Which games come to your mind when we say "board games"? Monopoly? Risk? Carcassonne? They are merely a "child" when compared to tavla (backgammon). Tavla is the ancient Byzantine Greek name of backgammon, and it is one of the oldest board games around. Egyptian people played it – royal tombs are filled with tavla board pictures, dating as far as 3.500 BC. Persian people loved it – there are Persian legends based around this game. Some researchers think it is older even than chess, in fact, tavla may be the simplest form of chess. It is called "Shuang Lu" in China, "Jeux de Tables" in France, and "Bradspel" in Great Britain.
It is a game of luck and strategy. Luck comes from the dice and strategy comes from thinking one step ahead.
Tavla is a simple game actually, there is a board with 12 long triangles at each side. These triangles are called "points". (So when someone says "12-point" for example, he/she means the 13th triangle.) To start the game, each player rolls one dice. The player with the highest number starts. Each player has 15 pieces, white and black colored. All of the pieces are moved according to the roll of dice. For example, if you roll 6 x 3, you can move either one piece nine points forward or two pieces, six and three points forward. The goal is collecting all of your pieces at your side of the board and remove them before your opponent. If you roll a double, you can play each die twice.
The thing is, if a point is occupied by your opponent’s pieces, you can’t move on top of them. That point becomes useless to you. You can move your piece over it if the roll allows, but if that point is the only place your roll goes… That roll is wasted. Here is the good news though: If your opponent has only one piece on a point, you can "blot" it. That piece is removed from the game and needs to re-enter, by rolling a number of unoccupied point on your side of the board. Until then, it is placed on the middle of the board.
As with all simple games, tavla is easy to learn but difficult to master. You need some tactics and strategies, luck never lasts long. How should I play my roll? Shall I blot that piece or is it a trap? Is this the right time to do a home run? Placement of the pieces and roll possibilities has been studied by mathematicians, there are even books about the subject. Like chess, tavla has "opening" and "ending" moves. There are strategies you need to follow during the main game too, and you need to change them according to the situation. If you are a beginner, start with tavla software and master the game through them. Currently, lots of online casinos offer this game too, but since there is a possibility of losing real money, stay away from them until you know what you are doing.
Tavla is an international board game played in many countries, but it is especially common in Middle-East. There is also a World Backgammon Championship competition going on in Nevada, Las Vegas, till the 60’s. Winners of this tournament receive tens of thousands of dollars, so tavla can make you rich when played right! Tavla games played at this level are a little different from the usual ones though; there are doubling cubes and some special rules such as Holland rule, Jacoby rule and Crawford rule. These are rules based around multiplier levels basically, and some of them force the player to forfeit.