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Snakes and ladders is a fun classic game that is easy to play for the whole family to enjoy. Make your way to the to of the game board towards victory, climbing ladders to help you, but beware of slippery snakes that will send you further from your goal!
1 snakes and ladders game board.
If you don't have one lying around, the board is easy to make. Take a square of paper or card and use a ruler to mark out a 10x10 grid. Number the squares from 1 to 100. Then use coloured pens or pencils to draw in your own ladders and snakes.
Game pieces, one for each player
Origins of snakes and ladders
Snakes and ladders originated in India as a group of dice board games. Popular in ancient India, Snakes and Ladders (or Moksha Patam) emphasised the role of karma and destiny in life with the idea that for every snake you encounter there is a ladder that may emerge and vice versa.
The original snakes and ladders game has been interpreted as being a tool for teaching the effects of good and bad deeds. Each ladder and snake originally represented a positive or negative virtue, including: Faith, Reliability, Generosity, Knowledge, and Asceticism, and Disobedience, Vanity, Vulgarity, Theft, Lying, Drunkenness, Debt, Rage, Greed, Pride, Murder, and Lust. The lesson being that, by doing good deeds, a person can reach salvation, while doing evil deeds will leave an person reborn to a lower form of life. Originally, there were fewer ladders than snakes to remind players that the path of good is harder to walk than a path of evil.
The original concept made its way to Victorian England in 1892 and was sold under the now classic name "Snakes and Ladders", which provided the basis for "Chutes and Ladders" in the US as pioneered by Milton Bradley in the 1940s.
A Game of Snakes and Ladders (gouache) on cloth, from 19th century India. Image courtesy of Wikipedia by Jain Miniature
The aim of the game
The goal of Snakes and Ladders is to be the first player to reach square 100.
How to play
Begin by having each player roll the dice to decide the order of turns. The player who rolls the highest number plays first, then the second highest and so on.
In the order of turns, each player then rolls the dice and moves their playing piece the number of spaces shown on the dice. Here, the yellow piece's player rolled a 3 so moved the yellow piece 3 spaces.
If a playing piece lands on a space with the bottom of a ladder in it, that piece climbs the ladder to a higher square. The only way to move on a ladder is up.
But, if a playing piece lands on the head of a snake, that piece slides down the snake to the lower square at the snake's tail. The only was to move on a snake is downwards.
Oh no! A snake
Sliding down to the snake's tail
The first player to navigate the snakes and ladders and reach square 100 wins!