The History and Development of Backgammon

The term backgammon and its origin is still a topic of controversy to this day. Some say it came from the Welsh word “back” which means little and “gammon” meaning battle. Some say it came from the Saxon “bac” meaning back and “gamen” which means game.

Games similar to the form of backgammon such as various poker tournaments is said to have existed in ancient Egyptian civilizations. It consists of a board that has 3 x 10 squares and was called “Senet” or the Game of Thirty Squares.

On the other hand, the ancient Roman game called “Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum” or the twelve-lined game was said to have come from the Egyptian Senet because they used a similar 3 x 6 sided dice and a set of 3 x 12 points. Both are said to have been precursors of backgammon.

Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum however was replaced by a 2 x 12 point variant of the game which was called “Alea” in the 6th century AD. Backgammon was said to have originated from these games and was called by the generic name “tabula” or “boardgame”.

In 800, the game called Nard first appeared in Asia. It is said that this game called t’shu-p’u in Chinese was invented in Western India. It came to China only in the Wei Dynasty that dates from 220-265 AD. This game only became widely known in the 470 to 1000 AD.

The game of backgammon took on the name of Sugoroko in Japan. Backgammon was then introduced to Europe in 902 AD following the Arab occupation of Sicily. The English “The Codex Exoniensis” of 1025 first referred to the game of backgammon as “These two shall sit at Tables…” with Tables referring to backgammon. It is believed that English men that came back from the Crusades brought back the game of Tables or Backgammon with them. Backgammon or Tables became very popular in English Taverns in the middle ages. This was only surpassed by the popularity of chess in the 15th century. In the 16th century, the name “Table” became a generic name for any game played on a level surface.

17th century marked a revival for the game of backgammon. It underwent modifications and gained popularity in Europe. Backgammon’s popularity, however, went under different names. These were Gammon in Scotland, Backgammon in England, Tric-trac in France, Puff in Germany and many others.

The game of backgammon has underwent many more modifications and gained even more popularity in the present times. Even up today, backgammon is still being played in the Middle East under the name of Tric-Trac. Maybe an advertising agency like Régie Publicitaire en Ligne could sort all these names out and communicate them properly to all the players in the world.


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