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Fraser
Australia
Melbourne
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Back in the days when there were less maps we played every map back to back
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Ooh a little higher, now a bit to the left, a little more, a little more, just a bit more. Oooh yes, that's the spot!
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The Caveat
The game is known as Snakes & Ladders in Australia and its environs. The editions traditionally available in Australia have Snakes, one hundred squares and come with dice.



Other versions, especially in the United States, have chutes instead of snakes and have a spinner instead of dice. There is also a Torah version available.



This review will concentrate an Australian edition as per the first picture, published by Crown Games.

The Box
The box is of fairly flimsy construction when compared to a standard Euro game. It has a snapshot of the game board and lists the components. The rules are printed on the inside cover of the box lid.

Size 39.5 x 21.0 x 4.0 cm (13. 5 x 8.25 x 1.5 inches for the imperially inclined).

Weight 405 grams (14.25 oz for the imperially inclined).

The Dice
This set comes with two plastic d6 which, considering that only one is required for play, is quite generous. Points may be deduct as they are listed on the inside cover as “2 dices” where as the singular “die” is used later on and “2 dice” is used correctly on the outside of the box cover.

The Board
The board is of sturdy construction and is a fold up board. It has one hundred squares in zigzagging rows of ten. The board artwork will be discussed later in The Theme section.

The Bits & Pieces
Four coloured pawns, one each of red, blue, green and yellow.

The Theme
In a word – Ascension.

The main theme is the example of rewards for good deeds and the consequences of dangerous acts or bad deeds. You climb the ladders towards one hundred and slide down the snakes back towards one. One cannot help but wonder if the snakes are a reference to the snake in the biblical Garden of Eden, however the answer to that question may be lost in the mists of time.

The board has a number of snakes and ladders that connect pairs of numbers. There are illustrations at the top and bottom of each snake and ladder. Each of these pairs of illustrations represents a fable. The illustration at the bottom of a ladder represents a good deed or action and the illustration at the top of the ladder the reward for that deed or action. With the snakes the illustration at the top, or head, of the snake represents a silly, dangerous or unkind action and the illustration at the bottom represents the consequences of that action.

The shortest ladder is from 6 to 16 and the longest ladder is from 24 to 87. The shortest snake is from 56 to 53 and the longest snake is from 84 all the way down to 28.

The head of this longest snake is a small boy riding a bicycle dangerously with both of his hands up in the air, not on the handlebars. At the tip of the tail he is falling off the bicycle. At the head of another snake a girl is playing roughly with her doll and at the tip of the snake her doll is broken and she is sad.

At the bottom of the longest ladder a girl is watering some seedlings, at the top of the ladder they have grown into beautiful flowers and she is picking some to put into her basket. The bottom of another ladder has a boy telling a woman that she has left her handbag behind and at the top of the ladder the woman is giving him a reward.

Children playing this game may, or may not, notice this theme. Parents may choose to point out the fables inherent in each snake and ladder or they may choose to ignore them, at least until the children start to ask questions!

The numbers on the board are the other, more direct, theme to Snakes & Ladders.

The board is a ten by ten grid with each of the one hundred squares numbered starting at one in the bottom left hand corner and zigzagging along in rows of ten to reach one hundred in the top left hand corner.

The numbers on the board, the rolling of the die and moving the pawn then number of squares as rolled on the die can all be very educational in showing children the numbers from one to one hundred and examples of simple addition by adding 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 to another number.

When first playing this with Daughter the Elder when she was four and a quarter we had a house rule that when you had finished moving your pawn you had to say out aloud the number of the square you had landed on, this rule applied to everyone. We found that she had learnt the majority of the numbers within about a week. It was very rewarding to see her understanding of numbers and simple arithmetic grow when after a few games she would say “I hope I roll a four”, knowing that she needed a 4 to land on the next ladder.


The Objective
To be the first player to reach one hundred.

The Players
Usually two to four players aged 4 to adult. One could, and Daughter the Elder often did, play solitaire or you could play with more than four by borrowing tokens from another game.

The Starting Player
Determined by die roll. Highest roll is the starting player.

The Rules
Roll a die and advance that number of squares. If you land at the bottom of a ladder you are carried to the top of the ladder and if you land on the head of a snake you are carried down to the bottom of the snake.

There is a rule in this edition that we never played as children and have not seen on other editions either that “Any player who lands on an occupied square must return to square 1”. Since Snakes & Ladders can drag on a bit too long sometimes this rule would prolong the game unnecessarily. The return to square 1 is interesting anyway since it is a ladder to 38 and you actually start the game off board so that you can land on square 1 with a die roll of 1, but I digress and we do not actually play this rule anyway.

The Play
Unless you can influence the outcome of die rolls and ensure that you roll 6, 5, 6, 6, 6 and win in five moves, than this is a simple roll and move, zero strategy game.

You must land on 100 square with an exact roll, if your roll takes you past 100 you forfeit your turn. This process of trying to land on 100 exactly can sometimes take quite a while.

The Verdict
As a straight ‘the first to reach 100’ game Snakes & Ladders has little to recommend it, although small children enjoy it since they are on an even footing with their parents and elder siblings.

The redeeming features of Snakes & Ladders are the educational aspects of the recognition of numbers and the arithmetic skills that can be developed playing it. Also some parents find that their children find that the fables attached to the snakes and ladders to be interesting and educational too.

It is a good game for four year olds and they will probably enjoy it for another few years.

Fraser McHarg
21-Mar-2005
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Simon Taylor
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Karlsen wrote:
You must land on 100 square with an exact roll, if your roll takes you past 100 you forfeit your turn. This process of trying to land on 100 exactly can sometimes take quite a while.


It takes even longer if you play it the way I've always played it. You still have to get the exact number, but if you get one that is too big, you "bounce back" off the 100 space. So, say you are on 98, and roll a 5. You would move 99, 100, 99, 98, 97. Which is a real pain in the bottom if there's a snake on square 97 which takes you back to 60-something ;-)
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Fraser
Australia
Melbourne
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Back in the days when there were less maps we played every map back to back
badge
Ooh a little higher, now a bit to the left, a little more, a little more, just a bit more. Oooh yes, that's the spot!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
psymann wrote:
Karlsen wrote:
You must land on 100 square with an exact roll, if your roll takes you past 100 you forfeit your turn. This process of trying to land on 100 exactly can sometimes take quite a while.


It takes even longer if you play it the way I've always played it. You still have to get the exact number, but if you get one that is too big, you "bounce back" off the 100 space. So, say you are on 98, and roll a 5. You would move 99, 100, 99, 98, 97. Which is a real pain in the bottom if there's a snake on square 97 which takes you back to 60-something ;-)


The rules for our edition do not have bounce back, and we would not change it because, as you said, it would lengthen the game too much!
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Simon Taylor
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Karlsen wrote:
The rules for our edition do not have bounce back, and we would not change it because, as you said, it would lengthen the game too much!


When you've played Alice in Wonderland, you soon realise what a short game Snakes and Ladders is ;-)

If anyone actually really likes snakes and ladders, and would love to play the hardcore version, then have a look at that. ninja
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