Backgammon Equipment – The Basics


All about Backgammon Equipment (First Part)

Editor’s Note: Phil Simborg has been playing this game for over 45 years and has proven to be a top tournament and money player. He lives in Chicago and travels extensively throughout the U.S. playing in private games and tournaments.

Like any other game or sport, if you want to play backgammon well, it helps to have the right backgammon equipment. The game is also more fun and more fair with the right equipment. Here are my recommendations.

Backgammon Board- The Basis of Backgammon Equipment

Let’s start with the board. If you are going to play “serious” backgammon, you absolutely must have a good, tournament size, well-made board. It not only makes the game more enjoyable, it makes the game fairer.Poorly made boards simply do not play right.
Here are things to look for in a “bad” board:

The checkers don’t fit on the pips causing confusion during play; the dice don’t roll well, either stopping too soon, bouncing too much making them fly off the board, or often landing on or against other checkers; the coloration is either unclear or distracting because there is not proper contrast between the alternating pips and the color of the checkers. And there are many “intangibles” that make the better, more expensive boards, simply play better. Tournament-sized boards are “better” than smaller boards mostly because there is more room to roll the dice fairly…to be sure they turn several times, and still not end up on top of the checkers or on the floor.

The smaller the board, the less the dice turn, and the more likely you are to get “repeaters” and unfair rolls. And with a larger board, it’s easier to see the various plays, and you are less likely to overlook a checker hidden away in a corner somewhere.

There are many great backgammon sets out there, made all over the world, and you can spend as little as a couple of hundred dollars (which I don’t recommend, because the board won’t be that good and it won’t last), up to thousands of dollars.

I have owned many boards, and have played on virtually every board out there, and I must tell you I am highly prejudiced. Two of the best known tournament board makers happen to live in Chicago, and I happen to love their boards, and I, and hundreds of tournament players agree, they are both great.

Bob Zavoral has been making leather-covered, custom tournament boards for about 20 years, and it is doubtful that you will go to a major tournament and not see many of his boards there. His boards are meticulously hand-made, and he uses the colors and styles that each client requests.

They are beautiful; they play well; they last; and after a few years if you need it recovered, or need the surface of the playing field completely redone, Bob will do it for a reasonable price. His boards sell for around $700, which are less than many other “custom made” leather boards that, in my opinion, are no better.

There are many other leather board makers that make great boards. BAK boards from Mexico are in the $250 to $400 range; I have a Brazilian board that plays extremely well and is beautiful, and those sell for $500 to $700 and come with a zippered cover. And Aries makes great leather boards that sell for $700 to $900.

Tak Morioka also lives in Chicago, has been making boards for over 15 years, and he makes the most beautiful hand-crafted wooden boards I have ever seen.
I love they way the dice and checkers move on his board, and I have always owned a Taki board (or two) since he started making them. All of his boards are custom made and sell for around $850 and up depending on what you want in the board.

Backgammon board

Backgammon board

You can search on line for boards, but I will tell you now that for over 25 years Carol Cole, out of Flint, Michigan, has been selling backgammon equipment, books, and accessories for over 25 years and she is famous for being reliable and having fair prices.
You can see the boards and all other equipment on her site, You can email Carol at Or you can call her at 810-232-9731. (Note that I am not financially connected with Carol in any way, I just know that she’s a terrific source for anything you need.)

Phil Simborg
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