7-in-1 Magnetic Family Game: Ludo

By Kieron Gillen on June 10th, 2009 at 7:23 pm.

Oh, just look at those complete bastards.
Fucking Ludo.

Ludo is a simplified version of the Indian game of Pachisi. For Americans, you’re probably thinking that means Ludo is a bit like Parcheesi, another game that’s a simplified version of Pachisi. And you’ll be right, except Ludo is even simpler and features less skill. Whenever Ludo is brought up to Walker, he mentions how outrageous it is that the game whose name is literally “I Play” actually isn’t a game at all. The human really just exists to roll the dice and move the pieces.

It works like this:
I wish they'd be dangled in acid whilst they scream.

You have four pieces. Your aim is to get them all around the board, at which point you can go up your coloured pathway and get to the centre. You roll the dice, and move them that number of spaces. Complications are as follows: You have to hit the exact roll to hit the centre. You have to roll a six to move any piece out of your starting area. If you move a piece on top of an enemy piece, they’re moved back to their start area and have to move roll a six to get moving again. If you roll a six, you roll again. If you can move, you have to. Oh – and one rule in the instructions which I didn’t know before – if you move one of your pieces onto another piece of yours, you can “block”, creating something that no opponent can pass.

That’s it. In other words, on average, you’ll have 3 turns before you can even move a piece. Once that piece is in play, it’ll be – on average – another 3 turns before another piece enters play, giving you the first even vaguely tactical decision in the game – whether to move a piece further or get another one in play. If the latter, you have a choice every turn of whether you want to move one the other. In practice, the decision is transparently simple – if there’s an enemy close behind you, you move that one to try and out run them. Of all the games here, this is one I suspect that – as far as it was possible – the Lady and I both played perfect games. Because you’d have to have a brain made entirely of dried semen to do otherwise.

Fucking Ludo.

Of all the games we played in the week, we laughed most whilst playing Ludo. It was hilarious. We had a hell of a time.

You're playing? You're playing? WELL, I'M NOT PLAYING ANY MORE! [chainsaw sounds]

Yeah, a lot of this was it’s so bad it’s good territory, but it’s still laughing. The game was so empty of any meaningful interaction, as the dice moved back and forth, we were reduced to something approaching hysteria. We realised pretty much immediately, we’d fucked up the game set up. The Lady was in the position directly behind me. Which meant that, my pieces were – by default – ahead of hers, giving her pieces the chance to lurk behind my start section waiting for newcomers. I took well over six turns to get my first piece out, only for it to be took immediately. It ended up like some kind of Ludo Paschendale, with a generation of tiny pieces stepping out just get mown down. Lions lead by Donkeys, I tell you.

The Lady ended up getting three of her pieces to the centre before I’d even got one. The game was cascading to a cheerful thrashing, which I embraced. It was, after all, fucking Ludo. Her last piece was at the bottom of the her home straight – which I can’t enter. In other words, if she even had a next turn, she’d move into an area where there was no chance of me capturing her, and making it almost certain that she’d roll the number she needed to get home before I moved all my pieces home.

I count the gap, then look up, smiling.

“Twelve spaces. I have a one in thirty-six chance”

The dice bounce across the stone table. A six.

I pick it up and shake it again, giving her my best Clint Eastwood glare as she giggled.

“I have a one in six chance.”

I shake and throw. It settles. A six.

I AM INVINCIBLE! THE LUDOMEISTER! THE LUDOCRAT! LOOK UPON MY WORKS, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR! OH YEAH! GAME ON MOTHERFUCKER! GAME FUCKING ON! I’M THE COUNTING SPACES OF MONTEFISTO! NEVER ENTER A GAME OF CHANCE WITH A STAFFORDIAN!

Of course, I end up losing. It was closer than it had any right to be. In the time it takes the Lady to get her piece around the board, I manage to get all my pieces almost home. In fact, I get onto the home run before her, sitting there, rolling the dice to try and get the final space. She ends up one space away. We sit there, rolling the dice, back and forth, until one of got a one. It takes about four turns. She gets it first.

