Acey-Deucey – Sailors’ Backgammon

The backgammon variation Acey-Deucey was a popular pastime among the US Marine Corps during World War I. An article published in the backgammon site Play65 reveals that the game has been entertaining Navy officers already in the beginning of the 1900s. It also shows that even the name “Acey-Deucey” has its roots in the American Navy’s slang.

Acey-Deucey is the nickname given to the dice roll of 1-2. Normally a disadvantageous roll, the Acey-Deucey roll grants its thrower with special privileges: the right to play a desired double of his choice, plus an additional role (on top of the 1-2 roll). Acey and Deucey were also the nicknames of the First and Second Class Petty Officers (respectively), who also entertained themselves in Acey-Deucey Clubs and Lounges.

Acey-Deucey was not the sole occupancy of the command echelon; sailors used to pass the time between one mission to another rolling dice and moving checkers. Acey-Deucey was everywhere, testified one sailor in a letter to the Time’s editor in 1930, “the deck, below decks, in the engine room, the dynamo room and in the turrets and handling rooms”, and was never spotted among the combat corps.

Although Acey-Deucey can be played on the same equipment used in backgammon games, playing the game on the shaky grounds of the sea required some innovations. Therefore, to protect the dice and checkers from sliding and slipping, a special border was built around the backgammon board and the dice were dropped to the playing surface through a tube.

Acey Deucey Rules & Strategy

The acey-deucey advantage is one of the main differences between the standard backgammon and the mariners’ favorite variation. Backgammon and Acey-Deucey also differ in their initial board setup and their final scoring; the Acey-Deucey game begins with both players’ checkers based outside the board and it ends with the loser sacrificing one point for every checker that was not borne off the board.

Despite the great 1-2 benefit and the fact that Acey-Deucey is played without the doubling cube, the game does leave some room for preplanned strategy. Acey-Deucey strategy would focus on the early game, when both players enter the checkers to the board according to the rolls of the dice, the same way players remove their checkers of the board at the end of the backgammon game. Reasonable Acey-Deucey strategy may include quick entering of most checkers and using them to block the opponent’s checkers.