Forum Archive : Variations

Tavli (Portes, Plakoto, and Fevga)

From:   Jens Larsen
Date:   25 July 1997
Subject:   Tavli rules - Backgammon the Greek way
Google:   5rac4d$as5$

Tavli rules - Backgammon the Greek way

After spending some time on the net trying to find the rules of Tavli
before a holiday trip to Crete, Greece, I gave up and posted a REQ: in
news. Lots of people wrote telling me how they too had tried to find the
rules fruitlessly. No reply, but life sure has some strange ways. I was
playing BG in front of our house the other day when my neighbour came by
and asked if he could join. He's from Greece.

This is an *attempt* to describe the rules of Tavli. I have just learned
them from my greek neighbour, so be advised to verify them before betting
your house and car.

// Jens Larsen, Sweden, (GamesGridID: JensLarsen), <>

Version: 1.0    Version for spellchecking and verification of rules only.
         1.1    Minor corrections. Added some special rules.

Thanks to:
Tassos Karamouzis, (the neighbour), <>
Alexandros A. Chatzipetros, (FIBS login: alexandros),

'Tavli' is the Greek word for the three games, as well as for 'board'.

In Greece the backgammon board is used to play three different games. The
games are played one after another up to usually 7 points.

The three games are:

1. 'Portes'    (regular BG with some minor difference).
2. 'Plakoto'   (a variation where when a piece is 'hit', it cannot be moved
                unless the piece that hit it moves away).
3. 'Fevga'     (a variation where the purpose is to block as many free
                spaces as possible - even one piece can block a space).

The players use only one pair of dice and your move is considered done when
you moved your second piece. This takes some time to get used to. A
stricter and more correct rule is that once you moved a piece it has to
stay moved, unless it's an unlegal movement. Messing with the pieces will
most certantly annoy your greek opponent.

There is no cube, so basically one plays 1p games. Gammon *and* Backgammon
both pays 2p.

In all of the games normal dice and movement rules applies. To determine
who is to start both player roll one dice each. The player who rolled the
highest number picks up the dice and rolls again starting the game. i.e the
player does not use the initially rolled numbers. This is only done the
very first game, later on the winner of the previous game starts the next.

The dice are correctly rolled if they stay within the board. It doesn't
matter if a dice jump over the bar or land on a piece just as long as it
lands 'flat' and there is no question about what number it shows.

In my humble opinion the other two games are not as interesting as regular
backgammon because one can't hit (and thereby send the man back). This
makes it very hard for the non-favorite player to save and turn a losing
game. However, the games contain a lot of strategy and are fun complements
to regular backgammon. And most importantly: If you are going to Greece,
bring a board.

  | Opponents home   |   | Opp. outer board |
  |                  |   |                  |
  |                  |   |                  |
  |                  |   |                  |
  |                  |   |                  |
  |                  |   |                  |
  |                  |   |                  |
  |                  |   |                  |
  |                  |   |                  |
  |                  |   |                  |
  | Your home board  |   | Your outer board |

(please use fixed font to view the board if it looks strange)

I'll use this figure and board definitions to identify pips and places
on the board. These references are static so you will (hopefully) find it
easier to visualise things while reading the rules.

The word 'Portes' means 'door' or 'doorway'.

This game is played like regular backgammon with the exceptions:

1. It is possible to start with a double (see above).
2. No cube.
3. Backgammon pays only 2p.

There is an special rule which is considerd oldfasion. It states:
- When hiting your opponent in your home board you may not move on with
that piece.  e.i no hit-and-run in your home board. It is legal to cover
it. (making a point is called 'making a Portes').
Example: Early in the game you roll 31, your opponent has a blot on your
five point.  8/5* 6/5 is legal but 8/5*/4 is not.
Check with your opponent if the rule apply. Most often it don't.

The name means 'covered' or 'being hit on'.

You start with all your pieces on pip 1 in your home board. You play
counter-clock-wise towards your opponent's homeboard.
Your opponent place all his on pip 24 and play clock-wise towards your
home board.  (Usually you place only two pieces on your starting pip and
hold the rest in your hand or have them on the table, where they are left
from the previous game.)

The winner of the last game starts. Regular rules for the dice and movement
are applied. The goal is to move all your pieces to your opponent's home
board and then bear-off like in regular backgammon.

A piece can not be hit, but if it is alone on a pip the other player may
place one piece *on-top* of yours. You are not allowed to move that piece
until your opponent moves away. You may not place another piece there
(on-top of his, that is).  Your opponent has locked your piece and blocked
the pip and may place as many pieces as he wants there.
Two or more pieces on the same pip is safe and can not be blocked.

Special rule: If you leave a blot on pip 1 (opp. pip 24) and your opponent
blocks it you loose immediatly and your opponent scores 2 p.

Gammon and Backgammon pays 2 points.

It is a very good idea to block your opponent before he escapes his home
board.  That way *you* can start to bear off and your opponent has to wait
until you move away and 'release' his piece. This usually gives you a so
strong lead that you gammon your opponent.
Building a candlestick on the locked piece is a smart thing to do.

Means 'walk!' in an expressive sort of way.

This game seams somewhat strange in the beginning. Both players moves the
same way! However, in some sense, Fevga reminds more of backgammon than
Plakoto. Blocking, priming and keeping your men communicating is essential.

You start with all your pieces on pip 1 in your home board. You play
counter-clock-wise towards your opponent's home board.
This is same as in Plakoto for you, but your opponent starts at pip 13 and
moves counter-clock-wise (just like you!) towards your outer board.

The goal is to move all your pieces to your opponent's home board and then
bear-off like in regular backgammon.

The winner of the previous game starts.
A special rule applies for moving the first piece. You must move your first
piece until in lands on your opponents outer board. Your opponent must also
move his first piece until it lands in your home board.

When this movement is done the player may move freely, either continue with
that piece or start to move another.

Pieces can not be hit.
One piece blocks a pip (like two in BG).
You *must* leave at least one free pip in your home board. Likewise, your
opponent must also leave at least one pip open in his outer board.

Blocking as many pips as possible is good, but try to establish several
points in your opponent's outer board so you can transport your pieces to
his outer board. (were they are ready to bear-off)
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

Do you have any comments you'd like to add?     



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