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Software Review: Backgammon Free by AI Factory (Android)

Last updated on April 15, 2021

Backgammon Free

In this post, we will take a look at an Android app that we at Deluxe Backgammon have been using for quite some time. Backgammon Free (by AI Factory) is an app for mobile devices that allows you to play backgammon anywhere. There is a single-player mode where you can match yourself against the CPU or a two-player mode which allows you to play against another person. There is no online play and an internet connection is not required once the game is installed. At the time of writing it is the highest rated (4.4) offline backgammon application in the Google Play store.

The game is free to download and contains in-game advertisements. The ads are fairly unobtrusive, just a small window on the top left corner of the screen. There is also a brief full-screen ad between games. There are no in-app purchases. The game has an easy to use interface and the graphics are colourful and sharp.

Difficulty

The CPU offers 5 levels of difficulty. The first couple of levels are, as expected, really only suitable for beginners. The higher levels are challenging for intermediate players. Advanced players would probably not be too challenged even at the highest level. Some of the CPU’s moves, even at the highest level, are surprising. For example, an opening 3-2 move to 13/8. Our research suggests this is one of the weaker opening moves, but it regularly makes this move on level 5. We don’t think this application is pretending to be a replacement for some of the commercially available PC programs. It’s an honest, portable and fun way to play backgammon on the move.

Gameplay

The CPU strategy is Gaming Labs Certified, which means this program rolls genuinely random dice. It will frustrate you at times as it seemingly makes the exact string of rolls that it needs to hit and re-enter. This is not evidence of cheating, rather evidence of good backgammon play. A good backgammon strategy is all about maximising the probabilities to fall in your favour. This is what the CPU is doing, it makes moves designed to maximise the chance of good rolls for itself and minimise the likelihood of good rolls for its opponent. There is also a manual roll option, so you can roll real-world dice and enter the numbers into the application.

Features

The Auto Bear Off option allows you to give the CPU control of your moves. We used this a couple of times, when we fell behind in the race, but didn’t really want to quit the game. It is not worth using as it is probably the only flawed feature of this game. It frequently left checkers behind so that you would lose by a gammon or worse. A human would never make this fundamental error.

There is a helper option, which will suggest a move if you really don’t know what to do. It simply highlights the checker and the corresponding point the CPU suggests moving to. There is no explanation, but that is fine as this is an app not meant to be a high-end analytical tool. There is an option, which is turned on by default, which highlights the legal moves available to the selected checker. This is really useful for absolute beginners.

Options

Backgammon Free is surprisingly configurable. There are a host of preferences that can be set in the Options menu. These include, but are not limited to, board and checker colour, pip count display and direction of play. You can also hide various features such as the Undo button and Helper prompts. We advise keeping the Undo option. Because it is a touch screen application if you inadvertently touch the wrong point the CPU accepts the move and automatically starts the next roll. In real life, your move is still reversible until you pick up the dice.

Backgammon Free

Backgammon Free keeps statistics for each level of play, including matches won, doubles rolled and opening rolls won. This is useful in tracking the improvement in your play over time. There is also a complete explanation of the rules of backgammon within the app.

Conclusion

This is a great app. We at Deluxe Backgammon have played thousands of games on Backgammon Free. It allows you to play Backgammon on the move against a human or the CPU. It probably won’t help you get your game beyond an intermediate level, but for a free app, you can’t really ask for more. Deluxe Backgammon highly recommends Backgammon Free.

Note: After applying the principles from the Deluxe Backgammon Playing Guides our win rate at level 5 improved from 46.55% to 50.31%. This was comparing the first one thousand games vs the second thousand.

20/05/2020 – the win rate has improved to 60.03% at level 5 after an additional two thousand games.

5 Comments

  1. Sjaak Sjaak

    I have had a Windows Phone since 2013 and used Backgammon Pro by Bernardo Zamora, which I beat approx 60% of the time at the highest level.

    I switched to Android last month and have purchased Backgammon (so not the free version) by AI Factory.

    I like the app and all its options. Not sure yet how the two compare.

    But as you say, It probably won’t help me get my game beyond an intermediate level.

    I there a professional app for Android that plays at a (much) higher level than AI Factory’s app?

    • admin admin

      Check out our review of XG Mobile Backgammon. It is widely recognised as the strongest Backgammon app currently on Android.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. ESKJOLD ESKJOLD

    GLI certified or not, I found AI’s “randomized” die rolls to be outlandish. Just as a trial, play a game or two using your own die at home. Games in this mode are never as “exciting” as AI games. Another quick check is to inspect doubles frequency. NOT how often player rolls doubles COMPARED to CPU, BUT how often either party rolls doubles.

    • admin admin

      Hi ESKJOLD. Deluxe Backgammon appreciate the comment. The rolls can be frustrating, but that is backgammon. My current stats for AI over 1350 games shows the doubles at 5022 vs 5028 in slight favour of the CPU, which is perfectly reasonable. We have played thousands more games on other devices with similar results. I actually played a human opponent last night and required doubles in the last two rolls to win and was lucky enough to roll double 4 and double 5, so it does happen in real life. After many years of playing this great game I have come to realise that sometimes luck goes against you and despite the odds the dice rolls just don’t go your way. At Deluxe Backgammon we are sure that the AI Factory has a legitimate and truly random dice rolling system. Deluxe Backgammon is in no way associated with AI Factory, our comments are totally independent. Thanks again for commenting and please continue enjoying backgammon.
      Thanks Deluxe Backgammon.

  3. Rasta Pickles Rasta Pickles

    Where this game fails the honesty test is actual vs expected – these are measurable, factual, metrics.

    So, for example, with one piece on the bar and five points covered, you’d expect the cpu to come in 11 times in 36 rolls over a prolonged period of time. That is the actual probability.

    I play this game every morning for at least an hour at my gym (it’s one of the apps available on the treadmill entertainment system).

    Over 749 matches to 15 points spanning a period of eight months, I have had the cpu in the above position 2,399 times. (Yes, I keep stats, I’m a stats nerd!)

    Now I think that’s a fair enough sample size, don’t you?

    So (11/36) * 2399 means the cpu should be getting back in from the bar approximately 733 times. Nope. Not even close. Try 1,709. It’s actually getting back in not 11 times in 36 but 26 times in 36…..with only one point to aim at.

    Caveat: the version at my gym is quite an old version (it doesn’t even have the auto bear off feature) so it might be that older versions used to cheat and the current version does not.

    But it’s so transparently obvious that it’s cheating that it’s embarrassing.

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