Aggro Me: Backgammon
I realize this post might not interest more than a handful of people. But I've been testing out a variety of backgammon software for the past few months, so you're going to hear about it whether you like it or not.
I started by heading over to Download.com and trying various demos. Most of them had more than adequate graphics and sound and a decent interface. But, in the end, I didn't find the computer to be a particularly strong opponent in any of those programs. It's fun to play a quick game and win a decent amount. But sometimes I want to focus on really improving my game by playing a world class level opponent. Even if that means losing the majority of the time.
So I checked out Jellyfish and Snowie, two famed neural net backgammon programs. But I ran into a hurdle there quite quickly. The full version of Snowie costs $380 and JellyFish is $220. Wow. No way I'm spending that kind of money.
But a little research uncovered an option that's quite a bit cheaper. And by cheaper I mean free. I'm referring to GNU Backgammon. It's open source and available for Windows, Linux and Mac. From what I can gather, Gnu Backgammon is just as good in terms of pure backgammon strength as any program out there, including the more expensive options mentioned above.
I don't care much for the graphics or sound effects. And the options, while copious, are confusing and not user friendly. But Gnu plays a great game. And you can learn a lot by clicking the hint button, which shows you a chart of your possible moves in recommended order. Make sure you set the evaluation options to look ahead two plies.Gnu Backgammon is not a polished, commercial piece of software. But it's a beautiful thing.