Wherever you go on the island of Cyprus you'll be greeted by the unmistakable tapping of black and white counters against wood - and when you do, it can mean only one thing - a game of Tavli is in progress! Tavli, or backgammon as it is known in many Western nations, is a board game with strong ties to Cyprus. Locals on the island have been playing versions of the game for centuries. Even the all-conquering Romans played a version of Tavli (called Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum) some 2000 years ago during their occupation of the island. These days Tavli has never been so popular, with Cypriots - both young and old - playing the game at pavement cafes and in the coffee houses all over the island.
Tavli differs a little from the Western version of backgammon. There is no doubling cube, and Gammons and Backgammons are scored the same. These differences apart, the game of Tavli takes on the same rules as the Western version. Two players at the board attempt to move their counters into their 'home board' from their initial starting positions using a pair of dice. Once a player's counters are in their home board, he/she can then draw the counters off with successive throws of the dice. The first one to draw all of their counters off their home board is the winner.
If you're sitting down at a Cypriot café enjoying a fine Cypriot coffee, you are almost bound to see players revelling in this Cypriot pastime. And if you show enough interest, you may even be invited over for a game or two!