Change of Rules (for Backgammon)

The purpose of Backgammon — as with many games — should be to have an ongoing game that is fun for all players. In turkey, there are three variants of backgammon, but only one is played openly — male backgammon. This story is about a change of backgammon rules, which could make the game more interesting for everyone. To have ongoing games, there should be a settlement talk in between, with at least the agenda, where to meet again for the next game, who brings the board, who gets what color, and how to make this more fun.


  • Backgammon was invented between 476–491 AD
  • Not everyone likes to play backgammon (still it can be a fun game for two players which is played under different names in the world)
  • The rules — as with Chess or Go— are rather simple and all three of those games can get rather complex
  • The board of Backgammon is even simpler than the board of Chess or Go — so when you want to have a game that doesn’t need so much investment and can be played even in poorer countries — backgammon would be a nice idea.
  • One country Backgammon is played in rather much would be Turkey — where it goes by the name of Tavla. Actually, they have three variants, but the variant played there most would be the usual Backgammon — Erkek tavlası (Men Tavla — still they call this only Tavla for some reason). The female variant Kız tavlası isn’t played so much (see above link for descriptions). Men Tavla is played in Turkish coffee shops by men (most women spend time with the kids or clean the houses). The third variant asker tavlası — soldier backgammon, I’ve not seen so much until now and don’t intend to.

Something to include in male backgammon (Erkek tavlası) rules which might make it more fun for everyone in Turkey and elsewhere. Remember: “Having an ongoing game which is fun for all players” is the purpose of this. “Get your stones into your base” is still the aim of the game, as well as the dice, rules how to move…
Starting: Let’s say you have a female and a male player: You could say female gets black, male gets white. Or the other way around — but they need to come to an agreement about this somehow (otherwise there will be no game). You could say, whoever brought the board, gets to be white, but black get’s to decide where to play. Let’s say they agreed on one game at least.

Change of rules: White is allowed to end the game early and demand count and is only allowed to play by the agreed-upon rules. When white doesn’t end early, the game ends by the current rules.
Black is allowed to do one thing which either has to do with the game, or not (actually many things, but white doesn’t know this).
Examples for black (don’t let those limit your imagination):
- Hide one stone, flip one dice, kick white under the table, kiss white…
Black chooses what other hidden things to disclose to white after the game in the peaceful, kind, open settlement talk, where it also is decided when and where to have the next game and who starts with what color. Should you know one player who likes to try this: A warning and a recommendation: Play and don’t stare any further at black and white.

Ok — you read further, so let me at least point at some limits and risks. Should black i.e. decide to completely mess up the board — this will ruin all fun for white. White certainly will end the game directly after such a move, and demand some kind of count. In the peaceful kind settlement talk, white might declare they don’t want to play anymore. Should black even break the board it will be hard to convince white to bring another board. The next board might even be less colorful, pretty, and valuable making this less fun for both. Maybe black needs to buy the next board then. When one player doesn’t want to play anymore, there needs to be a longer settlement talk. During this peaceful, open, kind talk, both players make their case. They might agree on a limit about what black is allowed to do — making this game more complicated. Black might not like this. Black can choose to ignore even those rules. But black has to remember that by ignoring rules they both agreed on together the next game will even be less fun for white. They can also agree on removing some rules (making the game more fun for black), but may not touch the original purpose of the game.

One of the players might also demand a switch of colors for the next game: White in the above example had no fun, but at least black should have had. Remember, that the aim of the game was “Having an ongoing game which is fun for all players”? So when no one had fun and both don’t want another game and both even can’t agree to switch (saying they could at least do better next game with the other color) — all players failed in the original purpose of the game. So black might simply agree to the switch of colors. Black might also only agree to give white a chance for a switch of colors. This can be done by rolling a dice i.e., or playing rock paper scissors, or some older or newer games.

