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Backgammon board – the playing field material

Last updated on April 14, 2021

When deciding on a quality backgammon set, make sure you choose a surface that suits your needs. There is a whole range of surface types out there, each with different qualities. In this Deluxe Backgammon post, we will look at the options available for the playing surface. There are several things to consider, which we will discuss below.

Considerations

Firstly, there is the noise from the dice. A hard surface, such as wood, stone or a lacquered material will be likely to be noisy when the dice roll. Secondly, a smooth surface allows the checkers to slide smoothly across the playing field. Raised points will cause the checkers to catch as you slide them between the points. You also need to consider durability and the likelihood of damage or stains to the material.

Wooden playing field.

Common materials

The most common surfaces available on quality backgammon sets are wood, leather, cork, cloth and fabric all of which offer different playing characteristics and price points. The majority of backgammon sets that Deluxe Backgammon recommends have wooden or leather playing fields. However, we will take a look at each type and look at their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Cork provides a soft, smooth and incredibly quiet surface to play backgammon on. The noise of the dice is minimal and the checkers slide smoothly between the points. The downside of cork is that it a soft material and therefore susceptible to damage and staining. After years of the play, the surface will become pitted due to scratches from fingernails and the checkers.
  • Wood provides a very durable surface on which to play backgammon. The points will either be painted on or inlaid. The big issue with wood is the noise from rolling the dice. Many tournaments don’t allow wooden boards because of the noise. At Deluxe Backgammon we quite enjoy the noise, it adds to the atmosphere. However, if you want to enjoy a quieter game, choose one of the other surfaces.
  • Leather is another durable surface. Deluxe Backgammon has reviewed several antique backgammon sets that are lined with leather and they are still usable after a century or more of play. To be sure, it is not as durable as wood and it will sustain damage over time. Leather also offers a quieter surface to play on. It generally isn’t as quiet as cork, but certainly quieter than wood.
  • Cloth and fabric are another quiet playing surface. Depending on the quality and thickness of the material, a cloth or fabric board can be quieter than cork. Depending on the material used it will be in between cork and leather in terms of durability.
Leather playing field. Jaques B.C.D. Copyright Christopher Clarke Antiques.

There are other options, such as stone or marble. These surfaces are incredibly durable, but very noisy to play on. They will also be completely unsuitable as travel sets due to the weight. At the budget end of the scale, you will find playing surfaces made of plastic and cardboard and linen.

Other useful guides

Please read some of our other Deluxe Backgammon posts on choosing the ideal quality backgammon set.

Types of leather used for backgammon sets.

How to care for your Deluxe Backgammon set.

How much is a good quality backgammon set?

A guide to the types of wood used in Backgammon sets.

What to look for in a Deluxe Backgammon set.

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