Backgammon is the oldest game in the world. Archaeologists found sets when they excavated the ruins of ancient Mesopotamia. Five thousand years old. That’s older than Jesus Christ… Their dice were made of bones. Two players, two sides. One is light, one is dark.
Yes we quoted John Locke from TV’s Lost. We love Backgammon though, it really is a fantastic game of strategy that utilizes the chaos of the dice into that strategy, rather than relying on it for luck. It feels though, that in the modern age, it has lost out more than some of the other classic games like Chess.
We don’t mean that in the “back in my day we had games like Backgammon, you had to interact with someone in a battle of the mind, you kids theses days just shoot each other” way. But there does seem to be a lack of focus on what are some of the greatest games, digital or otherwise there have ever been.
The main reason for this, is that classic board games need people who share the same interest to find time to be together in the same room. However, of late there have been ways to bring these games back, digitally. Pure Chess did a great job of just taking the game of Chess and allowing people to play as the game was intended. The same is true for the most part with Backgammon Blitz.
The game is split into two main versions, classic and Blitz. The classic mode is pure Backgammon, nothing more nothing less. If you like Backgammon, then you will love this, it is a perfect recreation of a classic game. It doesn’t want to be anything different at all.
Blitz mode tries to change things up a bit. Seemingly trying to make the game seem cool to a new crowd. The core game is the basically the same, the rules are the same, but it throws powerups into the mix. These will range from stopping the opponent taking one of your pieces, to swapping pieces on the board. This is supposedly meant to switch any particular battle on its head in an instance. It can be an interesting change for a bit, but it is something that really isn’t needed.
What this does is changes the strategic aspect of the game too far. The main reason for this, is the introduction of Blitz Bullion, which is an ingame currency that is needed to use the various powerups. Now this is less of an issue during offline play, but online it can be somewhat of a pain, as the player with the bigger bank can use the better powerups, which destroys the level playing field that is vital to a game like this.
Before getting further into online play, we must pick up a bit on the Blitz Bullion. There are micro-transactions and at first we were suspect that this would mean that you are forced into paying to play after a certain point. However this isn’t the case thankfully, the classic mode is completely free of any of the currency mechanic. It is something that only affects the Blitz mode.
Again, despite the bullion being something central to this mode, you earn this throughout each game, for making good moves, taking opponents pieces, getting your pieces home, any number of things. In one offline game we earned over 500 in bullion, which would allow you to use a number of powerups. The ability to purchase bullion though is what causes the imbalance online at times, but it is only a minimal effect and after a while you will have a decent balance with no extra money being paid.
Anyway, enough about that. Whilst playing Backgammon against the AI is fun and challenging, it is a game you really want to play against other human opponents. The PS4 and PS Vita versions aren’t cross-buy, but they are cross-play, which opens up the chances of finding an opponent online.
You can play against either friends, or find a random partner via the leaderboards. It uses a play-by-mail style format, where one person will take their go, send the data and wait for their opponent to take theirs. It works really well for the most part and allows you to have many games on the go at once.
Games can last days, but it is always nice to turn the game on, see you have a few moves to make, across a number of games. However it would be nice to have the ability to play live against someone, but it could be worse. Added to the online play is local multiplayer, which whilst seeming like a small addition, is something not to be overlooked.
On the PS4 you can use two controllers, but it hasn’t been forgotten on the Vita either, allowing you to play two player using the hot potato method. Added to all of that, you can play using remote play with one on the Vita whilst the other uses the PS4 controller. It makes the game accessible from all angles.
The only shame with regards to this though, is that it isn’t cross-save, meaning you can’t jump between each depending on your situation. You start a game on the PS4 and you are stuck playing that game on the PS4, no jumping to the Vita to carry on whilst on the move. It feels a missed opportunity, but not one that ruins everything.
Whilst Backgammon Blitz isn’t going to all of sudden bring the masses flooding to the game, it is a very faithful recreation and one that anyone with an interest in Backgammon will get plenty of joy from. If it can reach a new audience, then all the better.