There are five basic strategies in the game of backgammon. Below is a brief outline of each strategy. There are thousands of pages online describing these in greater detail. Additionally, our Deluxe Backgammon Playing Guides provide extra information on each strategy.
Strategy vs Tactics
A strategy is a set of guidelines used to achieve a specific objective, whereas tactics are the short-term actions aimed at achieving those guidelines. The overall objective in backgammon is to move all of your checkers off the board before your opponent does. How you achieve this objective will depend on the strategy you choose to play. The strategy can change multiple times during the course of a single game, this is because of the element of luck.
The blitz is basically an all-out attack on your opponent’s checkers. The aim is to keep your opponent’s checkers on the bar while moving your own checkers into your inner table as quickly as possible. As you enter more and more checkers into your inner table it becomes more difficult for your opponent to re-enter. The perfect blitz occurs when you occupy all six points of your inner table therefore making it impossible to re-enter from the bar. Your opponent is then forced to wait until a point becomes clear when you are bearing off.
The best time to employ the blitz is when you hit one of your opponent’s checkers during an early move and they fail to re-enter from the bar. As you build points within your inner table continue to hit your opponent’s checkers so they are in a constant battle to re-enter the board.
The Back Game
The back game is not a strategy of choice. It is forced upon players because they have been hit on multiple occasions and are behind in the race. This is a strategy designed to salvage a game when you have fallen behind. The objective is to maintain two or more anchors in your opponent’s home board and wait for an opportunity for a late hit. Your other checkers should be sufficiently advanced so as to block your opponent’s checker when it returns from the bar.
Playing this tactic from the start would be risky because if it fails there is a strong likelihood of losing by a gammon (double the stake).
The Holding Game
The holding game strategy is normally employed because you have drifted behind your opponent in the pip count. The basic idea of the holding game is to keep a point under your control within your opponent’s board. Either the 20-point or bar-point are the best positions to hold as they maximise the chances of hitting your opponent’s checkers as they move them home.
The Priming Game
The priming game is a strategy that involves building a wall (a prime) with your checkers to block your opponent’s moves. Ideally, the prime is six points in a row, meaning your opponent is unable to escape. Your opponent’s checkers remain trapped as long as you maintain the prime. The main objective of the priming game is to hit your opponent’s checkers and trap them behind the prime. Your opponent is then trapped until you break down the prime to begin bearing off.
The Running Game
The objective of the running game is to bring all of your remaining checkers as quickly as possible into your home board and begin bearing off. This strategy should only be applied because you are confident that you are ahead in the pip count. If your opponent has fewer pips remaining than you there is little chance of success as it all comes down to the roll of the dice.