Backgammon's Back ... and on Holiday Wish Lists
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes the most luxurious designs start with the most basic of premises.
By Shannon Sims
Hollywood’s top personal shopper, Nicole Pollard, tells OZY what high-high-high-end clients are requesting for the holidays.
Backgammon. What thoughts come to mind? Old people. Oversize sweaters. The bottom row of the game closet. Mothballs. Well, it’s time to dust off your ideas about this old-timey two-player game, because this holiday season, backgammon is back. And according to Hollywood’s top personal shopper, Nicole Pollard, it’s making a bright new appearance on the holiday wish lists of the elite.
It’s a game with global appeal, and no language. In my memories of dark and dusty Turkish teahouses, there was always a clattering sound in the background, the telltale sign of a backgammon spot. Across the Middle East, backgammon remains popular — it’s played on plastic tables along sidewalks in Cairo, among other places — but these days you can even see it played on top of the checkerboard tables in Washington Square Park. And thanks to a 1982 Oregon court case, backgammon is on the up-and-up: When a backgammon-tournament director was accused of promoting gambling, the court determined that backgammon was not a “game of chance” but a “game of skill.”
The price tag for these sigh-worthy games is “upon request.”
Which may be why the most skilled (and wealthy) gift givers are stepping it up a notch with a new generation of backgammon boards that are anything but boring. What’s on the ultimate high-end wish lists this season? Bespoke backgammon — especially sets by British designer Alexandra Llewellyn. These are not your grandpa’s boards. Her eight richly detailed designs, featuring everything from peacocks to pomegranates, are all made from sustainable wood, and the playing pieces are crafted from veiny, semiprecious stones bound in rounded brass that look “like individual pieces of jewelry,” Pollard says. The sets are total showpieces, meant to be on display whether the game’s being played or not. Which is why the price tag for these sigh-worthy games is “upon request.” We requested: The cost came in at a cool $5,500.
For those of us who aren’t flush with cash, Pollard suggests another fine heritage set: Jonathan Adler’s lacquer backgammon game, in bright turquoise and reds, is “an investment that will set you up for decades of stylish fun at a fraction of the cost.” That fraction being $400.
But don’t despair if you haven’t got hundreds to spend on a board game. We hunted around on eBay for “vintage backgammon set” and found loads of options, including a blue-suede set that fold ups and snaps like a suitcase ($15) and handmade, map-laced sets that come with their own vintage desks ($100). Proof that a classy gift, at once a throwback and ageless, can be found at any price this holiday season.