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Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and ladders is a classic children's board game played between 2 or more players on a playing board with numbered grid squares. On certain squares on the grid are drawn a number of "ladders" connecting two squares together, and a number of "snakes" also connecting squares together. The size of the grid (most commonly 8×8, 10×10 or 12×12) varies from board to board, as does the exact arrangement of the snakes and the ladders: both of these may affect the duration of game play.

Snakes and ladders' simplicity and the see-sawing nature of the contest make it popular with younger children, but the lack of any skill component in the game generally makes it less appealing for older players. However, it is an ideal game for a lazy afternoon, irrespective of age, when you just want to have some fun.


The Western form of this game was invented in late Victorian England circa the 1890s, and apparently adapted from the ancient Indian game "dasapada", dating back to the 2nd century B.C. It should be noted that some game historians dispute this claim.

The term "Dasapada" is a Sanskrit term and actually refers to a 10×10 square gaming board and in chess is related to a variant of the standard chess game. However, it is difficult to ascertain with any certainty, what connection (if any) modern "Snakes and Ladders" has to Dasapadan chess.


Each player starts with a token in the starting square (usually the "1" grid square in the bottom left corner) and takes turn to roll a single die to move the token by the number of squares indicated by the die roll, following a fixed route marked on the gameboard which usually follows a boustrophedon track from the bottom to the top of the playing area, passing once through every square. If, on completion of this move, they land on the lower-numbered end of the squares with a "ladder", they can move their token up to the higher-numbered square (known as "climbing the ladder"). If they land on the higher-numbered square of a pair with a "snake", they must move their token down to the lower-numbered square (known as "sliding down the snake").

In most versions, a player who rolls a 6 with their die may, after moving, immediately take another turn; otherwise the play passes to the next player in turn. The winner is the player whose token first reaches the last square of the track.

Specific editions
The most widely known edition of Snakes and Ladders in the US is "Chutes and Ladders", produced by Milton Bradley (which was purchased by the game's current distributor Hasbro). It is played on a 10×10 board, and players advance their pieces according to a spinner rather than a die. The theme of the board design is playground equipment—children climb ladders to go down chutes (slides).

Mathematics of the game
Any version of Snakes and Ladders can be represented exactly as a Markov chain, since from any square the odds of moving to any other square are fixed and independent of any previous game history.

In the book "Winning Ways" the authors show how to treat Snakes and Ladders as a (loopy) impartial game in combinatorial game theory even though it is very far from a natural fit to this category. To this end they make a few "minor" rule changes such as allowing any player to move "any" counter "any" number of spaces, and declaring the winner to be the one who gets the "last" counter home. It is hard to deny that this travesty, which they call "Adders-and-Ladders", involves more skill than does the original game.

Source: Wikipedia

Flags: Very Short (0-60 mins), With a Friend, With a Group, Children, Teens, Adults, Seniors, Indoors, At Home, Morning, Day, Night, Sunny, Snowy, Rainy
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