The Backgammon board has evolved over many centuries so that today there is a fairly standard layout. Many boards are simply flat surfaces like a chess board. They are sometime inlaid into tabletops. However, in the 16th century, when the Catholic Church ordered all Backgammon equipment burned, game boards disguised as folding books became popular in Great Britain. That later led to the development of hinged boards resembling small briefcases, which are very common today.
The Backgammon game board is divided into four quadrants. On one side are the Player’s Home Board and Outer Board. Directly opposite on the other side are the Opponent’s Home Board and Outer Board. They are laid out so that the Home Boards face each other, as do the Outer boards.
Each quadrant contains six elongated triangles that appear in alternating colours. These are called “points,” and there exactly two dozen of them in total. The base of each point is positioned on the outer edge of the board while the tip or apex faces the center. Points on the board are referred to by numbers, 1 though 24.
The outermost point on the Player’s Home Board is the 1-point. The point adjacent to it is the 2-point, followed by the 3-point, and so on. Numbering continues around the entire board, as if tracing the shape of a horseshoe, to the 24-point, which is also the same as the Opponent’s 1-point outermost on his/her Home Board. The opponent’s points are also numbered around the game board in a horseshoe shape from 1 to 24.
Running down the middle of the game board between the two players is a narrow strip referred to as the “Bar.” On folding boards, this is where the hinges are located. The Bar serves as a holding area for pieces that are “bumped” from the points during play. Along the outer edges of the game board, adjacent to the two Home Boards and the two Outer Boards, there may also be grooved areas for pieces to be collected when they are removed from play.
The round game pieces used in play are referred to as “checkers,” owning to their resemblance to the pieces used in the game of that name. Other names used to describe the pieces range from “counters” or “stones” to “men.” They come in two colours, typically red and black or black and white, fifteen of them for each player for a total of thirty in all.
Other items of equipment associated with the Backgammon board include two pairs of six-sided dice, two “cups” for shaking and rolling the dice, and a “doubling cube” used for keeping a running count of wagering. The latter is numbered on its six faces from 2 to 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64.
Before beginning a new game, the pieces must be positioned properly on their “starting points.” In the standard version of the game, five pieces go on each player’s 6-point, three on the 8-point and five on the 13-point. The remaining two pieces go on the 24-point, and they are commonly referred to as “back runners.”
Some versions of Backgammon begin with no pieces on the game board. Instead, the pieces are rolled onto the six points of the Opponent’s Home Board one by one, according to the roll of the dice. They must then race around the points, following the horseshoe pattern to the Player’s Home Board for removal in a process called “bearing off.”