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Best Free Backgammon Software

 
Introduction

Backgammon is a game of skill with a dash of luck... in the long run the better player will win.

Using artificial neural networks, computers and their programmers have found ways of winning regularly even against the strongest of players. But the technology doesn't take the enjoyment out of computer play.

One of the most ancient surviving board games, backgammon has a refreshingly simple set of rules. And it is also one of those games whose pleasures tend to stick with you over time.

This review will rate top backgammon freeware by sheer entertainment value and their potential for learning. Money play is outside the scope of Gizmo's Freeware, but if you're looking for a concise, independent comparative review of the best free backgammon software that's currently available you're in the right place.

 
In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion

gnu backgammon GNU Backgammon houses the all powerful GnuBG neural network engine in an ambitious freeware project which should delight all backgammon enthusiasts. Getting used to the slightly quaint ways* of this open-source program takes a while. However, the documentation is extensive and there's an excellent tutorial. On my system, the current build works fine in 2D but not in 3D.

There's a wealth of advanced options and capabilities. The "Analyse" features give you fascinating insights into the game and how the GnuBG engine is thinking (by getting a feel of the Temperature Map, for instance). The program logs moves to the right of the screen, so you can click back and forth to review the game. There's a "Hint" button" and a "Tutor" option that will give you GnuBG's expert feedback on your moves and mistakes.

If you find GnuBG's unfailing expertise as an opponent a bit too much of a good thing, you can adjust its playing level in various standard or user-defined ways. You can set the program to use the Crawford and Jackoby rules, and GNU Backgammon also supports Nack Ballard's challenging Nackgammon starting position, as well as the simplified hypergammon variation. GNU Backgammon will open and analyze game files saved in a wide variety of formats.

In short, GNU Backgammon is a highly enjoyable powerplay program that repays in-depth exploration - a must have for anyone with more than a passing interest in the game.

A portable version of GNU Backgammon has reached prerelease testing phase: the main game features seemed to work just fine on my system. The 2D interface benefits from a quick tweak (I switched the appearance to "Wood 1"). Highly recommended

 *Hint: After selecting your "Options", you'll need to head straight back to the drop down "Settings" menu to click "Save settings".

 

quick backgammon portableQuick Backgammon is a tiny portable (this time for Windows XP/Vista/7). It allows you to enjoy quick games against a decent engine, though not a neural net; playing levels can be set to "good", "average" or "poor".

Despite the relatively unsophisticated interface, Quick Backgammon has a few advanced features and provides handy assessments and statistics. Suggestions are possible. Forced moves are automated and sound effects are good. Games can be saved as .pos files.

With all these functional features efficiently woven into a miniscule 256 Kb download, QuickBackgammon is a good addition to any backgammon freeware collection and a clear choice if you just fancy a lightweight portable to have a whole load of fun on.

 

Best free online backgammon applet:

motif backgammon java appMotif is a backgammon Java applet which lets you play against a computer from within your internet browser. True, the engine isn't nearly as strong as GnuBg or Jellyfish, and there's no doubling cube. It does give a pip count on the left side of the board.

Motif can be seen as an intelligent time waster for free moments online. Or as one more way of enjoying backgammon...

 

Also recommended:

  • HepYek is a fun standalone program to play Tavla, a Turkish variant of backgammon with the same basic rules but without the doubling dice. Although not a powerful engine, HepYek has a nice interface and discreet Turkish background music, if you so wish, for relaxing play (Windows only; 2.5 MB).

 

Other interesting backgammon freeware:

  • Monte Carlo Backgammon sports a neural network engine, but the dated interface and splashy sounds do not make for a particularly engaging experience. However, lovers of backgmmon variants may enjoy the Play-2-Lose version of Monte Carlo Backgammon. Designed for Windows 95/98/NT (but it worked for me on Vista); not portable.
  • TD-Gammon runs the ground breaking neural network backgammon engine. A 1995 version of TD Gammon can be downloaded as freeware. You'll need one of the older Windows platforms (95 only?) to run the program and the interface is far from state-of-the-art now. But, hey, TD-Gammon contains a small piece of computer programming history.

 

To be reviewed:

Online backgammon resources:
  • FIBS (First Internet Backgammon Server) lets you play other humans straight from your browser via their basic java fibs app; try logging in as a guest to play or just watch.
  • Backgammon galore is a good source of information, including indications about other sites with free backgammon Internet servers.
  • For gameplay tutorials, go to Backgammon Village Magazine.

(NB: Review of backgammon freeware programs like 3DFIBs Backgammon which advertise (or provide) "play for money" facilities on Internet servers would conflict with our site rules.)

