Snakes and Ladders has been a favourite race game in Britain for over 100 years. When it was originally devised Snakes and Ladders was a moral game with virtues in the shape of the ladders, allowing the players to reach heaven quickly, while the vices, in the shape of snakes, forced the player back down.
Snakes and Ladders is probably based upon a very old Indian game called Moksha-Patamu, which was used for religious instruction and had 12 vices but only 4 virtues. According to Hindu teaching, good and evil exist side by side in man: but only virtuous acts – represented by the ladders – will shorten the soul’s journey through a series of incarnations to the state of ultimate perfection. Human wrongdoing symbolized by the head of the snake leads to reincarnation in a lower, animal form.
The aim of the game is to be the first player to reach number 100. Each player has a different coloured counter and the moves are controlled by the throws of one die or a pair of dice. To start the game each player must throw a 6 then throw again and move forward from square number 1.
When a counter lands on the square at the bottom of a ladder, it is moved up to the square at the top of the ladder. When a counter lands on the head of the snake, it must be moved down the snake’s body to the square at its tail. When a player lands on a square already occupied by another player’s counter, the first player must return to number 1. A throw of 6 allows another throw. The game ends when a throw lands a player exactly on 100. If the throw is higher, the player must move forward to 100 and then back the number of moves remaining in the throw.