To quote from the guide to events:
Backgammon is a board game for two players. Each player has fifteen pieces that they move between twenty-four points or triangles, according to the roll of the dice. The objective is to be the first to move all fifteen pieces off the board. It is a fast paced game that challenges the skills of the players.
Backgammon may well be one of the oldest recorded games. It is believed to have originated in ancient Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) and archeological evidence of this or very similar games dating to 3000 B.C. have been found in Iran and Egypt.
Today, backgammon is still played widely in the Middle East and traditionally men play in coffee houses. Recently, there has been a move to play backgammon over the internet, the antithesis of the social context of the coffeehouse. Variants of backgammon are, however, popular with young and old all over the world.
Woody's Oasis in East Lansing is one context where friends gather on a regular basis to play backgammon and to visit. They call the game shesh besh (meaning six (shesh in Persian) and five (besh) throw of dice); tawli (table) is another name for the game. A distinctive feature of the game played by people from the Arab world is to call the throw of the dice in Persian, rather than in Arabic.
--Yvonne Lockwood, fieldworker