Playing Snakes and Ladders: 11 Steps (with Pictures)

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Playing Snakes and Ladders: 11 Steps (with Pictures)
Playing Snakes and Ladders: 11 Steps (with Pictures)

If you don't remember the rules or have made your own Snakes and Ladders board, you might want to change the rules before playing, or try a variation on the traditional rules.


Part 1 of 2: Playing snakes and ladders

Play Snakes and Ladders Step 1

Step 1. Understand the purpose of the game

The aim of the game is to be the first player to reach the end by moving all over the board from the first square to the last square. Most boards go back and forth so you go left to right in the first row, then up to the second row and move right to left, and so on.

Follow the numbers on the board to see how to move. For example, if you rolled five on the dice and you are on square 11, you must move your pawn to square 16

Play Snakes and Ladders Step 2

Step 2. Decide who gets to start

Each player has to roll the dice to see who rolls the highest. Whoever gets the highest gets the first turn. After the first player has had his or her turn, it is the turn of the player to the left of the starting player.

If two or more people roll the same highest number, each of those players must roll the die again to see who starts first

Play Snakes and Ladders Step 3

Step 3. Roll the dice and move your pawn

When it's your turn, roll the dice again and move your pawn the number of pips rolled. Take your pawn and move it forward the number of eyes rolled. For example, if you roll a two, move your pawn to square two. On your next turn, if you roll a five, move your pawn forward five spaces so that you land on space seven.

Some people have the rule that you can only go on the board if you roll a 1, and if you don't, you have to skip a turn. This is not wise as it is frustrating for players who are not very lucky

Play Snakes and Ladders Step 4

Step 4. Climb up the ladders

The ladders on the board allow you to move up and forward faster. If you land exactly on a square with a picture of the bottom of a ladder, you may move your pawn all the way to the square at the top of the ladder.

If you end up on top of the ladder or somewhere in the middle of a ladder, nothing happens. You never move down ladders

Play Snakes and Ladders Step 5

Step 5. Glide along hoses or slides

Some versions of the game have snakes on the board, while others have slides. Snakes (or slides) put you back on the board because you have to slide off. If it lands right on the top of a snake or slide, your pawn will move all the way to the square at the bottom of the snake or slide.

If you land on a square in the middle or at the bottom of a snake (or slide), stay where you are. You only slide down when you land on the top square of a snake (or parachute)

Play Snakes and Ladders Step 6

Step 6. You get an extra turn if you roll a six

If you roll a six, you get an extra turn. First move your pawn forward six squares and then roll the die again. If you land on ladders or snakes, follow the instructions above to move your pawn up or down, then roll the die again for your extra turn. As long as you keep rolling sixes, you can keep going!

Play Snakes and Ladders Step 7

Step 7. Try to land exactly on the last square to win

The first person to reach the highest square on the board wins (usually this square is 100). But there is a tricky point! If you roll too high, your pawn will 'bounce' back from the last square and you must return. You can only win by rolling the exact number to land on the last square.

For example, if you land on square 99 and roll a four, move your pawn to 100 (one move) and then bounce back to 99, 98, 97 (two, three, then four moves). If box 97 is a snake's head, slide as usual

Part 2 of 2: Adding variations to the rules

Play Snakes and Ladders Step 8

Step 1. Enabling a faster win

Landing exactly on the last square makes the game more exciting, because it gives other players a chance to catch up, but it can also make the game take too long. Instead, you can allow players to throw higher than necessary to reach 100.

To make things more exciting, when someone reaches or passes 100, give the other players a turn to try to beat the preliminary winner. If someone can finish higher (like 104 instead of 101), that player wins. Two or more people can draw and thus win together, if they end up on the same square

Play Snakes and Ladders Step 9

Step 2. Add a little strategy to it

Give each player two pawns, each of the same color so that no one gets confused. When you roll the dice, you may move one of your two pawns according to that number. Both pawns must reach the last square to win.

Play Snakes and Ladders Step 10

Step 3. Play against your opponent

In this variation, each player starts at square 1. To take your turn, roll two dice instead of one. Pick one die and move your pawn forward according to that number. You can now move the other player's pawn by the number of the second die.

For a much 'nastier' variation, and one that may take much longer, you can set a rule that if you land exactly on the same square as another player, that pawn must go all the way back to the start and throw again with the dice to get back on the board

Play Snakes and Ladders Step 11

Step 4. Make it an educational game

Making your own Hoses and Ladders is easy, as described in the tips. You can make your own variations by adding words, trivial questions, or other educational material in some or all of the squares. Here are some ideas:

  • For children who are just learning to read, you can write a simple word in each box. When a player moves his pawn, he must read every word he passes.
  • Use Snakes and Ladders to teach good ideas and discourage bad ones. For example, a ladder might go from "I did my homework" to "I got good grades." A snake can go from "I didn't eat enough fruits and vegetables today" to "I don't feel well."


  • There are many digital versions of this game that you can play in a computer browser or download from online app stores. Search for "multiplayer snakes and ladders" if you want to play this with friends.
  • It's easy to make your own Snakes and Ladders game from the inside of a cereal box or other piece of cardboard. Draw 40 to 100 equal squares that are large enough for a small coin (a nickel or small coin is suitable as a pawn). Draw about six ladders and six snakes at different points on the board leading to other squares. Always place a snake tail where you want a player to slide down (one near the end is always a good idea). Look online or at home in a game box for various examples.


  • Do not use variations unless all players have agreed to them before the game starts.
  • Make sure the pawns are different colors -- having the same colors as another player is clumsy and frustrating!

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