PlayGem Social Backgammon is a new Facebook game from PlayGem, the company behind social and real-money backgammon platform Play65.com. The new version brings the game of Backgammon to Facebook, though currently without Play65’s real-money gambling aspect — all stakes in the game are strictly on a virtual currency basis.
Upon starting PlayGem Social Backgammon, players are presented with a menu of options with which they can customize their experience. They may choose a board style on which to play — some of which must be unlocked using soft currency either won through playing or acquired via in-app purchase — and adjust the stakes between three levels. “Beginner” stakes starts at 100 chips per game. “High Roller” stakes start at 10,000. “VIP” stakes start at 250,000. Players are given a small allowance of chips to begin with, though this is only enough to play a Beginner game. Additional bonuses are provided every 12 hours, and players may either purchase more chips or earn them through an offer wall.
Once the player has chosen a board and stakes, clicking “Play Now” takes them to the game table, at which point the game begins. For those unfamiliar with the game of backgammon, it is a game of both luck and skill in which players must roll dice and use the values attained to move their checkers along a board in an attempt to “bear them off” their opponent’s side of the play area. Two dice are rolled, but the values are not totalled; instead, the player may move two pieces (or one piece twice) to an unopposed space — alternatively, if their opponent only has a single checker in a given space, they may capture it, sending it to the middle of the board and forcing their opponent’s next move to be to bear it back on. If a player has no valid moves at any point, they miss their turn; consequently, there is a lot of strategy involved in “blocking” opponents’ moves and trying to ensure this happens as often as possible.
At any point during the game, players may offer to double the stakes of the game. If their opponent accepts, the game continues; if they refuse, they forfeit the game. The current value of the stakes is marked both on screen as a value in chips and also as it is in the physical board game, using a “doubling cube.” This dice-like object has powers of 2 marked on each of its sides, and each time the stakes are doubled it is set to the appropriate value and passed to the opponent, who may then double the stakes again whenever they wish.
PlayGem Social Backgammon is a relatively “no-frills” experience, concentrating almost entirely on the game and efficient play thereof. Players are given 45 seconds to take their turn, and there is no chat facility to distract from the action. There is also no facility for asynchronous play, meaning that players must sit down and play a complete game in a single sitting — since games of backgammon are relatively short, however, this isn’t normally too much of an issue. There is a light metagame in that players earn experience through play and may use their winnings to unlock new boards, but aside from that, this is a very “pure” backgammon experience that is sure to appeal to competitive fans of the physical board game. The only real criticism I can make of the app itself is that it lacks a tutorial or help screen explaining how to play Backgammon for those unfamiliar — it would be good to have this as an option for those who have never played before or those who need a refresher on the rules, but it is also good that veterans can jump right in and start playing immediately.
On the whole, PlayGem Social Backgammon is an excellent adaptation of a classic board game. With the developers’ background in developing a successful, social, real-money platform on which to play with, it looks set to enjoy some success on Facebook. While the challenging, skill-based gameplay of backgammon may not attain quite as vast an audience as something more universally appealing like a sim or puzzle game, the solid implementation of the game’s rules provided by PlayGem Social Backgammon means that it’s likely to retain a good core of dedicated players over time.
PlayGem Social Backgammon currently occupies the 100,000+ MAU tier with a rank of 2,222, and the 10,000+ DAU tier with a rank of 1,629. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.
A very good social implementation of backgammon.