Hacking “Chutes and Ladders”
June 9, 2015 1:44 PM   Subscribe

"In the simulation, an average game [of Chutes and Ladders] lasts 26.5 turns, but it is a right-tailed distribution, so the longest game lasted 146 turns! If only there was a way to give each game a more consistent and shorter length. Then, it hit me. There are nine ladders and ten slides. There is a ladder missing! What if I placed a new tenth ladder on the board that consistently shortened the game? Yes, but where?!"
posted by yeti (59 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome TMTOTH!
posted by Melismata at 1:48 PM on June 9, 2015


Woe onto me that I purchased this on sale for my daughter. They really should squeeze the name "Bataan" into the title.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 1:49 PM on June 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


That's called Snakes and Ladders in the UK - never heard it called chutes. No snakes in the States?
posted by Devonian at 1:52 PM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


You mean you don't play it with snakes in the US? How odd. Not that sliding down a snake makes any sense, but still...
posted by pipeski at 1:53 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


That was awesome! Debating teaching it in Stats class...
posted by subdee at 1:54 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


*throws SNAKES at the heretic*

Snakes/Chutes.

Analysis of Chutes and Ladders
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:54 PM on June 9, 2015


Now you're thinking with portals.
posted by Foosnark at 1:55 PM on June 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


As a parent, the only improvement I'm interested in is substituting yet more ladders for all of the chutes.
posted by vverse23 at 1:59 PM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Most kids learn pretty early that you can climb up a slide. I'm curious (though not enough to find out) how it affects things if landing at the bottom of a chute were to let you go up just like a ladder (spinning to land at the top of a chute would still drop you down, though).
posted by Four Ds at 2:04 PM on June 9, 2015


Or was it merely that a chute (a slide) made a more sensible counterpart to a ladder, something the children could easily visualize sliding down?

You think?
posted by The Big Foist at 2:04 PM on June 9, 2015


I assumed they changed it from snakes to chutes in the USA because snakes would be considered too "scary" to our handholding, PC, tumblrfied, everybody-gets-a-medal helicopter parent culture!!

NEVER MIND THAT IT CAME OUT IN 1943
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:05 PM on June 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Chutes and Ladders is a Markov process, yes, but what happens if you futz with it to make it non-Markovian? Abelian sandpile Chutes and Ladders? 1/f noise-based Chutes and Ladders?
posted by curuinor at 2:06 PM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I assumed they changed it from snakes to chutes in the USA because snakes would be considered too "scary" to our handholding, PC, tumblrfied, everybody-gets-a-medal helicopter parent culture!!

NEVER MIND THAT IT CAME OUT IN 1943


So did the first mass-produced helicopter. Coincidence?

WAKE UP SNAKEPLE!
posted by yoink at 2:07 PM on June 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


Snakes, Chutes... just call it 30 Minutes at the Whim of the Dice. There's no game to it at all, it's just a ride down a random number generator.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:08 PM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


BTW, fine people on MetaFilter recommended King of Tokyo and my kid loves the shit out of it. It's like Yahtzee with Godzilla/Toho monsters.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:09 PM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, those new illustrations are awful.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:13 PM on June 9, 2015


I had vaguely-fond memories of playing S&L as a child, and then I played it with my 6 year-old niece and nephew a little while ago. The only thing this game has going for it is that it's a good way to teach little kids that fate is fickle and uncaring.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:14 PM on June 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


1 "See also my other board game analysis titled 'Motherfucking Candy Christing Land'"
posted by boo_radley at 2:15 PM on June 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


Having to play Chutes and Ladders (and/or it's evil cousin Candy Land) is best viewed as a twisted metaphor for the angst of being mortal and consigned to live in a body that can experience many things, including profound and interminable boredom. Watching paint dry, grass grow, or seasons change are all more interesting than playing these games. But as the author alludes to, by far the worst aspect of this is playing it with your five year old and somehow inadvertently "winning" the fucker, and then having to play an immediate rematch to quell the inevitable screaming. Oh death, please take me now, as I am ready and long for your sweet embrace.
posted by mosk at 2:17 PM on June 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


You think?

NEVER MIND THAT IT CAME OUT IN 1943

I am so happy that I'm still surprised when I see these types of snarky replies on Metafilter - - one of the last civilized bastions of the Internet!
posted by fairmettle at 2:17 PM on June 9, 2015


With the add-on rules for spellcasting and projectile weapons (you will need polyhedral dice) Chutes & Ladders becomes much more tolerable. They can be adapted for Candyland, too.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:19 PM on June 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


Why aren't the drinking rules discussed? That makes a huge difference to the gameplay. Jaegermeister on the snakes, absinthe for the ladders.

