Snakes and Ladders

2 minute read

As a kid Snakes and Ladders never really appealed to me as it was a purely luck based game, but most of my childhood friends loved it because it was so simple.

History The board is arranged in numbered a grid with a number of snakes or ladders connecting two squares together.  The size of the grid varied from publisher to publisher, but most common boards that i have seen are 10×10.  I have seen boards range anywhere from 8×8 to 20×20.  The size of the board and the number of snakes and ladders effect the duration of the game.  Most of the time a game played on a 10×10 grid will take about 30min.  The object of the game is to be the first person to reach the last square.

I know of at least three versions of this game.  The Victorian version called Snakes and ladders, the Western versions known as Snakes and ladders or Chutes and Ladders, and the the ancient Indian version commonly called Moksha-Patamu that dated back to the 2nd century BC.

The ancient Indian version commonly called Moksha-Patamu was a game to teach morality and religion. Ladders representing various types of good and the more numerous snakes coming from squares representing various forms of evil.  The squares of virtue on the original game are Faith (12), Reliability (51), Generosity (57), Knowledge (76), Asceticism (78); the squares of evil are Disobedience (41), Vanity (44), Vulgarity (49), Theft (52), Lying (58), Drunkenness (62), Debt (69), Rage (84), Greed (92), Pride (95), Murder (73) and Lust (99).  The game was used to teach Hindu children about the religion in that the good squares allow a player to ascend higher in the league of life, whereas evil will reduce a player back through reincarnation to lower tiers of life.  The last square, 100, represents Nirvana.

The Victorian version of Snakes and Ladders was published in Victorian England 1892, possibly by John Jaques of Jaques (some game historians dispute this claim however).  The game was adapted from the ancient Indian version called Moksha-Patamu.  The game was pretty much the same as Moksha-Patamu but they changed the names of the snakes and ladders.  The ladders starting squares got renamed to things like Penitence, Thrift and Industry that led to square labeled Grace, Fulfillment and Success. While the snakes head squares got renamed to things like Indolence, Indulgence and Disobedience which slid a player down to Poverty, Illness and Disgrace.

The western version removed the names all together.

If you would like more information on the history of snakes and ladders  I suggest reading Biblical Snakes, Biblical Ladders.

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