Backgammon NJ

REVIEWS:
  • "Backgammon NJ plays at an extremely high level with an excellent interface, and I often use it to practice on my iPhone when I am traveling. I recommend it highly to my students and friends."

    -Phil Simborg, Professional Backgammon Teacher and Player, www.mindgamescenter.com


  • "Third review: My evidence that it is not cheating is simple. As one of the world's top players, I am able to beat this program over the long run on Expert more often than I lose. A cheating program would not be tricked by my strong play if it knew the dice that were coming and used that info to its advantage. Analyzing these matches with eXtreme Gammon confirms a world class level of play with normal luck factors. If you are losing, get over it. So would 99.9% of the other backgammon players in the world. It is just that good. Learn from it.

    Second review: I just can't help but shake my head at all of the reviews that claim cheating. People have made these claims about every Neural Net based backgammon program created for the past 15 years. Anyone who really has a clue knows that the worlds strongest players are computer programs and learn from them. This app is not quite at that level but is still very strong. Since updating to v1.4 I have played 44 7-point matches at the strongest level and have won 30 of them. I've gotten lucky for sure. As a World Class level player I expect to win the majority of matches against this app but this is yet another example of the extreme volatility of dice that people don't seem to understand.

    First review: I am a Giant of Backgammon and know strong bg play when I see it. This app is the strongest iPhone bg app I've played with by far. It does not cheat period. As an evaluation I played 20 7- point matches on Expert totaling over 100 games. I won 11 matches and lost 9. I won the majority of games and points. So the app can be beat in the long run - if you play very well. Stop complaining about the dice and learn and improve and like magic, you'll start getting "lucky" too."


    -Richard Munitz, Giant of Backgammon, #21 world ranking in 2009


  • "The people who rate this app 1 star are very weak BG players. I am a physician, real name David Winn, and have been playing backgammon since 1975. I do not work for this company and I do not know the programmer. I identify myself since some claim the positive reviews are from employees or shills of this company. I came in 2nd in consolation in the 1979 World championships in Monte Carlo. My highest Snowie rating was 1982, currently my rating is 1946 (it fluctuates up and down within 30 or so points). I am certainly an expert and arguably just under World Class. This app does not cheat. At expert it is probably around a 1950 Snowie rating. Snowie professional is a $350 program and Backgammon NJ plays just below it. In one game, NJ hit twice in it's inner board leaving two exposed blots - a play most novices would consider foolish. It was, in fact, the best move of the available choices and it demonstrated that this BG program is a true neural net (artificial intelligence) based application. The players giving the low reviews lack the intelligence, artificial or otherwise to judge this product."

    -David Winn


  • "For serious backgammon players, Backgammon NJ is the way to go."  More

    -Kirk McElhearn, Macworld.com, May 2012

HOW TO PROVE THE GAME IS HONEST:

Before you buy, read about the following features available in the app that you can use to prove to yourself that the game is honest and think long and hard about whether you understand and agree with the proofs.
  1. Print out the dice rolls that Backgammon NJ will use before you start a game or match. That way, when you get to a certain point in the game, and you think, "Hey, the AI just rolled another incredibly favorable roll for itself!", you can check your printout (that was generated before you started your game) and see that the roll was already determined before the game started, when the AI knew nothing about the current state of the game. To print out dice rolls, click here.

  2. The AI does not cheat by looking at upcoming dice rolls. To prove this to yourself, follow these steps.

  3. Enter manual dice rolls. That is, roll real dice and enter those rolls into Backgammon NJ instead of letting the AI roll for you. To do a thorough test, make sure to play several complete 15 point matches. You'll find that there's no difference in your chance of winning or losing a match if you enter manual dice rolls instead of letting the AI generate random rolls.

    NOTE: In order to get the most accurate results, make sure to turn off all hints/tutoring features, as these features can help you play better than your actual skill level. Do the following: 1) Turn off these options: "Display Equity/Meter", "Display Hint Button", "Automatic Bearoff", "Cube Tutor Mode", and 2) Don't look at "Match Info" or view "Statistics" when you play.

  4. Swap rolls with the computer. Since the game saves match files for all your matches, after you complete a game or match where you think the computer got lucky, save out the match file (under Advanced Options: Match Files) and view it with a text editor. Then, using the RNG seed and roll numbers listed in the match file, use the info to replay the exact same game, except this time, swap rolls with the computer so that you get all of the computer's rolls. Try this and see how well you do using all the computer's rolls. For the best indication of the computer's skill, perform this test on Expert level, where the computer plays at full strength. You'll find that in most cases, the computer will still win using your rolls, the ones that you thought were unlucky.

    NOTE: In order to get the most accurate results, make sure to turn off all hints/tutoring features, as these features can help you play better than your actual skill level. Do the following: 1) Turn off these options: "Display Equity/Meter", "Display Hint Button", "Automatic Bearoff", "Cube Tutor Mode", and 2) Don't look at "Match Info", view "Statistics", or use "Auto Finish" when you play.
If you don't understand and agree with the proofs above, then don't buy the app. We want you to be happy. We're not trying to trick you into buying the app. Our goal is to provide a high quality, world-class level app to users who can appreciate its strength and want to use it to improve their game. If you don't understand the proofs, then don't buy and save your money. There are many other backgammon apps on the app store that you can try, many of them with much easier AIs, and it's very likely that one of them will suit your needs.

