Games You Can Make At Home – Snakes and Ladders

 

Where Did The Game Come From?

Well, we’re going to make a version of Snakes and Ladders. For anyone who doesn’t know, Snakes and Ladders is originally an Ancient Indian game, played entirely by luck. Historically it had its roots in morality; your progress up the board represented a life journey with the complications of virtue (ladders) and vice (snakes). Nowadays it is most commonly played as a simple race and counting game for younger children.

What Will You Need?

  • A large A3 or similar sized pad of paper (in which you can store all the games you make)
  • A ruler, at least 30cm in length
  • A pencil (I recommend a mechanical one)
  • Coloured pens/pencils (optional)
  • Time – about half an hour
  • Plenty of space – either a clear table or big wooden floor

The Process:

  1. The very important first step is deciding what size you want your squares to be, and how many squares there will be on the board. I made two boards; one with 100 squares, and one with only 25, these were, respectively, 10×10 and 5×5 grids. For my 100 square board I settled on a size of 5x5cm squares.
  2. Once you’ve chose the number of squares you want, and the size they will be, you simply lay down your ruler and (in pencil) measure out the total length of all the squares; i.e. 5 x 10 = 50cm x 50cm for the 100 square grid. Once you’ve measured out the length, go back down the ruler and mark off each 5cm (or whatever your chosen size of square is) to get the intervals for where your squares will be. Repeat this on all four sides trying to keep your lines as square to each other as possible.
  3. When completed you should have a square with 5cm marks down all four sides. Next you just join them up, go along either horizontally or vertically joining the top and bottom, or left and right lines together. Then repeat the way you didn’t go first to end up with a nice grid.
  4. At this point you should have a nice, neat pencil grid in front of you. My next step would be to number the squares, in the top right hand corner, reasonably small, but big enough to be easily read.

We’re now almost finished with the first stage of the game! The last thing to do is to draw on your snakes and your ladders, you should aim to have these fairly evenly distributed across the board, their lengths are totally up to you, but I would advise making all of them different lengths, and including at least one pretty long ladder, as well as a nasty snake quite close to the end of the game, if you’re feeling mean.

*NOTE! Everything up to this point should be done in pencil, as mistakes are easy to make, but hard to correct if the work was done in pen.*

Making It Colourful!

Here’s where your coloured pens/pencils come in. When I did it I went over all the grid lines and numbers with my black pen and then proceeded to colour in the ladders and snakes giving them black outlines, but more colourful insides. You should also feel totally free to doodle on the blank paper outside of the grid, this is your project and you’re completely free to make it complicated or simple – as you choose!

If you’ve got little kids you could also draw and number the grids yourself, going over them in black pen, and then give it to your kid (or make multiple copies if you have more than one child) and let them draw on their own snakes and ladders.

Finishing Up:

My last action was to go over the grid with a rubber in the places where I could still see the pencil marks – this is totally optional, if it doesn’t bother you to see the pencil marks, then by all means, leave them there.

The Finished Product:

As you can see, my final products were pretty simple, but you can do whatever you want with yours! All you need now is a standard 6-sided die and a few generic coloured playing pieces and you’re ready to roll!

One Last Note…

These posts are entirely non-profit, the idea behind them being to suggest creative ways that bring assorted games into the house if you don’t have the money/space to buy beautiful wooden, or printed copies. The games I intend to write about are all old and in public domain.

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Games You Can Make At Home…

… A Brief Overview

This is my first proper post since the end of the Twelve Games of Christmas and I’m going to keep it short. The purpose of this post is to properly introduce my idea for the Games You Can Make At Home series of mini-posts that will be going up this year.

My inspiration for this came from two different places; about two years ago I bought a book in the Oxfam shop I worked in called Play The Game, which is literally a book in which every page, or double page spread is a game that you can play. This, to me, was a fantastic idea, as it provides at least fifty games that take up all the storage space of one large, hardcover book – genius! The second place inspiration came from was my husband – a few months ago he asked me to make him a Snakes and Ladders game for some of the kids in the class he was working in at the time (he’s training to be a teacher), and whilst making those boards I suddenly thought, “hey, this is a great way to save space if you live in a tiny house/flat but love games!” (at the time we were looking at moving into a very tiny flat) and so this mini-series was born.

