Snakes & Ladders has been around officially since the 1940s but it’s origins go back even further. The game is popular around the world and it has gone on to become a traditional family game and a classic party game. Read on to find out about the origins of the game, the rules and how the meaning of the game has changed over time.
Games with a similar idea to Snakes & Ladders have been dated back to as far as as a game known as Moksha Patam which was played in Ancient India and was used as a way to show the role of karma. The game has also been interpreted as a tool for teaching the effects of good deeds versus bad. The board was covered with symbolic images, the top featuring gods, angels, and majestic beings, while the rest of the board was covered with pictures of animals, flowers and people. The ladders represented virtues such as generosity, faith, and humility, while the snakes represented vices such as lust, anger, murder, and theft. The morality lesson of the game was that a person can attain salvation (Moksha) through doing good, whereas by doing evil one will inherit rebirth to lower forms of life.
There was another similar game called Leela which was played in the 16th century and it was said to show the Hinduism consciousness surrounding everyday life. The underlying ideals of the game inspired a version introduced in Victorian England in 1892.
The game developed in England and was sold as “Snakes and Ladders”, then the basic concept was introduced by Milton Bradley in the United States in 1943 as Chutes and Ladders.
Each player starts with a token on the starting square (usually the #1 grid square in the bottom left corner, or simply, off the board next to the #1 grid square) and takes turns to roll a single dice. Players then have to take however many steps the dice commands them to so if you roll a 4 then you have to take 4 steps. If a player rolls a 6, the player may, after moving, immediately take another turn; otherwise play passes to the next player in turn. If a player lands on a grid which has a ladder then they may move up the ladder but if they land on a grid that has a snake, they must slide down the snake. The first player to land on the #100 grid wins the game.