I find that usually by the time he's taken his third shot, the five year-old falls asleep and the game is over. Everyone's a winner!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:26 PM on June 9, 2015 [18 favorites]


With the add-on rules for spellcasting and projectile weapons (you will need polyhedral dice) Chutes & Ladders becomes much more tolerable. They can be adapted for Candyland, too.

If you take "fear: metal" as a character trait, you can try to convince the CM (candy master) that your character is incapable of using chutes.
posted by Pyry at 2:27 PM on June 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


The correct way to play Candyland is to stack the deck so that your kid draws Queen Frostine on his third turn.

And then if he wants to play again, tell him if he puts the board away you will give him ACTUAL candy.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:27 PM on June 9, 2015 [21 favorites]


I think that non-games like Chutes and Ladders and Candyland (even if they are terrible for adults) probably do have some utility for young players. It introduces them to rules, provides an enjoyable way to conceptualize counting and numbers, and since it's a coinflip they can win 50% of the time regardless of their opponent.

However, as other have mentioned, a lot of times kids are better at grasping games than we give them credit for. I've also found that not letting them win, and teaching them how to accept defeat and learn from it is a lot better than having a mindnumbing exercise in tedium that you resent playing.

I do wonder if there's anything you could do to gussy up the game to be more interactive and fun. At its heart it's still dice-based (or spinner based), and has a lot of the problems that go along with that. One idea would be to have them take three spins / rolls per turn. Add up those totals, and then have a chart of movements they can subtract from their totals to do certain actions on the board. They can take immediate, low cost actions to move to a specific ladder spot, or they can save up to push their opponent back, or move to the next closest ladder, or whatever.

Anyway, it was interesting to see that outside of intentionally breaking the game there wasn't a whole lot you could do to shove it out of its fairly predictable routine. Also, imagining that 146 turn game made me shudder internally.
posted by codacorolla at 2:27 PM on June 9, 2015


Now if he could just make Diplomacy tolerable.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 2:28 PM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


One idea would be to have them take three spins / rolls per turn. Add up those totals, and then have a chart of movements they can subtract from their totals to do certain actions on the board. They can take immediate, low cost actions to move to a specific ladder spot, or they can save up to push their opponent back, or move to the next closest ladder, or whatever.

If your kid doesn't squirm out of the chair and bolt for the television at that idea, I'd say just plop them in front of Hearthstone and wait for a nice income stream from their Twitch channel in a few years.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:30 PM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


I am not sure how effective Chutes and Ladders and Candyland are at teaching rule-following, considering how many adults seem willing to turn a blind eye to flagrant cheating in order to just get the damn things over with.
posted by ckape at 2:34 PM on June 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


An actually fun game for the littlest kids who are learning to take turns is "Go Away Monster!" It's cooperative play, it's quick, and it's cute. My younger son could understand and play at 20 months old, after watching a few rounds of his big brother playing. ("GO WAY MONNER!" eeeeeeeee so cute.)

We play "Monster Dice Fight" which is homebrew kiddie D&D, where they draw monsters and then roll D-20s for the monsters to "fight" and have to compare the numbers and say which is bigger so which monster wins. Now we sometimes make our 5-year-old add up two D-10s, or add cumulative totals across several fights. They're also now telling elaborate backstories of why the monsters have gotten in a fight in the first place, which is pretty cute.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:34 PM on June 9, 2015 [25 favorites]


I am not sure how effective Chutes and Ladders and Candyland are at teaching rule-following, considering how many adults seem willing to turn a blind eye to flagrant cheating in order to just get the damn things over with.

Cheating is a part of rule following, just not the optimal implementation.
posted by codacorolla at 2:36 PM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Now if he could just make Diplomacy tolerable.

Diplomacy is not a game. It's a personality test, with significantly higher sensitivity than the MMPI.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 2:47 PM on June 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


More on the Indian antecendent, which sounds a lot more fun (although the description is annoyingly vague on exactly how 'skill and memory' are important; it's something to do with collecting tokens from pits). The snakes can have demons at the top, the ladders can have gods, and there's a lot of karma involved.

It notes tersely at the end that when the British adapted it, they did so for 'Victorian values': presumably tedium and monotheism.
posted by Devonian at 2:50 PM on June 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


The old Indian boards are pretty awesome.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:54 PM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I made the game more sensible by removing the random element. Each player advances exactly one square each turn.

It will end only in death.
posted by kyrademon at 3:05 PM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


*I'd* always assumed that it was called Chutes in the US because Snakes was already in common use and thus couldn't be copyrighted.