At the moment my aim is for one of these posts to go up every month. I think this is a good amount of posts considering that this year should also (fingers crossed) hold the Discworldathon posts in addition to the regular, once a week reviews, which will hopefully be going up again from this coming Sunday.

How Are These Posts Going To Work?

Good question! I’m still kinda working that out, so I think the format of the posts is likely to change over the first few until I find the structure I like most. But the plan is to keep it reasonably simple, the posts won’t be that long and they will quite simply include a list of things you need, a brief background on the game (for those who are interested) and then a step-by-step instructions list, with accompanying photos.

If They’re Short, Why Only One A Month?

It’s quite likely that none of you were actually considering that question, but nonetheless I’m going to answer it. There are two reasons, the first is previously stated – there should be plenty of other posts going up around these ones, meaning that I won’t necessarily have time for more than one a month. The second reason is that I have to research each game for copyright reasons. I have to make sure that the writing and publishing of a post about recreating that particular game will not infringe any copyright laws, and that takes a little time.

Lastly…

The first post for this series will be going up tomorrow, and the subject game is Snakes and Ladders. This post has only the final product pictures in it, as I had the idea for this mini-series of posts as I finished making those. So please forgive me and don’t forget that there will be more photos in all the next posts!

Update! And Happy New Year!

Alright everyone!

It’s January and the Twelve Games of Christmas are now finished until December. Hopefully they’ve been an entertaining interlude over the holiday, but now it’s time to get back to business!

As promised I am now going to unveil all the plans and things that we’ve been preparing for this year.

The Plans:

Aesthetic Blog Changes:

First though, for anyone who’s been on the blog regularly, they might have noticed that we’ve had a bit of a makeover. Dave took an editorial walk around the blog and we decided that it was probably time for a change. So,  there’s a new banner, which is tied into part of my plan for the year, plus there are some updates on the About page, making our About info somewhat more up-to-date.

We now have a Contact page, which is quite exciting. Our official blog email is there and that’s checked at least three times a week by me. We’d like to invite anyone reading this to contact us if there’s a game you think we should review, or if you’re developing a game and would like us to play it for you, and help promote it!

Whilst Dave was wandering around editing stuff he thought that the blog looked somewhat like it was run by a pair of goths, hence the new, slightly less gray, colour scheme.
Okay, that’s all the aesthetic changes that have been made since November, now, onto the plans for the year!

The Games and Posts-Related Plans:

As you’re all aware from my November and December Updates there are interesting things happening this year.

The first of which is the already mentioned Discworldathon, which is happening on three blogs run by my family, and a fair few others run by people I don’t really know. Over the rest of this year there will be Discworld game posts going up, approximately every other month starting this month. These will be much shorter than our previous in-depth game reviews, and more tied to the books and films. These are a side-branch of what we normally do, as we thought a little cross-genre blog interaction could be a really good and interesting thing, definitely something with potential for the future. Discworld fans, keep an eye out for those posts!

The second plan for this year is to begin research into old games, from different countries around the world. To research the cultural history of those countries, and the developments of the games that they traditionally played. To be totally honest I don’t have any idea how that’s going to pan out, or even if it’s going to work. At the moment I don’t really know how much information is available to me and I don’t have tons of time to trawl through every resource or book or whatever. So, we’ll see how that goes. My intention is to try and post one research-based post per month, focusing on one country at a time. If there’s lots of information to be had I may extend it to two months focused on the same country.

The third plan is for a series of short posts, similar in nature to those about the Games We Made making suggestions for games you can make at home if you’re bored, or if you don’t have lots of storage space for boxes and such. My idea is make a collection of paper games that can be stored flat in one big folder, or something similar. Those posts will be a little sporadic, as they’re taking the back burner to all the other stuff at the moment, but I think they’ve got potential to go on for a decent amount of time.

Lastly, Games We’re Reviewing This Year!

I hereby proclaim this to be a Settlers of Catan year! I intend to find and play every expansion and spin-off of this game series over the next twelve months. Although there are a lot, there aren’t actually enough to post a different expansion or spin-off every week for twelve months, so the Catan posts will be mixed in with other Catan-ish games that I can find over the rest of the year.

Very very lastly: I can’t promise one post every week at the moment, as I’m in the throes of moving into a new flat, which doesn’t have any wifi yet, and might not have for quite a while. So I’m going to have to borrow wifi from other people for a while, or write all the posts on my phone (which isn’t an appealing idea to me). My new years blogolutions are:

  1. To try and post as regularly as I can, even if it means sitting in Starbucks for five hours writing posts.
  2. To follow through on all my plans for the year at least long enough to see if they’re worth making a permanent feature.

