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Backgammon - Atari - Atari 2600     HTML Manual   

(C) 1979 ATARI, Inc.


Use one set of Standard Paddle Controllers with this Game 
Program(tm).  Plug the controller cable firmly into the jack 
labeled LEFT CONTROLLER at the rear of your Video Computer 
System(tm).  Hold the controller with the red button to your 
upper left toward the television screen.  [see Section 3 of 
your owners manual for further details.]

Note: Turn the console off when inserting or removing a Game 
Program.  This will protect the electronic components and 
prolong the life of your Atari Video Computer System.


Backgammon, in some version, has been played in various parts 
of the world for over 5,000 years.  It is possibly the oldest 
war game still being played.  It is suggested in early writings 
that the game was originally designed to train soldiers for 
combat, as backgammon has all the intricacies of any war game:  
strategy, position, and timing.  It is both a game of skill and 
luck, which probably accounts for its longevity.

The most ancient possible ancestor to be found so far dates 
back to the ancient civilization of Sumer.  The Egyptian 
Pharaohs played a similar game.  Game boards were found during 
the excavations of Kin Tut's tomb that akin to backgammon.  The 
ancient Greeks and Romans played different forms of the game 
were mentioned in many of their writings.  A form of backgammon 
was played in the Middle East long the Crusades.  In fact, it 
is believed that the Crusaders brought the game back to Britain 
with them, where it flourished in the eighth and ninth 

The earliest written mention of the name "backgammon" was made 
in 1645, in a description of a game that is very much like 
backgammon as it is played today.  The rules of today's  game 
were set down by Edmond Hoyle in 1743.

The object of all the variations of the game, from its 
beginnings to now, is to move you game pieces around the board 
and bear them off before your opponent does.


When it is your turn to move your game pieces, a yellow  cursor 
will appear.  Turn the knob on the controller until the cursor 
is on the point from which you wish to move your piece.  Press 
the red controller button' this will "pick up " the piece and 
you can move it around the board by turning the controller 
knob.  To deposit the piece, press the red controller button 
again.  The computer will not allow you to place a piece on a 
point that does not correspond to the number shown on the dice.

If, after you dice have been rolled, you find that there are no 
moves open to you, press the red controller button.  The dice 
will again for your opponent.


Cycle through the BACKGAMMON Game Program variations by 
depressing the game select switch on your Video Computer System 
console.  (See the back page for descriptions of each 
variation.)  For "normal play," the and right difficulty 
switches must be in the "a" position.  To begin play, depress 
the game reset switch.

NOTE: Other functions of the difficulty switches are explained 
further on in the text.

[Picture of a backgammon board]

The Board

The backgammon "board" is divided into two halves or tables.  
The divider is called the bar.  The inner  table is the portion 
at the bottom of the playfield;  the outer table is the portion 
at the top of the playfield.

Each table is also divided into halves.  The red player's home 
or inner table is on the lower right side of the playfield; the 
white player's home or inner table is on the lower left side of 
the playfield.  The red player's outer table is on the upper 
right side of the playfield; the white player's out table is on 
the upper left side of the playing field.

Each player's inner and outer table has six "points".  The 
point is the area on which you rest your you pieces as you move 
around the board.  Each point is numbered for reference 
starting in each player's inner table.  The white side is 
number 1 to 12 starting at the bottom right side of the board.

The Moves

The moves are governed by "casting the dice."  When beginning, 
the players each cast one die (done automatically by the 
computer).  The player with the highest number begins first, 
using the number count on both dice.  On the playfield, the die 
on the left represents the white player, the die on the right 
represents the red player for the beginning roll.  The color of 
the dice corresponds to which player won the roll and will 
begin the game.  After the initial move, each player rolls and 
moves alternately.

When the right difficulty switch is in the "a" position, the 
computer will roll the dice for you.  When the switch is in the 
"b" position, you can use your own dice and the "dial in" the 
numbers to the computer.  Turn the controller knob and the 
number on the left die will change.  When you the number you 
want to enter, push the red controller button.  Then dial in 
the second number on the right die and push the red controller 
button.  The computer will accept the roll and your moves may 
be made accordingly.

