was played by pretty much every Roman citizen. It is said to have even rivaled the Circus Maximus in terms of popularity. When excavating Pompeii, archeologists found Backgammon tables carved out in the courtyards of almost every villa they unearthed!

16. Early Christian Inscription

Even after Christianity was established in Rome, the game continued to thrive. A Christian artifact, found in Rome, was a Backgammon board that had a Greek cross carved into it with the inscription “Our Lord Jesus Christ grants aid and victory to dicers if they write His Name when they roll the dice, Amen.”

17. Numbers Used In Backgammon

The numbers used in Backgammon originate from the Persian language, where 1 is Yak, 2 is Du, 3 is Sai, 4 is Jahar, 5 is Penge (or besh), and 6 is Shaish

18. Antique Backgammon Tables

As the game was widely played by elites, it was done so on lavishly designed tables referred to as “King’s tables.” The most famous, rare, and expensive Backgammon tables are Iranian, Turkish, Shami, Afghani, and Egyptian. 

Some of these priceless antique boards are made from luxurious materials such as elephant ivory (for the white pieces) and the horn of black rhinos (for the black pieces).

19. Hugh Hefner’s Parties

In the late 1960s, the legendary Hugh Hefner hosted elaborate Backgammon parties at the Playboy Mansion!

20. United States Backgammon Federation

To promote the game to a wider audience, the United States Backgammon Federation was formed in 2009. The federation consisted of top Backgammon players and tournament directors of the time.

21. The $1,000,000 Backgammon Tournament

In 2007, Andreas Martens won what was then the biggest Backgammon tournament of its kind, sponsored by PartyGammon.com. The tournament consisted of 128 players and was hosted in the Bahamas with television coverage. The prize money was $1 million!

22. The Chouette Variation

This version of the game allowed for multiple players to play and also allowed for the stakes to be doubled, making for a very interesting and often spectacular game. Chouette was first introduced in the game around the same time as the doubling rule in the mid-1920s. 

23. Digital Backgammon

Today, Backgammon can be played for free online or by installing applications on your digital devices. 

24. The Father Of Modern Backgammon

Backgammon saw a huge surge of popularity in the 1960s after the Russian Prince Alexis Obolensky set a series of tournaments in Manhattan that attracted many celebrities, royals, and aristocrats. As such, Prince Alexis was given the title “The Father of Modern Backgammon”. 

25. TD-Gammon Software

A computer scientist by the name of Gerald Tesauro invented the TD-Gammon software in 1992 that is capable of beating even the best human Backgammon players.

26. The Egyptian Pharaohs

Archeologists discovered backgammon boards from King Tutankhamen’s tomb dating back to 1500 B.C. One of these boards even has Queen Hatcheput’s name etched into it.

27. Hollywood Fame

Backgammon made its silver-screen debut in the classic James Bond movie “Octopussy”, starring Roger Moore as James Bond.

All in All

Backgammon is a game that has stood the test of time. As most games go, it has evolved to be more attuned to our ever-changing world. If you haven’t tried Backgammon yet and are looking for a fun two-player board game to challenge your friends with, don’t think twice; give Backgammon a try. After all, it is a game fit for kings!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.