The game requires more skill than regular backgammon because of the starting position, which has the appearance that both players are into a backgame:
As can be seen in the diagram, Nackgammon is set up with four checkers back in home board of the opponent – as usual the two on the 24 point, but with two more placed on the 23 point, one taken from each of the five checkers that normally start on your 6 and 13 point in standard backgammon.
Other than that, the game is played just like regular backgammon. Nackgammon can be played in Money Game format using the Jacoby Rule and Beavers, or it can be played in Match Play format with the Crawford Rule in place.
Games of Nackgammon often lead to more complicated and challenging decisions, and therefore, playing it regularly can help to develop your skills in standard backgammon.
In regular backgammon, we have learned from computers how to play the first, second and almost all third rolls virtually to perfection through the use of programs that can be used to perform long computer rollouts on the openings moves. However, Nackgammon has not been researched in this manner and thus you will have to put on your thinking cap and be a little more creative, often learning from trial and error.
Of course, with opening rolls of 6-1, 3-1 and 4-2 you make the obvious plays of 13/7 8/7 with 6-1, 8/5 6/5 with 3-1 and 8/4 6/4 with 4-2 but it is not clear that you should make your 3 point with a 5/3 by playing 8/3 6/3 as this point is little too deep and one of your priorities in Nackgammon is to secure your higher home board points, and your Bar point, to block the bigger numbers your opponent might roll to advance or escape. Therefore, you might want to try 23/20 13/8 or 24/21 23/18 with an opening roll of 5-3.
With 23/20 13/8, you attempt to grab the advanced anchor on your opponent’s 5 point (Golden Point) on a next roll plus you are bringing down an extra checker to your 8 point which can serve in building your vital 7, 5 and 4 points, or the checker could be used as an additional attacker in an attempt to blitz.
With 24/21 23/18, yes, you expose all your back checkers as blots but if one or two of them are hit at this early stage of the game they will probably be hit with checkers from your opponent’s 8 and 6 point and therefore you should not fear the blitz, because, at this stage your opponent does not have that many checkers available in that zone to sustain the blitz. So it should be easy to come down from the bar and perhaps you will make a good advanced anchor in the process, which is the other primary objective in Nackgammon. Also, even if hit in the early game you will likely have some good chances at return shots.
If you get an opening roll of 6-5, instead of running a checker out from the 24 to the 13 point as is correct in standard backgammon, the best move is 24/18 23/18 which secures an excellent advanced anchor on your opponent’s 7 point and effectively stops him from blocking you in his home board with a forthcoming roll of 6-6 or partially with a 1-1. Similarly you should grab your opponent’s 5 point with an opening roll of 4-3 by playing it 24/20 23/20 and likewise with a 3-2 play 24/21 23/21 and although it is not totally wrong to play an opening 2-1 by moving 24/22 23/22, you might want to try 23/21 23/22.
With an opening roll of 5-4 it is probably best to play 24/20 13/8, again for the same reason stated for playing 23/20 13/8 with a 5-3, because you attempt to make the advanced anchor and bring down an extra builder/attacker from the 13 point.
As for all the other opening rolls, this is where you will need to be creative but basically keep in mind that you want to secure that advanced anchor first and that bringing down that extra builder from your 13 point to your 11, 10, 9 and 8 points is also most often correct.
In Nackgammon, it is not suggested to slot your 5 point with opening rolls of 5-1, 4-1 and 2-1. If you slot your 5 point you are more likely to be hit than in regular backgammon because your opponent has many more chances of hitting with two checkers back on your 1 and 2 points than if he was only set up on your 1 point.
So find an opponent, get out the board and try out Nackgammon now!
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