Snakes & LaddersSnakes and Ladders - also known as Chutes and Ladders - is probably one of the first "real" games that most children learn, however the total absence of any skill makes it far less popular with adults. The kids don't seem to mind this - in fact they appear to enjoy the randomness. Perhaps part of this is because even a player who is far behind still has a chance to catch up. It's also a game with extremely simple rules which undoubtedly helps.
HistoryWe often think of Snakes & Ladders as a useful learning game. It introduces children to friendly competition and exposes them to the vagaries of chance whilst encouraging basic counting. Many people would be surprised to learn that the educational aspect of the game was once far more significant.
Modern Snakes and ladders dates back to the Victorian era and was first published in England in 1892. However the origins date back many hundreds of years, probably to 13th century India.
The original Indian game is said by some to have been called Moksha-Patamu, others say Parama padham. Whatever the name the game was one of moral instruction. Individual squares were labelled with moral and philosophical concepts with the lower numbers being the baser ones and those towards the goal being the more enlightened. The snakes and ladders represented various actions and choices that could be made in life. The boards were usually lushly illustarted with pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses.
It's clear to see why such a morally instructive game should appeal to the Victorians. They replaced the Hindu philosophy with their own simplified system of vices and virtues however the essence of the game remained (in theory) the same.
All of which is a far cry from the colourful versions of the game you can buy in the stores today!