 
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 
Quick Selection Guide

GNU Backgammon
4.5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
all powerful GnuBG engine, good 2D interface, many advanced features, several languages
buggy in 3D; a few quirky ways (see instructions when starting out); sizable download
http://www.gnubg.org/
20121023
24.5 MB
Open source freeware
A portable version of this product is available but not from the developer.
Windows, Linux; Mac OS

Good pre-release portable version available here.
View the changelog here

Quick Backgammon
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
tiny, portable with some handy advanced features
user interface is a bit clunky
3.1.0
254 KB
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
Windows XP/Vista/7/Windows Phone

German language version available

 
Editor

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Tags

best free backgammon software, free online backgammon, not for money, best free online backgammon applet java, gnubg, jellyfish, quick backgammon, monte carlo backgammon, td-backgammon, fibs, motif, best backgammon freeware

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Comments

by turgut on 5. February 2013 - 17:24  (105116)

http://www.bgblitz.com/ good backgammon software. There is a free version with some restrictions.

by Georges2 (not verified) on 6. April 2012 - 16:46  (91715)

I downloaded the 3d version gnubug onto both Vista and Windows 7-32 bit and it played brilliantly. My new computer is Windows 7-64 bit and I can't get it to take in any format.
Does anyone know how to do this. When I try to run the program it comes up that something like libglib 02 dll and cairo something are missing - either I'm not clever enough or I'm doing something wrong!

by Bob on 17. April 2011 - 11:21  (70375)

Update:
- Added a brief review of HepYek

by Ken L (not verified) on 30. August 2010 - 18:43  (57000)

I strongly recommend the portable version of the GNU program; terrific fun and 3d works fine on my system. It certainly does improve your game, although I am notably more successful using manual dice than the automatic dice generators provided.

by Anonymous on 29. March 2010 - 13:51  (46438)

I particularly enjoy the different nuances to the game when playing the Acey-Deucy variation which I believe began amongst US Navy players. Do any of the ones reviewed contain this variation?

by Bob on 30. March 2010 - 9:28  (46487)

Unfortunately not. And I am currently unable to suggest a Acey Deucey freeware option which would qualify for recommendation here. I have found a working java app to play Acey Deucey free online, but the page has a red WOT rating due to privacy concerns. The app can be accessed - at your own risk - from gammonsoft[dot]com.

by Anonymous on 28. March 2010 - 21:00  (46376)

I play the free vesrion of Jellyfish 3.5 32bit on my Vista Home Premium 64bit. No problem whatsoever. I've played the various free versions of Jellyfish since the 1990's on all of my windows OS's. Never a problem. No delay at startup, just a brief opening screen.

I've tried GNU Backgammon and my 3D worked fine. It's a classy program. But I keep going back to Jellyfish. GNU's eye candy did nothing for me and, as for ear candy, I do prefer the silent play.

Given my experience with Jellyfish 3.5, I'm surprised to see it hasn't installed well for some.

by Bob on 28. March 2010 - 21:09  (46377)

Thanks for this information which is very useful. The issues I mentioned are no doubt system related problems. I'll try (not immediately, I'm afraid) installing Jellyfish 3.5 and running GNU Backgammon in 3D on a laptop running XP. Yes, sound is a matter of personal taste, I guess. For me, backgammon is a real clickerty-clack game, and I miss that feel on Jellyfish. But that's just me... Anyway, I agree Jellyfish is a very rewarding program. Yes, the 30 sec start-up delay does disappear on free registration [though my jellyfish somehow unregistered itself].

by Bob on 15. March 2009 - 17:59  (17900)

- I think GNU Backgammon is a must for anyone interested in deepening their game. It's got some great features to explore. On my system it would only work properly in 2D... but that's fine by me. Perhaps not the most intuitive interface for beginners. A great program, none the less.

by Anonymous on 15. March 2009 - 15:21  (17891)

I have tried many of them and like Quick Backgammon the best:

http://www.geocities.com/geertsbg/

Jellyfish is a good portable.

by Bob on 15. March 2009 - 17:43  (17899)

- Yes, I like QuickBackgammon too.

- JellyFish is certainly a great name. But the lack of sound makes me feel like I'm playing underwater.

by peter34 (not verified) on 15. May 2012 - 18:01  (93502)

Don't know why no one talks about the fact that the program plays at high levels by cheating. Pure and simple. Cheats like crazy. Statistical protocols are way out of wack.

by Anonymous on 18. March 2009 - 3:12  (18070)

I installed QuickBackgammon on XP home edition (SP3). I had no problems.

I have been using v 3.01 of Jellyfish and it has no nags. I did have to add a code that they posted on their web site to register it. Evidently they made the program worse.

I haven’t tried 3DFiBs Backgammon. The ability to play others on-line looks interesting.

by Bob on 24. February 2009 - 9:05  (16707)

- For quick online games against a less invincible engine, try the Motif Java applet at:
http://www.bkgm.com/motif/go.html

Reviews coming soon

Bob

by peter on 24. February 2009 - 11:18  (16714)

There's also Jellyfish, which plays a very strong game:
http://www.jellyfish-backgammon.com/

by Anonymous on 24. February 2009 - 11:38  (16716)

Yes, thanks Peter - that's on the list too.