It's the playing area -- get to know it!
The Darting environment consists of a couple of elements, which all center around the dartboard itself. The dartboard, the throwing area, and lighting are all important factors. They also differ between different darts styles.
Various practice boards are made. In steel-tip darts one common format is to reduce the thickness the trip and double rings to 1/2 size to make hitting them 2x as hard.
Other practice boards are similar, but can add bull (or smaller) targets in the center of each bed -- put a bull anywhere on the board -- to give you a specific target in each bed.
In some places these practice boards are referred to as Champion boards. Other times -- those things are even worse:
Champion boards have a smaller overall diameter than standard boards, as well as having smaller double and trip areas.
13" is a common size for bristle & electronic boards. The triple and double areas and the bull are also reduced size -- usually 1/2 regular size -- in these boards.
A regulation dartboard is divided into 20 numbered segments and a bullseye. Each of the segments and the bullseye are divided into different regions.
These regions are called the beds of a dartboard.
In written nomenclature you will often see prefixes of S for Single, D for Double and T for Trips/Triples when describing the segment to aim for. T20 == 60 points, etc. If you see a 25 or 50 it is a reference to a Bullseye, and D25 would be a Double Bull.
Looking at the dartboard in quadrants, the 4 quadrants contain the following segments (including the overlapped segments and the top/bottom/left/right):
The segments and beds of the dartboard are divided by a spider, metal or plastic dividers that isolate each bed from it's neighbors.
The problem with spiders is that they are a common source of bounce-outs, darts that bounce off the spiders and don't hit the board. In steel-tip darts, various anti-bounce-out designs of darts have been created to make sure the dart hits the board. If you are playing soft-tip boards, you're out of luck; you get to live with the bounce-outs.
Originally the spider was made from wires tied into the bristle board. On newer boards they can be triangular wires to help reduce bounce-outs. The newest technology are thin metal blades cut into the bristle board. These blades provide the smallest divider size, the most target-able area, and the least bounce-outs. The only downside is that board life is be reduced by all the fibers being cut into segments, instead of being in one massive block of fibers.
Soft-tip boards may or may not have spiders. Arachnid Galaxy boards have a large size spider which impacts the throwing area, causing bounce-outs. Valley Cougar boards have tiny spiders, just thin guides between the edges of adjacent segments. The segment edges themselves are tapered inward to help funnel darts hitting the guides between segments to slide into a hole.
The layout of the numbers on the dartboard alternates high value and low value targets. The highest value targets are surrounded by the lowest value. This is to promote accuracy in shooting -- the penalty for going for the high scores is balanced by missing to get a mediocre low score.
The more you risk (T20==60) the more you chance to lose (1, T1==3, 5, T5=15). In other words, 60:1 ratio (60.00) of best to worst scores. Whereas you go for a lower score (T14==42) the surrounding area isn't so bad (9, T9==27, 11, T11==33). In that case, a ratio of 42:9 or 14:3 (4.66). To compare, the ratio of the target values is 60:42 or 10:7 (1.42), a smaller ratio than the risk change between the two! It's quite the difference.
Looking at the risk to reward ratio mathematically, it appears that 16s are one of the surest shots on the board for points. T16 is 1/6 the risk of T20 in score differences, but has 4/5 of it's value!.
DartDog has a nice article explaining the history of numbering. Ivars Peterson also has an article about the numeric theory behind the numbering.
The important dimensions are from the Center of the Bull to the floor, and from the Face of the board to the toe (foul) line, measured along the floor. You can verify everything all right is by checking the distance along the diagonal from the center of the bull to the foul line.
In fencing it's called the Piste, the "piece" or "strip", which is where the fencers go at it.
In darts, the name isn't so grand; it's The Throwing Area. However, darts does have a cool name ... the Oche, which rhymes with Hockey. That's the name of the line. In pro tournaments it is done by placing a board on the floor at the limit of the throwing area, so you always can feel and know where the line is. In ordinary situations it is just a sticker on the floor, which the front of your foot can't be forward of it's front edge.
Similar to disc golf, your feet can land in front of the throwing line -- but only after your dart has hit the board! That is a legal shot, but if your foot hits first it's a foul.
The size of the target area depends upon the dartboard!
Here is some generic info for a normal 20 segment dartboard, which just goes into angles:
A dartboard is a circle with 20 segments. 360 degrees, 20 segments, 18 degrees per segment. Segments center lines bisect the vertical and horizontal axes of the dartboard. In other words each of the prime segment edges is 9 degrees segment from the horizontal & vertical -- 20s, 3s, 11s, 6s.
The crazy thing is that the target areas are different percentage sizes on soft-tip boards versus steel-tip boards. This size change means you need to use a different strategy shooting soft-tip versus steel-tip darts.
I'm still putting it together, but I hope to have a nice comparison of the two after I get the soft-tip dartboard size chart done.
The following dimensions are for a traditional steel-tip board:
In reality the BDO defines board sizes in millimeters and I converted the BDO sizes to inches for convenience.
How large are the target areas?
Here is a ratio comparison of the target areas:
One thing to be aware of is that more expensive bristle boards have thinner dividing rings between the beds of the dartboard.... but the dartboard stays the same size. This means there are larger beds on a more expensive board with blade dividers (such as a Nodor or a Winmau) than there are on a traditional board with wire dividers. It also means that bounce-outs are less likely to occur, because the divider or spider area is smaller and lower profile.
Darts 501 has a nice article on the various types of bristle-board construction, including a shootout between board spider designs.
There are two considerations of size when looking at an electronic dartboard.
Sure, I could look at the area, like I did above for steel-tip boards. The problem is that area doesn't matter as much, in my opinion. What does matter a lot more is the number of holes in each bed. Your dart tip needs to end up in a hole to land in the board, and there are only so many of them.
Another important consideration in an electronic board is the size of the spider, the area that exists between each bed of the dartboard. The spider is non-scoring and will cause bounce-outs. Unlike the spider on a steel-tip board, and the various darts that prevent bounce-outs -- there is so solution for that on an soft-tip board :-(