Our early ancestors invented games around the same time that early tools were invented. It seems that entertainment has been innate in our DNA since the beginning. Board games similar to Backgammon, Chess, and Go date back several millennia and are considered among the most ancient games.
Throughout its history, Backgammon-like games have seen a rise and fall in popularity in many parts of the world. Originating out of the ancient lands of Mesopotamia, the game spread across the far corners of the world.
As times changed, so did the variations and rules of the game. However, it is still startling that even after thousands of years, the game is still popular and played by many around the world.
As to the question “Why is Backgammon so Popular?.” Well, to answer that, we have compiled a list of not one but fifteen reasons to help explain why this game is so popular, and how it has stood the test of time in an ever-changing world.
1. Entertainment Value
There is no denying that Backgammon is extremely entertaining and fun to play. Being a two-player game, all you need is another player to have a match. As the game relies on strategy and luck, the entertainment is splendid as often you don’t know who is going to win until that last checker piece is off the board!
2. Rich History
As we mentioned, Backgammon-like games were played by the Sumerians, Romans, Mesopotamians, Greeks, Egyptians, Europeans, and Arabs alike.
The game has a rich and illustrious history and was favored by Kings, Queens, philosophers, and common folk alike. Its popularity is depicted in art and literature from centuries past, with many notable mentions by famous authors and artists.
3. Easily Accessible
Backgammon has always been easily accessible to buy and play. The traditional boards are inexpensive and can be found in most toy stores and even book stores. All you need is a board, 30 checker pieces, and two dice, and you have a game on your hands!
To make things even more convenient, today, you can play Backgammon on most digital devices with players all over the world.
In many parts of the world, Backgammon is played to relax and destress. In most Arab countries, you will find people enjoying the game over a cup of coffee while smoking hookah and chatting.
The game doesn’t always have to be about intense competition. Many play it as a form of therapy to relax and take their mind off things while connecting with close friends and family members.
5. Based On Luck & Skill
Another reason Backgammon is still popular in many parts of the world is that in order to win, you need to have both skill and luck by your side. Many players will claim that this is one of the “cruelest games in the world”, as sometimes, even though you have the superior strategy, sheer luck can still allow an opponent to win.
This adds a different dimension to the game as compared to other strategic board games like chess which rely heavily on skill and strategy and very little on luck.
6. Easy To Pick Up
The game only has a few basic rules that can be explained in about five minutes. Just check out this video. As such, it is fairly easy to pick and play for any newcomers.
The game also offers a decent beginner strategy that is easy to master and can help players win right off the bat. The strategy is referred to as the “The Running Game”, which involves a player trying to gun it past the opponent’s defenses. If luck is on your side, there is a good chance this ‘blitzkrieg’ strategy might actually work!
7. Difficult To Master
Like all instant classics, Backgammon might be an easy game to pick up but mastering it is a different story altogether. The game has a lot of depth, and the more and more you play, the more you understand each mechanic and learn to adapt by using different strategies at different stages of the game in order to get the upper hand.
In the short term, luck may get you wins, but when you play better players, you will soon find out that superior strategy will always ultimately triumph!
8. Online Backgammon
Online Backgammon has become increasingly popular all over the globe, with many websites and online casinos offering Backgammon as a free-to-play game. This perhaps is one of the greatest reasons for its recent spike in popularity, as playing online allows you to play with players all over the world.
You get to play better players, and even though it doesn’t have that same traditional ‘board feel’, the gameplay is still very realistic on most gaming platforms.
9. Tournaments & Championships
Did you know that just like Chess, Backgammon tournaments are held all over the world? There are, in fact, federations that have been established in different countries to facilitate professional Backgammon players. Many of the big tournaments, such as the World Series of Backgammon, even have live television coverage viewed by many worldwide.
10. An Excellent Brain Game
There are plenty of reasons why Backgammon is an excellent game for your brain.
Let’s start with the fact that it requires quick thinking and the adaptability to adjust to changing situations depending on your opponent’s strategy and dice rolls you produce. This constant re-calculation of the optimal way to get the win is an excellent exercise for the brain as it keeps it alert, attentive, and focused.
11. A Tool To Teach Kids
Many parents play Backgammon with their kids as a way to teach them Math in a fun and non-boring way. I remember when I was a kid, the terms probability and percentages made me want to puke. However, with Backgammon, these fundamental Math concepts can be easily understood while still having a great time!
12. The Thrill Of Winning
Any game that is a competition is addictive, entertaining, and fun. After all, we all have that inner monster that wants to “crush”, “destroy”, and “obliterate” opponents that we face. Winning a game of Backgammon can be extremely fun, especially when it is a close-fought contest. The bragging rights and wagers placed (if any) are but the icing on top!
There are plenty of Backgammon variations all over the world. In many European countries, the game is referred to as “Tables”. In Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, Backgammon goes by the name “Tawla”. Greece has three variations of the game, all of which are quite popular and played in different regions of the country.
Even online, you can find many different variations of Backgammon that may have slightly different rules to western Backgammon.
14. Teaches Life Lessons
Many board games actually teach both kids and adults a lot of life lessons that are only realized much later. Monopoly, for example, teaches the concept of the economy and how finances work. Scrabble helps you improve your vocabulary.
Backgammon is no different and teaches us important life lessons such as dealing with winning or losing, the importance of keeping focus, and even the ability to read an opponent’s body language, which can be extremely useful in real-life social interactions.
15. Historical Significance
In 2004, archeologists excavated a Backgammon-like game made of ivory and turquoise that is recorded to be over 5,000 years old. The historical significance of Backgammon is unrivaled, and as such, to maintain the legacy of this game, it will continue to be played by board game lovers everywhere.
All in All
There are many reasons why players fall in love with Backgammon. This two-player game, with its rich history, fun gameplay, and exciting variations, has remained popular for thousands of years and is likely to continue to remain popular for many years to come.
If you haven’t tried Backgammon, or are seeking a strategic two-player game that challenges your mind and wits, don’t hesitate; buy a Backgammon board game today or simply play online with players from all over the world. The game has plenty to offer for both new and returning players.