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.

On The Seventh Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

Uno, and said in hushed tones that it’s the only child-friendly way of playing Blackjack early in the day…

The Rules:

The deck of cards is shuffled, and seven cards are dealt to each player, the remaining cards are placed face-down in the middle of the table and the top one turned over and placed next to it. Generally the youngest player begins and they start by putting a card on top of the face-up one that matches either the colour or the number of the card. If they aren’t able to do this, but they hold a wild card, they can play that instead and change the colour of the cards that are being played. There are a few other cards that change the direction of play and similar things, but those can mostly only be played when they match the colour. The objective of the game is to play all of your cards. If you are unable to play a card on your turn you must pick one up from the face-down pile and add it to your hand. When you only have one card left you have to say “UNO!!” as loudly as possible before you can put it down. If you play your last card without proclaiming Uno, you must draw new cards and continue playing as a punishment.

For Christmas?

Yes! Definitely! This game is great for large or small groups of players, and is all-ages inclusive. Aunt Jean could almost definitely grasp this one without too much trouble, and she might not even complain about it! On top of that, it’s a speedy play, so a good time filler.

Happy Seventh Day of Christmas! Keep the cheer and food flowing!

Lotti Karotti or Funny Bunny!

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: 1999

Creator: Ian Steven (artist)

Go back to whichever hole you jumped out of and leave us alone!

What do you call a happy rabbit? A hop-timist! (Not the place for bad rabbit jokes? Okay…)

Lotti Karotti (the German name for the game, the English is Funny Bunny) is a simple and fun game in which you race against the other players’ rabbits, and hop that little bit faster than everyone else!

What’s In The Box:

dsc_0142

  1. Three-dimensional playing board
  2. Game rules
  3. Deck of action cards
  4. 4 x 4 coloured rabbits

Playing The Game:

Objective: To get one of your rabbits to the big carrot faster than anyone else.

To begin the game the deck of action cards should be shuffled and placed face-down at the side of the board and the carrot should be twisted until there are no holes showing in the board. Next each player should choose a colour of rabbit to be from the four available. As it doesn’t say in the rules who plays first we just did Rock, Paper, Scissors for it. Once a first player has been determined they draw the first card from the deck and turn it face up on the table. They then perform the action on the card which will be either, hop 1, 2 or 3 spaces, or twist the carrot.

Normally players will place a rabbit onto the first, second or third spot on the board on their first turn. This normally creates a que of rabbits, like this:

dsc_0188
Here two rabbits are adjacent to each other.

If this happens and the player in the middle or the back turns over a card that tells them to hop they are allowed to jump over any number of rabbits that are adjacent to them to get to the next empty space. Like this:

dsc_0189
The second yellow rabbit has hopped over the first yellow rabbit and the purple one to reach the third space on the board.

When the carrot is turned it causes holes to open up at different points on the board. If one of your rabbits is on a hole when it is opened by another player (or yourself) it falls underneath the board and is immediately out of the game. Likewise if a hole is opened next to where one of your rabbits is and you turn up a card saying to hop one space you also have to hop into the hole, you cannot hop over it.

Winning The Game:

The first player to get a rabbit to the top of the carrot is the winner.

Strategy:

It’s not really possible to have a strategy for this game. This time round that we played it all my rabbits ended up in underneath the board and there was absolutely nothing I could have done about it. I would say just try and get your first rabbit as far along the board as possible. But otherwise don’t think it through too much, because it’s a game of chance with the cards really.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. Between 2001 – 2002 this game was recommended for two awards and won 1.
  2. I have absolutely nothing else interesting to write here.

To Conclude:

As kids games go this is pretty great. It doesn’t involve any complicated thinking but also, because of the nature of the ‘carrot’ cards, doesn’t get boring either. It’s a good quick play for children of all ages with a cute theme.

Sphinx!

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: 1999

Creator(s): Gunter Baars (designer) and Chris Mitchell (artist)

Can you fathom the riddle of the Sphinx?

sphinx-riddle
Image courtesy of awesomejelly.com

Sphinx  is a simple game for kids which incorporates the popular mythological creature. The Sphinx is a widely recognize creature; a lion with the head of a man. The most famous Sphinx in the world is the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt, which stands near the Great Pyramids of Giza on the west bank of the Nile. In popular mythology the Sphinx is a wise being which often demands the answer to a riddle. when this answer is given incorrectly the Sphinx eats the unfortunate person who couldn’t answer. However, the mini Sphinxes in this game are much less vicious.