In one-player games, the computer will play red.

The white player must move his or her pieces counterclockwise 
around the board, casting off or bearing off (removing the 
pieces from the board) from the with inner table.  The red 
player must move his or her pieces clockwise around the board, 
bearing off from the red player's inner table.

The pieces are moved across the points according to the numbers 
on the dice.  Each die must be considered individually, but 
they can be applied to one piece or two pieces.  (For example, 
a roll of 5-3 would allow a player to move one piece five 
points and another piece three points, of the player can move 
one piece five points and then three points.)

When there is only one piece occupying a point is called a 
"blot."  A point with no pieces or a blot is said to be "open."  
A point with two or more pieces is said to be made or "closed."  
Opposing player's pieces may never occupy the same point at the 
same time.

If a point is closed, an opposing piece cannot move to that 
point.  However, a player may move past a closed point if there 
is sufficient count on the dice.  (If a player has rolled a 5-3 
and the five-count point is closed, moving five points and then 
three points is not allowed.  However, moving three points and 
then five points is permissible.)

Players must use the count on both dice whenever possible.  If 
only one die can be used, it must be the die with the higher 

If you close six consecutive points anywhere on the board, you 
have established a "prime."  Your opponent cannot move past the 
prime until you break it by moving pieces and creating an open 
point.  The explanation contained in "The Bar" will show you 
why it is a good strategy to build a prime on your inner table.

The Bar

If a player lands on a blot belonging to the opponent, the 
opponent's blot is "hit," meaning the piece that occupied that 
point is removed to the "bar."  Whenever a piece has been hit 
and placed on the bar, it must reenter the board on the 
opponents inner table,  (The white player enters on the lower 
right inner table; the red player enters on the lower left 
inner table.)

A piece must enter the board only on an open point whose number 
has been cast on the one die.  If there is an opposing blot on 
an entry point, the piece entering hits it and it is removed to 
the bar.  The sum of the dice cannot be used to enter a piece.

Until all pieces on the bar have been entered, a player cannot 
move any other pieces on the board.  If a roll does not permit 
entry, the turn passes.  Pieces may not enter on closed points.  
If a roll does not permit entry, and there are not other pieces 
on the bar, the remainder of the roll may be used the move 
other pieces on the board.

A player is said to be shutout if all six entry points are 
occupied, which is why it is a good strategy to  build a prime 
on your inner table.  Then, if you hit one of your opponent's 
blots, the piece cannot be entered from the bar until the prime 
is broken.  This allows time to move pieces onto your inner 
table and begin bearing them off while opponents remains stuck 
on the bar.


Doublets occur when you roll double numbers (3-3, for example.)  
When this occurs a player must move the number shown on one die 
four times.  You may move one piece all four moves, or any 
other combination of pieces that your choose.  If you cannot 
use all combinations, the dice pass to your opponent.

Bearing off

As soon as a player has all fifteen pieces on the inner table, 
bearing off begins.  This is the object of the game. Once borne 
off the board, a piece never returns to play.   The first 
player to bear off all pieces is the winner.

A piece may be borne off when the number of points remaining is 
the same the number on the dice.  (For example:  a roll of 5-3 
will bear off a piece from the five-point and the  three-
point.)  If the roll is higher than any occupied points, pieces 
my be borne off from the highest occupied point.  (If a player 
has 2 pieces each on the three and two-points and of 5-3 is 
made, both pieces from the three-point may be borne off.)

[Diagram showing the above example]

A player may use all or part of the roll to move pieces within 
the inner table instead of bearing them off.  (With a roll of 
1-2, a player may move a piece from the five-point to the 
three-point, and a piece from the two point to the one-point.)  
Doublets may also be used in this manner.

