Ever since he realised that there was a second game on the back of the Snakes and Ladders board, Master C has become slightly obsessed with Ludo. It’s one of those games that I remember playing as a child as part of a compendium of games, but yet I don’t think I’ve touched it since childhood.


Ludo’s origins

I do vaguely remember that Ludo is actually based on the Indian game Pachisi. Described by some as the “national game of India”, Pachisi is a cross and circle game (otherwise known as a race game) in which players move around the board, in a race against each other. First played in medieval India, the number of spaces moved was determined by throwing six or seven cowrie shells and whether the shells landed with the opening upwards or not gave you a score.

Game play

We’ve obviously moved on since then, and Ludo is played with a single die now and up to four players. Each player has four counters and each has a corner of the board as their initial home position.

If a player rolls a six then they move one of their counters into their starting position, and from there a second roll of the die determines how many spaces they need to move. Players then race around the cross shape on the board, until they get back to almost where they started. Then they have to head up their coloured strait towards “home” in the centre of the board.


The aim is to get all four of their coloured counters home. But it’s not as easy as it may initially seem!

The twist

With players having all four counters, and different starting times for them, it ends up with everyones counters overlapping on the board. Even more so if you have three or four players. If you land on a square that already has a player’s counter on it then you knock them off the board and they have to go back to their home position, and await a six to start again.

It’s also possible to block other players by getting two of your counters on adjacent squares. If you manage this then it means that other plays can not knock you off, but also can’t get past you.

The only place on the board where you are really safe is on your home strait, as then no one else can catch you.

The kids’ reactions

As I mentioned when I wrote about Snakes and Ladders, Ludo is a much more complicated game, as you an play it with a huge amount of strategy. It’s up to you which counters you move when and whether you aim to knock the opposition off the board or not with certain moves. Realistically, it’s a huge step up from Snakes and Ladders, but at the same time it’s a perfect game for introducing strategy to children.

Master C got so excited the first time that he managed to knock me off the board. He also takes a great thrill from being able to block other players by getting two of his counters together. He may not yet understand all the strategy behind why you might do either of these things, but it’s a brilliant way to get him starting to think about them.

It’s also helped his mental maths come on even faster. As well as counting out each move of his own, he’s also been working out what he needs to roll to knock other players off the board.

Ludo around the world

I admit that I hadn’t really thought much about Ludo being played elsewhere until I innocently put a picture of the board up on my Facebook page and a Dutch friend commented.

He pointed out that Ludo looked much like a game in The Netherlands called “mens erger je niet”, which roughly translates as “Man, don’t get annoyed”. Intrigued I went off to do a bit of research and it seems that in German Ludo is called “Man, don’t get upset”. Ludo also has similar names in Albanian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, and Turkish. In Greece there is also a reference to players behaviour in the fact that they call it “Grumbler” and Italian just call it “Don’t get upset”.

I had no idea that what I had just thought of as a simple game could bring about such a response from players! And I Guess it just puzzles me even more as to why it so often seems to be found on the reverse of a game as innocent as Snakes and Ladders!

A variety of different Ludo sets (with and without Snakes and Ladders) are available to buy online here.

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Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders is one of those board games that feels like it’s been around for ever. It therefore seems like possibly a bit of a strange one to be the subject of a blog post, but please bear with me on this one.

A few months back Bonn and I came across a copy of it at a car boot sale that we stumbled across on our way back from Harwich on bank holiday Monday. I seem to recall that it didn’t cost very much and, as I feel like I’m very much having to restock all the toys and games I have for my kids since splitting from their Dad, I decided to grab a copy. I’m so glad I did.

Snakes and Ladders

The game came home with us, ended up on the shelf with some other games and to be honest I didn’t give it much more thought at first. Then, as the weather started to improve, Master C and I took to going and sitting at one of the picnic benches in his school playground in a morning, whilst we waited for the school bell to ring. On that particular table is a giant version of Snake and Ladders and we started passing the time in a morning by me rolling an imaginary die and him moving an imaginary counter round the board in an attempt to win before the bell went. One morning I happened to mention to him that we had a real copy of the game at home and his eyes nearly popped out of his head. Bad mum for not telling him sooner I guess!

Since then the pair of us have ended up playing Snake and Ladders quite regularly. It’s made me realise what a wonderful game it is for a child his age. On so many different levels.

Firstly, and this almost goes without saying, board games are a wonderful way to engage with your kids. Conversations can happen whilst you’re playing. It’s like the action of playing a game means that children somehow forget that they normally don’t tell you anything about their day at school. It’s also proper focussed time with them. No opportunity to pick up your phone and end up down a social media rabbit hole when you’re having to take turns.

A game like Snakes and Ladders also introduces children to so many different things. There’s the whole concept of taking turns. It may seem obvious to us as adults, but it’s a skill that children need to learn. There’s maths involved in rolling the die, counting the dots on the surface and then moving a playing piece the right number of spaces on the board. Regular playing of board games can help a child so much with some of what they are more formally taught in the classroom.

In a game like Snakes and Ladders there are rules to follow. If you land on the bottom of a ladder you go up it, if you land on a snake’s head you go down it. Simple rules, but again another concept that it’s important for children to learn.

And finally, there’s the fact that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. As I’ve discovered, it’s very difficult to cheat in Snakes and Ladders, short of not rolling the die correctly. It’s totally random as to what you land on and this means that whoever is playing has an equal chance of winning. There’s no strategy involved. After the initial disappointment of going down their first snake, children soon realise that even mummy can  end up landing on a snake on the final row of the board and soon be back to the beginning. And how Master C laughs whenever that happens!

Interestingly the version of Snakes and Ladders that we picked up came with Ludo on the reverse of the board. A game that I vaguely remembered from childhood and one that I assumed was equally as fair as Snakes and Ladders. How wrong I was! Look out for a whole separate blog post about this game and why it’s apparently called “Man, don’t get annoyed!” in some parts of the world!

It goes without saying that there are numerous versions of Snakes and Ladders out there. You can find a wide selection online here.