When black decides to mess up this peaceful, kind, open settlement talk by even manipulating the chance to switch, white might still join the next game (knowing what black did or not — remember: The talk was supposed to be open). The next game still should be more fun for white though. Black also has to remember — when white at some time stands up, leaves the table, because white had no fun at all and black even robbed white of the chance to switch by manipulating outside of the backgammon game in the kind, peaceful, open settlement talk — black will sit at the table with a messed up board, a manipulative broken dice and alone. To not end this article on such a depressing point — there are still many options and combinations! of options for black when this happens. I don’t rate them and give some limited examples:

1) Sit at the table, look at the pieces, cry some, and hope for white to come back. White might come back — but this also might be because of pity because white saw black sitting at the table crying and looking at the pieces. Remember — pity is not in the original purpose of the ongoing game.

2) Clean up, set up the board nicely, stand beside the table, and wait for new players. Maybe learn from them — observing. Maybe tell them the rules. Maybe tell them about what happened to black and white. Still — by interfering, black risks also ruining the game of the new players, since — in the end, black doesn’t really know how to play an ongoing game which is fun for all players, only what didn’t work for black and white.

3) Clean up, set up the board nicely, maybe even buy a new board, sit at the table, and hope for white to come back. This might take long since the world is big (white even might have come back during the time black bought a new board and then left again for good). During this time I’d recommend for black not looking at the board. After some time boards with stones tend to be depressing and even when white comes back, black might not be waiting anymore, but simply stare at some stones and not being able to have a game anymore. Black might even end up hating those stones and when white comes back and black looks up in hate, white might not want to play with black since this will not be fun. I’d rather recommend looking in directions where white might likely come from. There is also a risk in doing this. It might be a long time and black looks at the world waiting for white, slowly losing hope. Black might stare at the world and lose hope only being backed by a table with the new shiny board which also gets older. So: As soon as black notices losing hope in this situation — I recommend for black to at least get up and search for white. Black might not find white again, but during the last hours black at least saw something of the world and have kept hope.

4) Take all broken pieces, leave the table and search for white to convince them there still might be a game they two can play where the purpose is an ongoing game which is fun for all players. This might even work. But black will be certainly wandering around some time carrying all broken pieces not even knowing where white is exactly right now. This could be a burden after some time. Should black find white finally — but white is sitting at another table playing a fun game with someone else, black has wandered the world with all broken pieces of a past game, only searching for white, ending up with an image of what one more fun game with white could have been like. White might look up (or not — but when black and white played many games white might still be able to sense white). When white finally looks at black, white might stand up and decide to leave the current game, remembering older fun games (or out of pity for black). Should black and white play again, and this goes wrong a second time black will remember the image of white and the other player. It might even go wrong because of the image of white and the other player. So when black carries all broken pieces over the world looking for white, finally finding white and white isn’t at least looking at the direction of black but at another player — black could very well decide, that this isn’t their white and leave before white sees them.

5) Fix the pieces, sit at the table and look in the direction where white went. This might take long and since the world black sees by this is different than white, black might forget what white looked like. When other players want to play, the table is still full with fixed pieces of older games, and one place is still occupied by someone who can’t remember white, maybe not even remember the game, maybe not even remember that they are black.

6) Leave instantly in the opposite direction of white, leaving table and pieces (maybe scream at white when leaving). Black and white possibly won’t see each other again since the world is large. Other players might arrive at the table and wonder what kind of game this has been since no one is left to teach this. Maybe those new players can last longer adding their own pieces, maybe they clean the table of the mess black and white did before sitting down. Maybe — since the world is big, but not so big, black or white arrive at the table someday remembering old games with each other. This might not be at the same time. So when one of them arrives at the table and other players are sitting there (maybe not black and white but groups) and having fun — my guess would be, that black or white either could try to teach backgammon or let the new players teach them the new games. Still — black or white might not understand those.

7) Look at the broken pieces and wait for some. The purpose of the ongoing game has been: Fun for all players. White might understand that black didn’t have all the fun, so either white made a mistake (and still had some fun — possibly even by leaving the game and thereby not playing by the rules) or someone else had fun. White might see other players having even less fun than they and black had — and still keeping at those and return to black.