[Diagram showing the above example]

If your opponent has pieces on your inner table or the bar and 
your have begun bearing off, it is to your advantage to leave 
as few blots as possible.  Remember that if you both counts on 
the dice, it does not matter in which order they are taken.

[Diagram to illustrate the following example]

In this diagram you have a blot on your five-point and you roll 
a 5-1.  If you bear off the from the five-point with the higher 
number, you will still be leaving blots on the three-point and 
the four-point since you must use both numbers of the roll 
(which means your second move will move a piece from the four-
point to the three-point.)  Instead, your best move is to take 
the pieced from the five-point for the 1-count (putting it on 
the four-point with you other two pieces,) and then bear off 
using the higher number.   This way you have not left any blots 
your inner table.  The point again is that your may play the 
dice in either order, according to you best moves.

Doubling Cube

Backgammon has enjoyed various degrees of success throughout 
its history.  The game was in a decline in the United States 
during the early 1900's until the introduction of the "doubling 
cube" in 1920.  Until this innovation, the outcome of a a game 
could be decided in the first few rolls of the dice.  Play 
would continue anyway, since with any dice game, there was 
always the chance of something unusual occurring.  But... most 
of the time, the games became boring.

Backgammon is one the few gambling games in which one can see 
what the opponent has at all times.   The doubling cube 
introduced the strategies of "bluffing" and psychological play 
that are similar to other gambling games.   The "gam of chance" 
factor is always present because of the use of dice.  A 
skillful player can lose to a less skillful player because of 
the luck of the dice, but with the doubling cube added, the 
more skillful player will not lose as much.

As a gambling game, backgammon is played for a base "stake" 
which is agreed upon before beginning play.  The doubling cube 
(represented by the number  at the upper left of the playfield) 
starts at 1.  This means the players are competing for the 
original stake.  Each time the stakes are doubled, this number 
changes (2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64) -- 64 times the original stake is 
the largest amount possible to wager.

After the player winning the first move has completed his or 
her turn, the computer will ask the opponent "YESdbl " or 
"NOdbl".  By turning the controller knob to YESdbl and pushing 
the red controller button, the opponent has offered to double 
the stakes and the doubling cube will now show 2.

The first player now has the option of accepting or not 
accepting the double.  

To accept the double, turn the controller knob to YESacc and 
the push the red controller button.  The dice then roll for you 
opponent's turn.  To reject the double, turn the controller 
knob to NOacc and push the red controller button.  The game 
will end at that point.  To start a new game, depress the "game 
reset" button.  

When you offer to double the stakes and your opponent accepts 
the double, he or she then "owns" the doubling cube.  It will 
be up to your opponent to your opponent to redouble at a time 
when it is advantageous to do so.

If your opponent offer to redouble the stakes and you accept, 
then you "own" the doubling cube and you can again offer to 
redouble when you think it is to your advantage.  The player 
who "owns" the doubling cube is shown by the color of the 
number (representing the doubling cube) at the top of the 
playfield.  (If it is red, it belongs to the red player; if it 
is white, it belongs to the white player.)

In one-player games, if the computer decides to offer a double, 
it asks only YESacc or NOacc.  If you own the doubling cube and 
want to double the stakes against the computer, enter YESdbl 
when it appears on the screen.  The computer will continue to 
play if it accepts the double, or quit if it refuses the 

In both one-player and two-player games, if neither player 
doubles during the game, the doubling cube will remain green 
and a 1 will show on the screen.  In two player games, the 
computer will continue to ask each player in turn if they wish 
to offer a double.

Gammon and Backgammon

[Diagram of the following situation]

If a player has borne off all of his or her pieces and the 
opponent has not borne off ANY, the game is called a "gammon."  
The opponent loses twice the stakes (times whatever is showing 
on the doubling cube.)

[Diagram of the following situation]

If a player has borne off all of his or her pieces and the 
opponent still has pieces on the bar or in the player's inner 
table, the game is called a "backgammon."  The opponent loses 
three times the stakes (time whatever is showing on the 
doubling cube.)  A backgammon among skilled players is rare.

