Last updated on April 2, 2023
This question was first posed back in December of last year. It was a Monday evening in our local pub and we had just finished the final backgammon match for the session. Everyone was finishing the last of their drinks, delaying their inevitable departure into the cold and wet night. One of the team asked, “What is the perfect Deluxe Backgammon set?”. This was a question that was never going to be answered before the landlord called for the last drinks. In fact, the discussion continued over several weeks before we finally came to a consensus. Below is what we agreed upon as our perfect luxury backgammon set.
Firstly, we need to decide what type of luxury backgammon set we were looking for either a tabletop or an attaché case (cassette) design. We were unanimous on this point, everyone opted for the attaché or cassette design. The tabletop option lacks the portability of the attaché design. Although our luxury backgammon set is not specifically a travel set. We do want the ability to easily transport the board and the accessories from location to location. Tabletop backgammon sets tend to be decorative pieces, which look nice but tend to become dust magnets because the set is permanently open. No one particularly wanted to add ‘Dust the backgammon set’ to their weekly list of household chores. Finally, we all agreed that the design must include slots on both sides of the board to store the checkers and dice when not in play.
The next option up for debate was the size of the backgammon board. This discussion was not quite so straightforward. We considered a range of sizes. The 15 and 17-inch options were eventually discarded as being too small for a genuine luxury backgammon set. Although larger than a traditional travel backgammon set, they remain portable. However, after some discussion, it was decided that their small size meant that they lacked the presence that a true luxury backgammon set should possess. The 21 and 25-inch options were the most popular sizes. In the end, the Deluxe Backgammon team voted and the 21-inch option came out on top. It’s a tournament sized board, but in the attaché case form, it remains portable enough to transport to another location.
There was no debate on the next consideration. The materials obviously have to be natural and have to be obtained from sustainable sources. This means we are looking at plantation or recycled timber for the wooden components. Obviously, the cabinet framework needed to be constructed from wood. However, we also wanted to incorporate some leather into the set. There was some discussion about where the leather should feature on the board, but that really came to the fore when we discussed the construction of the board. In regards to the furnishings, we all agreed that brass was perfect for the hinges and locks.
The overall construction of the luxury backgammon set was where the debate raged longest. Half of the Deluxe Backgammon team wanted the cabinet bound in leather and the other half were adamant that the outer case should be a wood veneer. This debate continued over several weeks. The deadlock ended when the discussion briefly diverted to the playing field. Again, we reached an impasse on this topic. Half of the team wanted a traditional wooden playing field with marquetry points, the other half wanted a softer leather playing field. Ultimately the deadlock was resolved with a compromise. The wooden playing field was considered too loud to play in all circumstances. The hard surface causes the dice to dance across the playing field creating a noise that some considered harsh. The leather playing field produced a softer landing surface for the dice and the noise was noticeably less. A compromise was reached, we agreed on a leather playing surface in return for an outer wooden veneer on the cabinet.
Returning to the cabinet veneer. The debate continued as each Deluxe Backgammon team member argued for their favourite type of timber. There were a couple of strong contenders. The rustic hard-wearing oak was a popular choice. As was the reddish mahogany veneer that we all knew would darken with age. Ultimately, the winner was a walnut burl. Walnut is a popular wood because of its aesthetics. It is dense and dark, with intense red and purple tones. It’s very durable and its tight grain ensures it polishes well, but it was the burl that won everybody over. A burl is an odd-looking growth on a tree. They usually form when the tree is under some form of stress. It disrupts the tree’s growth patterns and it produces timber with wonderful swirls and markings in the grain. A burl ensures that the veneer is truly unique.
The next debate was regarding the leather playing field. Italian calf leather was the agreed material of choice. It took us a little longer to determine the colours. The background colour was a choice between a pale cream or a slightly darker tan. Ultimately, the tan was the preferred choice as the team was a little worried about the prospects of marks and stains showing up on the cream. For the points we opted for traditional red and black colours, these would be inlaid leather marquetry. The leather playing surface will allow the checkers to glide around the points, but at the same time provide enough friction to stop the checkers from sliding if the board is nudged.
This brings us to the accessories, where we will continue with our natural, sustainable material theme. Originally, we were debating what type of wood we should select for the checkers when one of the Deluxe Backgammon team suggested something different. The proposal was checkers formed of brass rings inlaid with leather. Everyone agreed, the brass would match the furnishings and the leather continued the theme of the playing field. Furthermore, the brass would give the checkers weight. This would make them less likely to be moved unintentionally on the board. Selecting the dice cups was easy we would go with the bespoke genuine leather dice cups from Kingsley Leather.
Finally, we have the dice and the doubling cube. These would have to be wooden dice to continue the natural theme of this backgammon set. We have looked online and there are some suppliers claiming that they are making precision dice from wood.
After many hours of debate, the Deluxe Backgammon team came up with the following specifications for our perfect luxury backgammon set. Price was never discussed, but we can assume that our selection would fall into the expensive backgammon set category.
A 21-inch backgammon set in an attaché case design. The cabinet would be constructed from walnut with a burl veneer. The playing field would be leather in traditional colours. The checkers are brass and leather. Our Kingsley Leather dice cups and a set of wooden precision dice complete the set.