That’s everything! Hopefully this wasn’t long enough to bore you, and you’re still going to come back and read our first real post of the year, whenever I get it done!

 

Mastermind

3 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 1971

Creator(s): Mordecai Meirowitz (designer)

I’m The Real Mastermind:

It’s completely possible, and quite likely, that the first thing that comes to mind upon hearing the word Mastermind is the TV Quiz Show, and although there is a board game of this, this is not it. This game of Mastermind pre-dates the TV show (by 1 year) and is a very simple, quick and fun game that anyone can pick up. But I want it noted here that the version featuring in our photos is in fact the Junior Mastermind, version of the game produced for children, featuring small, brightly coloured jungle animals as the pieces and having only three holes across for the code, rather than 4.

What’s In The Box:

You can probably tell that we're missing some of the pieces...
You can probably tell that we’re missing some of the pieces…
  1. Green jungle playing board
  2. Rocky mountain section (used to hide the code)
  3. An assortment of 6 coloured animals
  4. 15 red creatures and 15 white creatures (supposedly)

Playing The Game:

Objective: to crack your opponents code before you run out of pieces, or to create a code that your opponent cannot crack.

To start the game you choose one player to be the code-maker, and one to be the code-breaker; then you position the board accordingly. The code-maker then takes a minute or two to secretly decide what the code’s going to be and put the pegs (or in our case little animals) in the shielded section of the board. After this, play starts.

It’s now the job of the code-breaker to pick out pegs (or animals), and position them on their side of the board in the order that they think the code is. The code-maker then uses their red or white creatures to signal which, if any, of these guess are right. To be right a piece must have both the correct position in the code (i.e. central, left or right hand end, from the point of view of the code-maker) and be the right colour.

So the first turn of the game might look something like this:

And they're all wrong
And they’re all wrong

Play continues in this manner until the either the code is cracked, or you’ve played to the end of the board. Like this:

And Dave wins
And Dave wins

Winning The Game:

Traditionally this game is played in rounds; the players decide before starting how many rounds are going to be played (always and even number) with the roles of code-maker and code-breaker alternating every round. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of this. Points are scored by the code-maker. S/he gets one point for each guess the code-breaker makes, and is given an extra point if the code-breaker doesn’t manage to accurately guess the entire code in their last move. Points are kept track of across the rounds and added up at the end.

Strategy:

For the Junior version of this game there isn’t a great deal of strategy required, but for the adult version (which has a four-peg code, rather than three, and one more option for indicating yes or no to part of a code) you can be a little more logical about it. Unless you’re a mathematician (which I’m definitely not, but the internet’s a wonderful place to learn things) you probably won’t be able to work out in your head the maths that accompanies this game, but the most important thing to remember is that duplicates are allowed in the code.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The modern game, played with pegs, closely resembles a pen and paper game called Bulls and Cows that may be over a century old.
  2. The rights to the game have been held by Invicta Plastics since 1971, initially they manufactured it themselves, but have since licensed it to Hasbro, Pressman Toys and Orda Industries for production across the world.
  3. The 1973 edition of the game features a well-dressed white man sitting in the foreground with an attractive Asian woman standing behind him. Bill Woodward and Cecilia Fung reunited in 2003 after 30 years to pose for another publicity photo.
  4. In a standard set of the game, allowing a four-peg code, with six colour options, there are 1,296 different possible code patterns (including, and allowing for duplicates).
  5. In 1977 Donald Knuth showed that the code-breaker can solve in a maximum of five moves, using this algorithm.
  6. There have been computer versions of the game produced, as well as multiple different editions released.
  7. The difficulty level of the game is altered simply by changing the number of pegs allowed for the code, or the way in which the code-maker indicates a correct or incorrect guess.

To Conclude:

I like Mastermind a lot, it’s a simple game that’s good for burning time or just chilling out, it doesn’t require a lot of concentration, and it doesn’t take long to play. I’d strongly recommend teaching it to kids too, the length of time it takes to play is well-suited to the generally shorter attention span of kids. But don’t let the really little ones get their hands on it – swallowing one of those pieces could end really badly!