It is advisable, if it appears that your are going to be 
gammoned or backgammoned, to refuse you opponent's double and 
retire from the game.

Set Up Mode

It has been mentioned that the left and right difficulty 
switches must both be in the  "a" position for normal game 
play.  To create a "set up mode" in which you can pick up 
pieces one by one and place them in various positions around 
the board, slide the left difficulty switch to the "b" 

Use the controller that corresponds to the color of the dice on 
the screen when operating in the set up mode.  This mode allows 
you to work out  specific problems or strategies.  As in 
regular play, the computer will not allow opposing colors to 
occupy the same point when you are moving pieces around the 

Slide the left difficulty switch back to the "a" position to 
start or continue normal game play.  When the game is returned 
to normal play, the pieces which correspond to the color and 
count showing on the dice must be moved, before the computer 
rolls the dice again.

Illegal Move

Normally, the computer will not allow you to make an illegal 
move.  There is a specific situation, however, in which the 
computer will illegally allow you to move a piece using the 
count on one die, even though there are no open points that 
correspond to the count remaining on the other die.

When this situation occurs, the game goes into temporary state 
of suspension.

[Diagram for the following situation]

Notice how the white pieces are arranged in the diagram.  For 
the sake of this example, a 3-5 roll occurs for the white 
player.  If the player's first action is to use the three-count 
by moving a piece from the white twelve-point to the white 
nine-point, the computer will accept the move even though it 
was illegal.

Now, there are no open points on which the player can move, 
using the remaining five-count.  The computer allowed the first 
move, and is waiting for a second move which is not possible.

In this situation, the correct move for the white player would 
have been to advance a piece from the red twelve-point to the 
white ten-point (using the three-count), and then from the 
white ten-point to the whit five-point (using the five-count).

If an illegal move such as this one happens during a game, 
there are two possible solutions.  One is to use the set up 
mode (left difficulty switch in "b" position), return the white 
pieces to their previous position, and execute the correct 
move.  The other is to depress the game reset switch and start 
a new game.


This variation was developed by members of the US Navy.  It is 
similar to some of the game versions played in the 
Mediterranean area, which suggests that it started in that 
region.  The rules for Acey Deucey may vary from ship to ship 
and even from player to player.  They are not standardized, as 
are the rules for backgammon.

In the Atari version, all the pieces start out on the bar and 
can be entered at any time with the roll of the dice.  A piece 
need not be entered from the bar before another piece can be 
moved, even if that piece was hit and sent to the bar.

The other rules of backgammon apply in terms of moving the 
pieces around the board, open and closed points, hitting a 
blot, bearing off, and using the doubling cube.

A roll of 1-2 (acey deucey) allows a player to choose whichever 
doublets are advantageous, after making the 1-2 move.  After 
moving the doublets, the player is further rewarded with 
another roll of the dice.

After rolling the ace-deucey, turn the controller knob, and 
"dial in" the number on the left die, the push the red 
controller button. 

The die on the right will change to match the number on the 
left die.  Push the red controller button again and play you 
doublets.  After the last move on you doublet, the computer 
will roll the dice again for you and you may make another move.

If, after moving your doublet, you roll another acey-deucey, 
you can again move the 1-2 and choose another doublet.

The left difficulty switch should be in the "a" position when 
playing acey-deucey.


Use one set of Standard Paddle Controllers with this Game 
Program(tm).  Plug the controller cable firmly into the jack 
labeled LEFT CONTROLLER at the rear of your Video Computer 
System(tm).  Hold the controller with the red button to your 
upper left toward the television screen.  [see Section 3 of you 
owners manual for further details.]

                                Backgammon      Acey Deucey
Game No.                        1 2 3 4         5 6 7 8
Number of players               1 2 1 2         1 2 1 2
Doubling Cube                   X X             X X

This document obtained from the History of Home Video Games Homepage, �1997-1998 by Greg Chance