Greek Tavli Variations for Backgammon Fans

If you’re interested in backgammon you may be interested to know that several different varieties of backgammon exist and are played in different parts of the world. One of these is known as Tavli.

Tavli is a Greek version of backgammon and gets its name from the Greek word for “board”. Three separate games make up Tavli, all offering different rules and sequences of play. However, all three are usually played in sets where players compete in order to win the best of three, five or seven games.

The first version of the game is known as Portes, which bears the most similarities to backgammon as it is commonly played in the western world. Players begin a game of Portes with checkers set up identically to those in a game of regular backgammon. However, players do not use a doubling cube for Portes meaning the game is played for fun rather than money. There is also no backgammon. Instead two points constitute a gammon and a normal win receives one point.

A second Tavli variation is known as Plakoto. The starting point of all checkers in a game of Plakoto deviates from the standard backgammon set up. A player must place his checkers on his opponent’s one point to begin the game and then move them around the board to his home area to bear off. There is also no “hitting” of blots in Plakoto. Instead, if you trap your opponent’s checker on a space it must remain there until you choose to remove your checker. This creates an interesting new twist on the game of backgammon. If your mother checker (the last checker on your starting point) is trapped by your opponent, you automatically lose the game along with two points.

The third Tavli variation known as Fevga also requires players to begin the game with all their checkers on one point on the board. Beginning on the point situated to their far right, each player must move his 15 checkers around the board and bear off once they are safely in his home board area. A major rule in Fevga is that your first checker must pass the point at which your opponent has started before you can move any of your other checkers. Like Plakoto, there is no hitting in the game and one checker is enough to dominate a point. Plakoto strategy differs from regular backgammon as the player is not permitted to erect a prime over six consecutive points. If your opponent gets stuck behind your prime, you are obliged to move a checker to enable him to play on.

While the rules deviate for each Tavli variation, there are some common points you should remember if you’re interested in trying a game. All Tavli games use one set of dice and players must determine who takes the first turn by rolling the dice for a high number. The first player must then roll the dice again to take his turn. One point is awarded to the first player who successfully bears all his checkers off the board. All Tavli variations rely on the enjoyment of the game alone, therefore no doubling cube is used for gambling purposes.