I think, in terms of Ludo, it’s close to the immortal game of chess. It was an iconic, platonic-form of Ludo. The highest point involved only the scantest part of human intelligence. It started with us both sitting still, just rolling trying to get one number. It ended with us both, sitting still, trying to get one number. It’s the sort of game which makes you wonder why you even bothered with all that stuff in between. We should have just started rolling dice until one of us got a six and called it quits. Hell, why bother with that? Let’s just flip a coin and get back to making out like excitable teenagers.

Because then we wouldn’t have had the fun of laughing at a shared human experience. Which is about the only lesson to take back from Ludo, and it’s a cursory one worth considering. One of the most common phrases when discussing videogames is “But it’s fun in multiplayer!”. At a core level, especially when played with friends, everything’s fun in multiplayer. Stating the obvious: the most important part of multiplayer is the multiple players. This is where a worrying amount of a multiplayer’s game’s merit comes from. Is this actually a good game, or are these just good players? By which I mean, not actually anything to do with the commonly accepted idea of whether someone is good at the game – but whether they’re actually good to play with. That’s the only sort of “good player” which ever really matters.

As such, as much as I enjoyed the game, it wasn’t because of the game. It was because of the Lady.

So, generally speaking, I’d recommend fucking over fucking ludo.

Fucking Ludo.

, , .

73 Comments »

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  1. A Dead Eldar Guardian says:

    Ludo is for commies.

  2. Jonas says:

    Eep Kieron, markup fail!

    But then I like Ludo, so don’t mind me.

  3. Bret says:

    Dashed right. Ludo is for communists, and maybe also hippies. Not PC gamers, the backbone of every solid democracy.

    Of course, isn’t fucking a preferable alternative to most board games?

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    Erk. Mark-up fixed.

    KG

  5. Heliocentric says:

    Out of ten please, for both. Ludo and fucking obviously

  6. Jeremy says:

    Don’t forget about Sorry! either. I hate that game so much, or rather it brings hate out of my soul. It makes me a far worse person when I play it, so I choose not to.

  7. Meat Circus says:

    If the player exists primarily to MOVE THE PIECES AND ROLL THE DICE, doesn’t this mean that Ludo is the same as ever MMO ever?

    Ludo = World of Warcraft

  8. Funky Badger says:

    WIN!

  9. Jonas says:

    I really like this series, the only other place I really encounter stuff about board games is over on Brenda Brathwaite’s Blog (yay alliteration) and it’s generally not as analytical as this.

    Everything you’ve written about Ludo is of course blatantly true, but it’s just about the only game I can play with my grandmother these days because her alzheimer’s is making it harder and harder for her to beat us in Yahtzee (the game, not Ben Croshaw). And in this case, fucking is right out.

  10. Blast Hardcheese says:

    Ludo Paschendale.

    Awesome.

    @Meat Circus
    No, because then you could say D&D is just rolling dice, which unless it’s fourth edition that’s patently untrue.

  11. Vinraith says:

    I’m pleased to see you make the point that things are fun in multiplayer because of the people, moreso than the game. The mantra of “it’s fun in multiplayer” usually reads as code to me for “it’s a shit game, but I like playing things with friends.”

  12. Meat Circus says:

    @Vinraith:

    Yes, this. I’m less inclined to buy Bioshock 2 now I know they’ve added pointless multiplayer.

  13. Meat Circus says:

    @Blast Hardcheese:

    It’s true of AD&D4. I accept that there was some strategic element in 3 and earlier, but because of the ludofication effects of WoW, it’s now largely a rule set of ROLL THE DICE AND MOVE THE PIECES.

  14. Clovis says:

    Could you clarify if Ludo is so terrible because of its simplification of Pachisi, or is Pachisi itself also terrible? BTW, reading the wiki it seems that Parcheesi is pretty similar to Pachisi. As someone mentioned, Sorry! is the super simple American Pachisi.

