The Backgammon Chouette is a social, multi-player form of backgammon and was mostly played socially when you would have a number of players conversing and playing against each other on the same table. Now days with the broad reach of the internet this form of backgammon can be played across different countries and various platforms. It can be a tremendous amount of fun, with lots of cube turns, players taking different points of view, getting to rotate and play as a team-mate of another player one game and against him the next. However, if it’s not done right, especially online, it can get boring quickly. This page will give you an outline of what a chouette is and how to play.
Basic Terms and Rules of a Chouette
One player – the “box” – plays against a team. One member of the team is the “Captain.” This all takes place on one board. The Captain has final say over all checker plays, although he can ask his team-mates for help in some situations. However, each player has his own doubling cube. He can double regardless of what his team-mates do, and he can take or drop if doubled on his own. A chouette is played just like a money game. There is no “match score” – you play one game, win or lose points, then go on to the next game. Positions change every game. In general, if the box wins, he stays as the box; if the Captain wins he becomes the box. Whether the Captain wins or loses, the next player in line becomes the Captain.
The scoring is just points won or lost. Each player has a running score, of plus or minus a certain number of points, or even. If you were playing for money, you would multiply this by the stakes, and that’s how many dollars ahead or behind you would be. Naturally, the sum of all the scores is always zero. Online chouettes can be somewhat awkward to run. There is no special software for chouettes. What is required is someone to run the chouette who understands a chouette, whom I call a monitor. The monitor keeps track of the position of all cubes, and tallies the running score. When a chouette gets large, it gets to be a lot of work.
Listed below is everyone’s responsibilities. From experience you should know that if everyone doesn’t follow these, it can really ruin things for everyone. A chouette can be an awful lot of fun. For the team, there is the opportunity to gang up on one helpless victim (the box), to consult on checker plays, to show how much smarter you are than the others by, say, dropping a double and losing one point when everyone else goes on to lose a doubled gammon – or by taking and winning two points when most of your teammates dropped and lost one. There is the excitement of being the box and winning or losing 5 or 10 or 20 points at a time.
Responsibilities When Playing a Chouette
When you are the Captain
- Turn on Board Notation so that you can understand the comments your team is making.
- If you want advice on a move, type the move in the chat box at the bottom of the screen before moving. You do not have to ask for advice, or to follow it. But it will be very frustrating to your teammates if you don’t ask their advice and then make foolish moves. It is generally considered good practice that, if you are a relatively weak player, to ask advice from the strong players, and if you are the strongest player on the team to just move. The bottom line is that your teammates will forgive you anything if you win, but if you lose and they think you did so foolishly, you won’t become very popular! Remember too that everyone else wants to be involved in the game. If you just keep moving without ever asking for advice, even on close plays, you’re taking your teammates out of the game.
- When you are in a position where anyone on the team might even be thinking of doubling, wait just a couple seconds before rolling. Give them the chance to say “double.” If anyone doubles, make sure to wait until the box has decided on all the cubes. But also, don’t wait forever to roll. If there has been any cube action, give the monitor a minute to record the results. Remember, he’s got a lot of paperwork to keep track of!
- Never use the “double” button on the board. If you want to double, say “double.” It will be very frustrating if the box reflexively drops and the game ends.
- A special situation arises if you drop but someone else on the team takes. Now, you are no longer allowed to participate in the game. In a real-life chouette, you would leave your seat and the person next in line to be Captain would take your place.
When you are the Box
- If you are doubled by one or more players, wait until everyone has had a chance to double. You might ask “anyone else?” You do not have to decide to take or drop until everyone has doubled who wants to. If you’re going to drop, then of course everyone will suddenly want to double!
- If you double, wait for everyone to decide to take or drop before rolling, and give the monitor time to record the results.
When you are the Team
- Pay Attention. It’s easy to lose interest in the game if you’re not an active participant, but you are very much a part of the game. One of the most frustrating things is when the box says “Double all” and one or two players on the team don’t respond and you’re waiting.
- Know the position of your cube. If you have doubled and the box has taken, don’t say “double.” You can’t double, and it will only slow the game down if the monitor has to tell you that you have already given your cube. (Of course, if you doubled to 2 and the box has redoubled to 4, you can now double to 8!) Likewise, if you doubled and the box dropped, you’ve already won this game. You’re out, you can’t win the same game twice!
For All Chouette Players
- Take the game seriously. If a player always doubles at the first opportunity, takes every double, and immediately redoubles. That kind of play takes away from the game, because this is supposed to be fun, but it’s supposed to be a test of skill. Pretend you’re playing for $10 a point! If that were the case, you’d play your best; you’d certainly pay attention even when you’re on the team. And if you were Captain and had money on the line, you’d try to get the better players to help you win. If you pretend you’re playing for real money, you’ll find you have more fun!
- Be patient. A real-life chouette goes almost as fast as a regular game, and when it slows down it's because people are discussing (or arguing!) over checker plays, which is part of the fun. Online, because the software doesn’t support chouettes, it can slow down a little. Try to be a little patient and keep focused on the game.
- If you have to leave, leave. There’s no requirement that you stay in a chouette for any particular period of time. If you’re losing interest, then just say that you’re leaving and leave. It’s best if you stay to the end of the current game, though.
Rules for Chouettes
- Jacoby Rule, backgammon beavers but no backgammon raccoons. explanations to these terms can be found in the glossary.
- Players on the team can consult only after their cube has been turned. This means that the Captain is free to play the opening in peace, while getting help once the game has advanced.
- If any player drops, the Captain may buy his cube. What that means is that the player who drops pays the Captain the undoubled value of the cube, rather than the box. The Captain is now playing with two (or three or four or five) cubes against the box.
- If all players but one drop, that player must either drop or he must buy all the other cubes. This prevents one player from holding up the game. However, in this case it works a little differently. The box still gets the point from all the cubes. However, each player on the team pays the remaining player one additional point, and they now join the box. If you are doubled and drop, you are saying that you would rather pay one point to get out of the game than play on with a 2-cube. So if someone said “I think it’s better to play on with a 2-cube than drop” you should be willing to say “OK, I will pay you one point to take that inferior side of the board and play it with a 2-cube.” This way, if one player wants to play on, everyone is still involved in the game.
- Settlements are allowed. Lets look at a very simple example. Suppose you are in a last-roll position. The cube is at 4, and you have one checker on your 5-point and one on your one-point; your opponent has one checker on his one-point. You have 23 rolls that win the game and 13 that lose. On average in 36 games you will win 92 points and lose 52, for a net average of (92-52) / 36, or about 1.1 points. You might say “I’ll take one point.” Anyone who wants can now pay you one point and the game ends for them. Settlements can be proposed by either side at any time.