We've reviewed the gamut of casual online games here at Jay is Games: everything from invertible, dual-overlay, monochromatic puzzle-platformers to 3d off-road dinosaur racing bonanzas. But sometimes you want something simpler. Sometimes you just want to play one of the world's oldest board games in your browser without any fancy plugins, addons, or other third-party paraphenalia. Good news! Developer Thomas Weibel has a simple but spiffy DHTML version of Backgammon that uses nothing but what God and Cupertino put in your browser on the day it was compiled.
The game assumes you are familiar with how to play backgammon, so novices might benefit from a quick tutorial (more complete instructions may be found here). You control the white stones. The object of the game is to move all your pieces from the top-left corner of the board clockwise to the bottom-left corner, and ultimately off the board entirely, while your opponent does the same in the opposite direction. Click on the dice to roll, click on a stone to select it, and again on a game space to move it. Each die result tells you how much you can move one piece, so if you roll a five and a three, you can move one piece five spaces, and another three spaces. Or, you can move a single piece three spaces, then five spaces (or five, then three). Rolling doubles means you can move four pieces, each a number of spaces equal to the value on the die. You can't move to spaces occupied by two or more of your opponent's pieces, and a piece that occupies a space without at least another ally is vulnerable to being captured. For these reasons it's important to try to keep two or more of your pieces on a space at any time. The strategy comes from attempting to block or capture your opponent's pieces while advancing your own quickly enough to clear the board first.
The game features all you need to play backgammon, and nothing more. The visual presentation is serviceable, but this being HTML, there's no music, no sound, no animation to sully its bare-bones approach. While some additional features, like in-game instructions, or a way of highlighting available moves, would be nice, the game doesn't really need anything more than what it offers. It's a solid bit of programming, with just the occasional hiccup or bug; and while it could just be that I'm a lousy backgammon player, in my pride I'd rather conclude that the opponent AI is pretty darn sharp. Overall, Thomas Weibel's Backgammon is fun, challenging, rock-steady, and doesn't suffer from its super-simple presentation.