8) Take one of the broken pieces and leave. This will prevent other players to play or guess the same game which didn’t work out for black and white and keep the idea of white in blacks remembrance. When the piece becomes a piece again and the idea of white fades, black might drop the piece somewhere hidden and search for white maybe to be found by white again.

9) Clean up, leave the table in peace searching for another older black and white which last longer, and are still playing a fun ongoing game at some table to ask them for tips on what black and white did wrong. The older black and white might talk a lot about previous games, but when they talk about all their previous games, black would have to listen for a long time. Black couldn’t even listen to white for a long time. Then black would have to search for white and then talk to white for a long time about an older couple and then start playing again. This doesn’t sound so much fun and white might not like listening to black and rather start playing with someone else who doesn’t talk so much and doesn’t pretend to know it all. Also black will be interrupting the older black and white in their fun game. So what the older black and white might do for black is to interrupt their game for a second, remind themselves and black of the rules of the game, smile at black and wish black good luck telling black also, that what worked for them, might not work with the other white and even when it does, there is no guarantee that this will work forever. Also: White might have found an older black and white too, telling different stories — so when black and white meet again — and they learned to listen to each other — they would have to exchange stories of two older black and whites prior being able to finally play a game which is fun for all players.

10) Destroy the table, remove all pieces and leave so that white sees what they did (if they finally return). Just so that white is not being able to sit at the same table with another player. But this will rob all other players of their chances to play fun games at this table and is certainly a rather stupid action. When white returns, black would have had a chance other than this — since white wouldn’t have returned when white found another player for an ongoing fun game. Black would thereby have robbed, them and white and all other players of an important chance.

11) Instantly get up and go after white. Here black would have to make a rather good case and should instantly be able to say sorry when finally catching up with white. White might still be angry, white might feel threatened by black, white might feel pushed back at the table they finally had the courage to leave after the game really hasn’t been any fun, white might fear that next time the game with black isn’t fun they would lack the courage to leave.

12) Threaten white about what could happen when they don’t come back to play instantly. White left because the game hasn’t been fun and being threatened is even less fun. So white might choose not to return to the table-ever. Even when white would come back to the table after being threatened, this might be of fear. Fun games aren’t being played of fear, and black should fear that white gets this someday. Also, both should fear that the games they play aren’t fun for black as well as white someday and they both are sitting at the table playing only out of fear. Also: When white returns to the table to continue playing, this would have counted as a settlement talk, and those are made peaceful, kind, and open.

13) Modern: In our times white and black might not only have brought themselves and the game to the table, but also their cells. Those are sometimes placed on the table to disrupt the fun game. So when white leaves and both have their cells and their cell numbers, black could also call white on their cell. A “sorry” would be recommended, but a reminder for that: The cells are afterward part of the fun game and cells aren’t always fun for everyone. Should white not answer this call and black is still sitting at the table with their cell, black has another option when theirs is a smart cell: Black could go after every part of information white left for others to admire and envy, demand pity from friends, complain about white, friend and unfriend white, stalk white, switch relationship status with white multiple times, write and delete entries in timelines, and make a complete fool out of themselves while sitting alone at a table. Luckily cells have a limited amount of energy and black would have to get up someday to recharge and maybe rethink.

14) Funny: Black removes some of the broken pieces, adds some other pieces, offers the seat to new players, tells them the purpose of the game but some made-up rules which make no sense at all. Then watches them play, tells them they are doing it wrong, then explains completely different rules. Black does this until the other players are either furious at black or completely puzzled, then says sorry to them instead of white. Black smiles, leaves the table still smiling, and starts searching for white with a smile.

I could go on with this and might do it someday. Some might have guessed that this is about relationships, but I didn’t say this. Some might have guessed, that this is about women and men, but I didn’t say this. I said, that this is about a variation of backgammon rules, which also is one of the three variants of the Turkish game (called erkek tavlası). My guess would be, that the other two variants are also being played. I would challenge the reader to find out about asker tavlası. This will rob black, white, and all other players of their chance to play any kind of ongoing games that are fun.

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