What’s In The Box:

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  1. Game board
  2. 3 6-sided dice, one with a double snake image on one side
  3. 6 Sphinxes with different coloured bases
  4. 4 player tokens
  5. 6 coloured Sphinx cards
  6. 1 Rule book (not in the picture as someone was reading it at the time)

Playing the Game:

Objective: To collect the right coloured Sphinx cards and present them before the Sphinxes to collect the treasure.

Okay, that’s not a hugely clear way of writing the objective, but that’s why we write the rest of the post!

To begin the game each player chooses a token and places it on the square on the board with an arrow on it. The six Sphinxes are then randomly placed on each of the six squares with a Sphinx image on it. If you’re playing with less than four players you should remove the appropriate number of Sphinx cards from the stack by the side of the board so that there is one for each player. In this game the youngest player starts, and play then continues clockwise round the board.

To begin your turn you roll all three dice. In this game you do not total the number shown on the dice, instead you take each die as an independent section of your turn, in whichever order you choose. If you pass another player you can take a Sphinx card that you need from them. However you cannot take a card that you already have, if a player has Sphinx cards, but you already have all of them, they have to return one to the stack and recollect it.

An interesting thing about this game is the flexibility with which you can take each turn, when you move forward with the number on one die, you can then move backwards using the number on the next die.

Note: you cannot move forward an backward on the same number. For example I couldn’t split a five on one die into two three squares forward, one square back, I would have to move either five squares forward or backwards.

 

dsc_0184

Okay, take this picture as an example of how I might take my turn. Say I’m green and I’ve just rolled a 2, 3 and 5. I could then proceed as follows: I could go forward two squares and collect the beige Sphinx card (to collect a card you can either land on, or pass over the correct square), I could then proceed a further five squares along in the same direction as I was previously going. This would pass me over a mummy hand, doing this means that I can look at the base of any one of the six Sphinxes on the board to know which colour it is. In addition to that, I also have to spin the section of board that I’ve landed on. It’s not clear in this picture, but some of the sections of wall in the maze are small 2×2 square turntables. If a player ends one of their moves on one of theses, they have to rotate it 180 degrees; if another player is on the next square, or the other side of the same wall section, they are also rotated. Lastly I have a 3 to use up, I can then go in whichever direction I choose, three either direction takes me to another turntable.

Oaky, so that’s how you would play a turn. Lastly, there’s a double-snake symbol on one of the sides of one of the dice. When this is rolled the player who rolls it has to swap one of the Sphinx from the center of the board with one of those situated down the right-hand side.  When doing this they are not allowed to look at the base of either of the Sphinxes; that can only be done when a player passes over, or lands on a mummy hand.

Winning The Game!

To win the game a player must correctly discover (or guess) the colours and order of the three Sphinxes in the center of the board and proceed to the first Sphinx and present the correctly coloured Sphinx cards.

dsc_0186
The Green player (me) is going for the win. I announced the first Sphinx to be blue, the second green and the third beige. I won. 😀

The optimistic player must then announce to all other players which Sphinx they think has each colour. They then look, without showing any other player what the colours are and announce whether they are right or wrong. If they are right they then show the Sphinx bases to all the other players. If they are wrong they remove their playing piece from the board, and stay quiet whilst everyone else keeps playing. The first player to get to the middle with the right Sphinx cards in the right order wins.

Strategy:

