Backgammon articles

Tabula Backgammon Variant (aka Roman Backgammon or Tables)

Tabula is a Roman Backgammon variant that harks back to ancient times. This Backgammon game eventually reached Europe and was very well-liked in England, where they called it Tables. The Tabula rules are mainly derived from Emperor Zeno's documents that date back as early as 480 CE.

How does Tabula differ from Backgammon?

  1. The starting point for both of the player's checkers is outside of the Backgammon board.
  2. Every participant possesses 3 dice and plays a single move for each number that comes up on the roll. Doubles do not exist in Tabula.
  3. A checker can only be moved into the other half of the Backgammon board when the rest of your checkers have been brought in.
  4. Each participant brings his 15 checkers to the same beginning table and then they both make the same counterclockwise course across the board.

Perhaps the most poignant difference between Tabula and other Backgammon variants is that Tabula is played with 3 dice, rather than the 2. When the game begins, every single checker is off the Backgammon board. Each participant brings his 15 checkers to the same beginning table and then they both make the same course across the board.

As with all Backgammon variants, the object of the game is to get every one of your checkers to move all the way around the Backgammon board and bear the checkers off.

To begin play, every player rolls a single die and the player with the bigger number gets to play first. He then gets to roll his 3 dice in order to start his initial turn.

A checker can be brought into the board when you put it on the point of the number you rolled, but you can't bring a checker onto a point that is held by at least 2 of your opponent's checkers.

When you have brought in at least 1 of your checkers, you can use the following rolls in order to continue to move the checkers and/or bring in more checkers. A checker can only be moved into the other half of the Backgammon board when the rest of your checkers have been brought in.

Players need to move their checkers in accordance with the points that correspond to the numbers that come up when they roll the dice. These are the rules of checker movement in Tabula:

  1. A checker can only be placed on a point that isn't held by any of the opponent's checkers.
  2. There are 3 dice in Tabula and the numbers on each of them signify 3 independent moves.
  3. You have to play all of your roll whenever you can.

In this Backgammon variant, whenever you have at least 1 checker on the bar, your number 1 priority should be to get those checkers in your opponent's home board. The way to do this includes moving a checker to an available point that matches 1 of the numbers you've rolled. In the case that you succeed in bringing some, but not every one of your checkers, then you have to bring in as many as you possibly can and forsake the rest of your turn.

When every one of your checkers is in your home board, you can start to bear off. In order to bear off, you need to roll a number that matches the point that checker stands on and then take that checker off the Backgammon board. The winner of Tabula is the first participant that bears off every one of his checkers.

David Carnegy - Managing Editor

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