Snakes and Ladders is an ancient Indian classic, imported to England in 1892 and published in the USA in 1943. It is a game of pure chance and pure frustration, just about as simple as a game can get, and just about as intellectually unrewarding as a game can get as well. Nevertheless, it is played by children all over the world, and with the Green Box components it can serve as a starting point for getting creative and thinking about game design.

The basic gameplay of Snakes and Ladders are shared by many different games: Roll, move, see what happens. In the following setup we use arrow tiles for climbing up and drop tiles for falling down. With just these tiles you can create a variety of tracks, and have more fun building the board than playing through it. Then you can move on to come up with alternative rules for other symbols and keep playing around.

At a glance:

1-4 players

15 minutes

snakes_1Complexity: Low

Components used:

All 36 tiles

1 cube pr player

1 die


Sort the tiles and find all the arrows and pointers/drops, and one wheel. Turn all other tiles face down. Use the tiles to create a serpentine track. Place the arrows pointing upwards (Ladders) and the pointers pointing downwards (Snakes) spread out across the track. Make sure no arrow and pointer is pointing at each other. An arrow pointing at another arrow (or vice versa) is ok. Place the wheel at the very top of the track as the Goal tile.

Place all the player cubes besides the start of the track.


Taking turns the players roll the die and move along the track according to the result. If you land on a Ladder (Arrow), your cube jumps up to the closest space indicated by the direction of the arrow. If you land on another arrow you keep moving. If you land on a Snake (pointer) your piece falls down in the same manner.


The first player to reach the Goal is the winner. However, it must be reached by an exact throw of the die. If you roll higher that you need, you must move backwards.

Also check out Tunnel Run for a simple race game minus the dice rolling and plus a minimum of choice.