This is a pretty simple game, aimed at kids aged 8+. The only thing I really want to say in terms of strategy is that if you roll a double snake, the best thing to do on that turn is to try and pass over a mummy hand with your other two numbers, before swapping any of the Sphinxes. If you do this then you can look at one of the Sphinxes from the edge of the board, and then move that one into a space in the middle. When you do this you’re actually making it easier for you to win the game as you’ve played a Sphinx that you already know the colour of. Don’t forget that you have to collect Sphinx cards though, I generally try and pass over as many Sphinx cards as possible on my way around the board, as I can then proceed very quickly to the treasure in the middle once I’ve worked out the colours of the Sphinxes.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The word Sphinx was derived from the Greek word spingein, meaning to bind or squeeze, by Greek grammarians . However, the etymology of the word is unrelated to the legends that surround the creature, and therefore dubious.
  2. The earliest Greek author to mention the creature was Hesiod, and he called it Phix.
  3. The most famous Sphinx legend features the Winged Sphinx of Boeotian Thebes. This Sphinx was said to have terrorized people by demanding the answer to the following riddle, “What has one voice, but becomes four-footed, two-footed and three-footed?” and devouring anyone who answered incorrectly. Upon being given the correct answer: a man who crawls on four legs as an infant, walks on two when grown and leans on a staff in old age, she kills herself. Talk about a drama queen.
  4. It is from this legend that the belief that Sphinxes are omniscient apparently arose.
  5. The Great Sphinx of Giza is known by the Arabs as “Father of Terror”.
  6. Although most images of the Sphinx don’t have enough information with them for their function or symbolism to be known it is generally believed that the Sphinx served a protective function.
  7. Sphinxes were commonly carved with the heads of pharaohs on them.

Okay, I know this is only seven points, but there’s actually so much that can be read about Sphinxes in different parts of the world, in legend and in artistic representation and interpretation that I can’t go through more of it without my brain turning into jelly!

To Conclude:

This game is great. It’s complicated enough to be a challenge; the three-section turn means you have to think a little more tactically that if you simply moved the entire dice roll in one go. But simple enough that you can’t really get into any arguments about the rules or anything like that. It’s also a good memory game for children as in discovering the pattern of colours of the central Sphinxes they have to remember which Sphinx had which colour, and they have to be aware when Sphinxes are moved. This is challenging for children (and some adults) and encourages the development of focus, concentration and the short-term memory.

I rated this five because, in addition to the well-structured nature of the game, the box is also great. Every piece has a place and it’s tidy and efficient.

 

Connect 4!

5 - 5 - Strike Thro

4.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 1974

Creator(s): Milton Bradley designers, artists etc are uncredited.

The simplest and yet often the most frustrating of games!

Connect 4 is a popular game played most often by children of primary school age (7-11). It has a very simple your-turn-my-turn game play and can be quite frustrating if your opponent keeps winning.

What’s In The Box:

whats-in-the-box

  1. 1 Fold-out game grid
  2. 21 yellow and red counters

Playing The Game:

Objective: To create a line of four of your counters either horizontally, vertically or diagonally, before your opponent.

This game is incredibly simple in its original form. The yellow player takes the first turn, and places one of their counters into the top of any column on the grid, this then falls to the bottom, taking a position on the lowest line on the grid. The red player then follows suit.

dsc_0150
This is what a game that is about halfway through might look like.

The game continues in this manner, with players each dropping counters into whichever column they like, until either one player has succeeded in creating a line of four, or both players have run out of counters.

Winning The Game!

Winning the game is simple, and would look like this:

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Yellow player (me) has successfully created a diagonal line through the red players attempt to create a line of four!

Strategy:

This game is one of a group of games that can always be won by the first player, provided they play correctly. Strategically the best starting position for the first player is the central column, as from there they can choose to play on either side of grid whilst knowing that they’ll be connected to their other counters. I generally play to block off my opponent at every turn, whilst simultaneously trying to create a position in which I can create two lines of four, meaning that my opponent, at that point, cannot stop me from winning.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The game was first sold under this name by Milton Bradley in February of 1974, but is also known by these names: Captain’s Mistress, Four Up, Plot Four, Find Four, Four in a Row, Four in a Line and Gravitaps (Soviet Union)
  2. The game is a Solved game, meaning that its outcome can be correctly predicted from any position, assuming that both player play perfectly.
  3. The game has been mathematically solved by several different people, the first of whom was James Dow Allen on October 1st, 1988.
  4. There are several different variations of the game; Pop Out, Pop 10, 5-in-a-Row and Power Up. They can be read about in more detail here.
  5. Hasbro produces various sized outdoor versions of the game, the largest of which is built from weather-resistant wood, and measures 120cm in width and height.
  6. A rumor that the game was created by David Bowie was started by NME broadcaster and reporter Stuart Maconie which then became an urban myth.
  7. Another version of the game, Connect 4 Twist & Turn was published by Winning Moves in 2015. This version features a game tower instead of a grid, with five rings that twist independently. The objective, to create a row of four of your colour disc, is the same, however as a player can choose to twist a ring after they’ve played a disc a new level of strategy is added to the game.

