Introduction to the Game of Trictrac

by David Levy
updated May 10, 1998

Le Grand Trictrac was published anonymously in 1738. A second edition of 1756 lists the author as "M. l'Abbe S***," correspondent of the Royal Academies of Science in Paris and Toulouse. Secondary sources name the author as Father Bernard Laurent Soumille.

The subtitle of Le Grand Trictrac is "an easy way to learn the game, terms and rules without an instructor." Soumille teaches the game by showing several games move by move, explaining the rules, strategy and terms as they arise in the course of the game.

I have transcribed a complete set of rules but you can learn the basics by playing through the game below. As you will see, the mechanics of trictrac are similar to backgammon. Players alternate rolling the dice and move checkers a number of points corresonding to the pips on the dice. One difference is that the player claims points as a result of the throw before moving checkers. Another is that doubles are played twice, rather than four times as in backgammon. The first game is a simple variant of trictrac (jeu ordinaire) in which each player plays only on his half of the board.

The game begins with checkers arranged below. It is between Cloris, a lady and Damon, a gentleman.

Figure 000 Cloris plays with the black checkers and Damon the white. Each player places fifteen checkers on the talon (first point). The first six points make up the petit jan (inner table) and seven through twelve make up the grand jan (outer table). The twelfth point (midpoint) is know as the coin de repos (literally "resting corner"). As you will see, there are rules governing the movement of checkers to and from thecoin de repos.

Trictrac consists of twelve games of twelve points. Points are scored for various plays and positions, known as jans. Most trictrac primers begin with a list of all the jans and the number of points they score. Some of the jans are so rare that starting with them gets in the way of learning the game. It would be like starting to learn bridge by memorizing the scoring table.

The most frequent scoring play is to roll a number which allows you to hit an opponent's single checker (demi-case, or blot in backgammon). The play is known as battre sur un demi-case or jan de recompense. I will describe details, examples and other scoring plays as required in the first game.

And now, click here to begin.


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