Backgammon is of my favorite board games. I’ve been playing it since I was a teenager, and its unique combination of luck and skill means that games are always interesting. Unlike a game such as go or chess, the chance dice rolls mean that even when behind, you can win (or lose) suddenly.
I’ve tried lots of backgammon apps for iOS, and I’ve ended up using just one: the $8 Backgammon NJ HD. I wrote about this app, and another, at Macworld, about a year and a half ago, and changes to Backgammon NJ HD have made it much better, making it my only choice.
There is now only one universal app, instead of a separate app for iPhone and iPad. Not only do you no longer need to buy two versions, if you have an iPhone and iPad, but you also can play more people. Game Center considers a different app to be, well, different. So having two apps split the player pool. In my Macworld review, I wrote:
With two different versions, Backgammon NJ suffers because if you have the iPhone version, you can’t play owners of the iPad app; each one is considered to be a different game. So if you have two iOS devices, you may want to buy both versions, depending on when and where you play.
This is no longer the case. In addition, your ELO ranking is the same whether you play on a phone or tablet. The developer told me that there are 700-800 people playing this app daily, and I don’t often wait more than a minute or two to get a game using Game Center.
The latest version of the app also includes turn-based playing. You can start a game with someone, and play a turn at a time, at your own speed, instead of playing in real time. I don’t particularly like this, but if you want to play that way – if you don’t have time to play full games during the day – it’s good to have.
Backgammon NJ HD has a very attractive interface; one of the nicest.
You have a choice of boards – wood, marble or felt – and there are numerous settings to allow you to customize gameplay. If you play against the app, you can choose a skill level: easy, medium, hard or expert. I’m currently playing at the hard level, whereas I was at medium when I reviewed the app for Macworld.
Part of the reason I’ve gotten better is that Backgammon NJ HD has features that help you improve your game. You can get hints whenever you’re not sure what the best move is, and the Hint button lights up with a blue border when you’ve made a move that the app considers incorrect. The same is true for doubling; the doubling cube displays a blue border when it thinks you should double, and when the app doubles, will recommend whether or not you should accept.
So, to play backgammon, and to improve your game, Backgammon NJ HD is the perfect app. You get the opportunity to play people online, and you get to play one of the strongest apps, with excellent tutoring features. What more would you want?
Note: many of the reviews of this app suggest that it cheats. There were so many that the developer, Jimmy Hu, posted this article explaining how dice rolls are made.