Look at that! I managed to find quite a few interesting things about this game!

To Conclude:

This game is great, as a child I loved it (and am still good at it). I rated it 4.5 instead of 5 because of the problem where the first player can always win. Although there’s not much that can be done about it in the original form of the game it doesn’t still make the game technically unfair. Aside from that though, I have nothing to complain about, the game is great for kids as it makes them think a little tactically, plus, it’s simple enough that it can be learnt in a few minutes. I’d say that this a game to have in the house if you’ve got children, especially as it’s easy to tidy up due to not having lots of tiny pieces.

Kids Games – Teddy Memory

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: Unknown

Creator(s): Ravensburger

How’s Your Memory?

In this classic variation of Pairs, the simple memory game Teddy Memory is a cute and child-appealing version of the game, with adorable teddy cards.

What’s In The Box?

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  1. Multi-lingual rulebook
  2. 24 Teddy cards (12 pairs)

Playing The Game:

Objective: To have the best memory and so collect the most pairs before the end of the game.

In normal Pairs there is only one way to play the game: you shuffle the cards and lay them all out face-down on the table. You then take it in turns to flip over two cards. If they match you can keep them and take another turn. If they don’t match you have to turn them over again and it is the next players turn. In Teddy Memory Ravensburger have suggested two additional ways to play this game, which are both interesting.

The first is this: Reaction Memory
I’m going to write here exactly what they wrote in the rulebook. “Shuffle all of the cards and place them face down in the same direction. The first player turns over one of the cards and leaves it face up. The next player then does the same, and the game continues in this manner until two matching cards are revealed. Then it’s up to the players to react – the first one to call out what the picture on these cards is takes them as his or her own. The game then carries on as before. The game is over when only two cards are left on the table. The player with the highest number of pairs is the winner.”

The second variation is: Describing Pictures
“The Memory cards are shuffled well and placed face up on the table. One player chooses a card, describes it and then passes it on to the next player. The second player chooses the matching card from the table and keeps the pair. This player then chooses a new card and describes it before passing it on to the next player. The game is over when all the cards have been collected. There is no winner in this game.”

These are all simple and I don’t think they really need any extra explanation, so I’m going to go straight to the next part of the post.

Strategy!

Well, this is a game for children aged 2 and a half – 5 so there’s not much in the way of strategy. For the classic version of the game the best way to play is really to concentrate on what other people are turning over. I find that to collect a lot of pairs you should first turn over a card that you haven’t seen the other side of, and then try and remember if its pair has already been turned over somewhere. If it has, pick that one out, and if it hasn’t, turn over another random one to see if you can get lucky.
That’s basically it. Concentrate hard and you might be able to win. But also maybe not, that’s the beauty of simple games.

History and Other Interesting Things:

To be totally honest, this game is really old but it’s almost impossible to date it or to know anything interesting about it except that there’s hundreds of variations of it, with Bears, Disney Princesses, Barbie, Happy Families, Farm Animals… The list goes on.

Further Reading and Other Editions of the Game:

This is possibly the easiest game to find variations of ever. Online there are regular memory games, number memory games, letter memory games… Some more challenging and obviously educational than others, but fundamentally all the same.

Conclusion:

This game is great for kids, and for adults. It’s so simple that the rules have no ambiguity to them, and you can even make your own version of this game at home using paper and pens if you don’t have a properly published version. It’s also quick and straightforward, so although it’s always possible to get frustrated at a game I believe that this one generally remains fun and light-hearted. If you’ve got kids and you haven’t played this game with them you should get a copy, especially as it really helps them focus, therefore improving their concentration and memory skills from an early age.

Quarto!

4.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 1991

Creator(s): Blaise Muller

 Video:

Quarto! is complicated Connect Four and for this review we’ve done a video, our first real video review! The video covers all our normal sections except ‘History and Interesting Things’ so check it out below:

History and Interesting Things:

There are only a couple of notable things about this game and they are:

  1. The game was invented in 1991 by Swiss mathematician Blaise Müller.
  2. It has won the following awards:

To Conclude:

Like we say in the video, we like this game a lot! My only issue with it is retaining enough concentration to keep in check all of the eight different piece attributes that could create a line. However I would highly recommend this game and if you like games that range from Connect Four to Chess then you will most probably love this game.