OUR RESPONSES TO FALSE APP STORE REVIEWS:

Read our detailed responses to false reviews on the App Store here.

IMPORTANT:

Most backgammon players are not expert players, even though many think they are. They greatly overestimate their own playing skill and are the ones who write scathing reviews falsely accusing various backgammon programs of cheating. If they claim to play at a skill level that can accurately judge how well Backgammon NJ on Expert level is playing, that means that they're claiming to be one of the top players in the world, which obviously isn't the case. Instead of listening to these people, draw your own conclusions by using the proofs we've provided above. If you don't understand and agree with the proofs, then don't buy the app. There's no risk to you.

Backgammon NJ absolutely does not cheat. Try playing other top backgammon games such as GNU Backgammon or Snowie. When set at the hardest skill level, these games play better than almost all human players. If you are not one of the top-ranked backgammon players in the world, then it will be difficult for you to win on a regular basis against Backgammon NJ on the Expert skill level.

Try playing the Easy, Medium, or Hard skill level. You'll have a better chance of winning, and you can work on improving your game. Expert level plays better than almost all backgammon players, will beat you more often than not, and may be frustrating for some.

It may seem to you as if Backgammon NJ is getting the rolls it needs. Sometimes it can get lucky, as any player can. But often, what appears as luck is actually playing skill. The neural network-based AI has evaluated millions of backgammon positions and can make extremely educated moves in almost every situation. It puts itself in positions that maximize the number of useful rolls for itself and minimize the number of useful rolls for its opponent. Unless you're a top backgammon player or have evaluated millions of positions like the AI, you can't expect to play as well as the AI on Expert skill level.

Backgammon is primarily a game of skill, but there's also a component of luck added by dice. There will always be a lucky set of rolls that can cause your opponent to win, even if you play perfectly. The same holds true for you. If you're honest with yourself and don't automatically attribute all your wins to skill, you'll notice lucky sets of rolls that cause you to win when you normally wouldn't have. However, advanced players know that what matters is their Error Rate and Checker Play Skill Percentage. Advanced players work to improve their moves and lower the number of errors they make instead of focusing on win/loss. If you change how you approach the game and work to lower your Error Rate and increase your Checker Play Skill Percentage instead of focusing on win/loss, you'll find that over time, your game will improve, and as a result, you'll win more.

Because of the high skill level that Backgammon NJ plays at, what it does really well is that it knows how well you're playing at any given point. If you make a bad move, it knows. Using Hints and Tutor Mode, it can show you how to make better moves and greatly improve your game. Many iOS and Android backgammon games have no idea if one move you make is better than any other.

We took great pains to develop a well thought out game with a strong AI that doesn't cheat. If Backgammon NJ isn't right for you, please do try other backgammon games.

If you do buy this game because you're looking for a worthy opponent that can improve your game coupled with a great user interface, we thank you very much for your support!

ABOUT APP STORE REVIEWS:

Backgammon NJ is one of the first portable neural net backgammon bots widely available to the general public for a nominal price. Before this, desktop neural net bg bots were available for prices ranging from $50-$350, which meant that they were used mainly by expert players. As a result, there are many players who are now facing a neural net bg bot for the first time in Backgammon NJ. They've never played against a world-class level opponent before, don't realize that neural net bg bots are exponentially stronger than other opponents they've played before, haven't studied advanced backgammon concepts, and don't have the technical knowledge required to understand how neural net bg bots work or the proofs we've given showing that our app is honest (see above). This leads to false complaints by players with limited exposure to backgammon who think that they're experts when they're not. Combine this with the fact that the app store review system is anonymous and ripe for abuse, allowing a small percentage of users to constantly bump false reviews to the top, and you have an environment that's not conducive to app development. If you pay close attention, you'll see the same users bumping false reviews over and over.

Read our detailed responses to the false reviews here.

If you have never played a top backgammon desktop program, we recommend that you try GNU Backgammon. Not only does it play at world-class levels, it is free and open source. Thus, you can look at its source code to see exactly how it works. If you play GNU Backgammon, you'll get a good idea of the type of opponent that you will face with Backgammon NJ.

We also believe that a number of the false and malicious reviews are posted by our competitors. This is a problem well known to honest developers but probably lesser known to the average App Store buyer. It is very easy for a competitor to buy an app for a nominal amount (as most apps are relatively inexpensive) and post false reviews with the intent of decreasing a competing app's sales and increasing their own sales.

We have not stooped to this level and never will. Not only are we honest, but we firmly believe that the quality of our app will stand on its own, without having to falsely disparage other apps.

If you are one of the people who has written a disparaging review of Backgammon NJ, and you believe firmly in what you are saying, we invite you to post on the BGonline.org forum. This is a forum frequented by experienced backgammon players where we also participate on occasion. If you think the AI isn't playing well, is cheating, or is doing something it shouldn't, post your Backgammon NJ match files and present your case in detail on the forum for critique. We have a sneaking suspicion that we won't be seeing any of these people posting on the forum...

If you are considering buying Backgammon NJ, please take any reviews you read on the App Store with a grain of salt, not only for our app but for other apps too. As it is, the App Store review system is quite lacking, and it's up to you to judge if you think the reviewer is an experienced backgammon player, has a good grasp of what the app does, how it functions, whether they're being honest, if they have ulterior motives, etc.

Phew! ...if you made it to the end of this, thanks for your time! We appreciate your interest in Backgammon NJ.

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