I'm probably too cynical though.
posted by Ickster at 3:12 PM on June 9, 2015


If you made a "6 to 100 a ladder," you would have a 16.7% of winning in one move (spin a 6), a 16.7% chance of winning in two moves (spin anything but a 6 and then spin the remainder), and 13 ways of winning in three moves (you total 16 which goes back to 6, or your moves n + n + n = 6).
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:26 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Now if he could just make Diplomacy tolerable.

EXCEPT HOW CAN HE HACK THE RULES WHEN THERE ARE NO RULES AAAGGGHHHHGHHH
posted by the_blizz at 3:36 PM on June 9, 2015


I just want these motherfucking snakes off these motherfucking ladders.

Also, fuck Candyland.
posted by Samizdata at 3:38 PM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


To correct my above post, 4 out of 30 combinations will win on the second turn. Anything starting with a 1 will put you on a ladder out of range. Of the 156 ways of having three moves, 9 will win. (whew. I was having a geek attack that someone would find my error before I did).
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:56 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I saw someone mention in the article comments that someone thinks of Sorry! (Canada's National Board Game) as being like this. Do they no longer print the Rules for Adults in the box lid? Make a hand, draw one, and play one sort of rules?
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:11 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


No snakes in the States?

It's more that no one was overexcited by Chutes on a Plane.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:13 PM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have fond memories of Snakes and Ladders with moral education vices and virtues cartoons.
posted by Bwithh at 4:32 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Adult edition: no ladders, all chutes (virtuous behavior is what you should be practicing anyway)

Dysfunctional relationship edition: all chutes, and you can't see the board

Expert mode: chutes at all spaces except 1, 7, 13, 19, ... 100
posted by kurumi at 4:45 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Eternal hell mode: a chute at 100.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:59 PM on June 9, 2015


If there had been a Stephen King's Dark Tower board game, that's how it would have ended/begun.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:14 PM on June 9, 2015


To correct my above post, 4 out of 30 combinations will win on the second turn.

The only winning move is not to play.
--Joshua
posted by Ickster at 5:15 PM on June 9, 2015


Snakes and Ladders always reminds me of Teal'c's Five Favorite Board Games (SG1), because the repetition of the game becomes a gentle virtue, not a flaw.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:00 PM on June 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


Chutes and Ladders teaches you valuable moral lessons. Mostly about how you will be arbitrarily rewarded and punished for actions you have only the illusion of control over.
posted by ckape at 6:09 PM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I used to play Chutes & Ladders, but I found that Go is a much deeper and satisfying game for me, strategically.
posted by thelonius at 6:45 PM on June 9, 2015


lolz
posted by Night_owl at 7:36 PM on June 9, 2015


Existential Comics on Candyland: "To become the absurd hero of Candyland!"
posted by tickingclock at 7:59 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thank you, dorothyisunderwood -- that link was awesome.
posted by atholbrose at 8:22 PM on June 9, 2015


I discovered today that there is a Candyland wiki. Which contains such treasures as:

"The reasons for turning Queen Frostine into a Princess are unknown. She serves as a deuteragonist of Candy Land. "
posted by tavella at 8:54 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


What if you started with a blank board and every turn a player gets to place a snake or a ladder or move a snake or a ladder. How long would that game last?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:26 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


...Metafilter - - one of the last civilized bastions of the Internet!

Let's not get carried away now.
posted by aught at 5:55 AM on June 10, 2015


It's more that no one was overexcited by Chutes on a Plane.

Although, when you think about it, a chute on a plane could be pretty damn scary.
posted by yoink at 9:03 AM on June 10, 2015


Snakes, Chutes... just call it 30 Minutes at the Whim of the Dice. There's no game to it at all, it's just a ride down a random number generator.

It's purely an educational exercise:
Teach kids to take turns, teach kids to count, teach kids to follow simple rules, teach kids to stop putting the damn pieces in their ears and nose all the goddamn time...
posted by Theta States at 9:19 AM on June 11, 2015


Most planes designed to carry large numbers of people are, in fact, equipped with chutes. Those briefings by the staff that nobody listens to? When they point to emergency exits, most people tend to not think about the fact that the plane is significantly higher than the ground, even while resting upon the ground. Thus the need to have some method of getting down....

So.... yeah, actually, plane slides ARE terrifying.
posted by Jacen at 10:09 AM on June 12, 2015


This morning my jerk children woke up at 3 a.m. and refused to go back to sleep, and then around 10 a.m. were playing with their juice cups in the living room when I told them SEVERAL TIMES to cut it out or they would spill, and then one of them spilled almost an entire cup of juice ON TOP OF CANDYLAND, which I told them to clean up several times but they did not, and which has consequently had to be discarded.

This is the most delightful outcome to a string of "not listening to mom" events ever. I blame this thread and its occult powers. Thanks, thread!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:39 PM on June 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


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