What we know about backgammon is that it may be the oldest board games invented and played in different parts of the world, but no one actually knows exactly when it started and where.
About 5000 years ago, somewhere in Mesopotamia, some archeologists found a board, checkers and dices, which were used in order to play “The royal game of Ur”. Still, this board contained 20 slots instead of 24, and 60 pieces instead of 30.
The rules of that game are not known, although it is clear that they must have been different from what we play nowadays. Taking all this into consideration, this is still believed to be the oldest form of the game we play today.
Tomb illustrations and excavations prove that Ancient Egyptians often used to play the “Game of thirty squares”, or otherwise known as Senat or Senet.
In Antient Rome, also existed a version, which is thought to have derived from the game that Egyptians used to play, called “Game of twelve lines”. The board of the game contained three rows with twelve lines each and three dices were used to move the checkers.
“Tabula”, another version of the Beckgammon we play today, is the Byzantine version, described in one of the Emperor Zeno’s writings. It dates back to the 5th century AD. The players had to remove all their pieces before the adversary had the chance, the board had 24 lines, the moves were made in opposing directions, and the players made their moves according to the numbers shown by three dices.
The game also has a history in Asia. Although it had a number of names, most common is “Nard”. This may be the closest version of what we play today.
From that point on, Backgammon started to spread in every corner of Europe, under different names, but with the same, or nearly the same, rules. It was also prohibited at some points in France and England, due to its gambling nature.
Sometime around the 16th century, the backgammon name was defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, and also a guidebook of the game was published.
The game finally made it to America, in the 20th century, where it was introduced in New York City.