    Anyway, I’ve never played Ludo, but I have enjoyed Parcheesi. I’m confused that you wouldn’t have been aware of the block rule in Ludo since this seems like the most important strategic element of the game. Sure, having her start behind you can be bad because you get stomped, but you can also set up an early block and get a couple pegs around the board while she is wasting her throws. Not having the safe spots like Pachisi/Parcheesi is a really terrible ommission though. That allows you to hang back while she is forced to pass.

    Is it possible that the game actually does have a wee bit of strategy to it that is not obvious? Of course, even if this was the case you have to do a whole bunch of simple dice throwing and obvious moves inbetween the occasional important decision.

  15. The_B says:

    So what does that make Fucking Ludo?

  16. Okami says:

    So that’s the game everybody has been talking and getting mad and angry about. It’s one of life’s sweet ironies, that the german name of this game that is so reviled by everybody here and is causing so much anger, is Mensch ärgere dich nicht which literally means Do not get angry, man.

  17. Lunaran says:

    Now, try playing this on a proper holiday with the wife, where you’re both bitter and loveless and would prefer Ludo to fucking.

  18. Half Broken Glass says:

    Fucking Ludo. Brainless, irritating, awesome.

  19. Wirbelwind says:

    In Dutch they call it “Mens erger je niet” which roughly translates to “Don’t rage, human”.

  20. The_B says:

    That sounds like what SHODAN would say if you played against her.

  21. Xercies says:

    We never actually used the blocking machanic in our games because we knew that it would make a long game even longer. i guess Ludo is good for long evenings with nothing to do(i.e camping) since its a game that really is about taking your time with things and just talking with your other fellows. So Yes your right Kieron it wasn’t a fun game because of the game but it was a fun game because of the company.

    But sometimes you wouldn’t have had those experiences unless you played the Game so it at least has some merit.

  22. Bas says:

    This isn’t the worse game of the box? Then what is?

  23. Clovis says:

    There’s also an American version called Aggravation. That version was apparently created before companies had marketing departments. It is a very accurate title.

  24. Nick says:

    “At least you didn’t mention those mad all night ludo parties we had on the Vicar’s lawn.”

  25. Meat Circus says:

    We still have Backgammon and Cards to come.

    Backgammon is an excellent game and should have its own TV show.

    So, by a process of deduction, the worst game is Cards.

  26. Premium User Badge

    Schaulustiger says:

    Okami came up first, but it’s truly hilarious. I was always wondering what this “Ludo” was that everyone seemed so outrageous about. My first guess was Mensch ärgere dich nicht and I literally lol’ed when this article went up and I recognized the game. Dude, don’t get angry would really be a better name for it.
    Ludo is a good name, too, as it has a striking resemblance to the german word Lude which can be translated to pimp. Now what was that with the “fucking” part? :p

  27. Serondal says:

    Kieron said “I AM INVINCIBLE! THE LUDOMEISTER! THE LUDOCRAT! LOOK UPON MY WORKS, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR! OH YEAH! GAME ON MOTHERFUCKER! GAME FUCKING ON! I’M THE COUNTING SPACES OF MONTEFISTO! NEVER ENTER A GAME OF CHANCE WITH A STAFFORDIAN! ”

    LMAO! The people I work with think I’m insane now I just started laughing my brains out while everyone was dead quite . . .

  28. MrBejeebus says:

    Loving the series and the point about “Its good in multiplayer” is true, take Killing Floor for example which is terrible if I just play it on my own, if I play it with 5 other friends its a blast though.

    And Fuck Ludo, I once played a game with my brother and his girlfriend at 1 in the morning that lasted an hour.

  29. Psychopomp says:

    @Blast

    If your 4th edition is all about rolling dice, you’re doing it wrong, just as you would be with 3rd.

  30. Driadan says:

    Well, in Spain it’s called “Parchís”, the rules are quite close, but there are small differences depending on where are you playing. Anyway, the fun part of it is when you are 4 players, because there are a few more political and tactical decissions to make. Just try it again with your lady and a couple of friends (not necessarily a couple, just make sure they are two) and you’ll probably see that it’s the same simple game but with a little twist.
    P.S.: One of the main differences is that we use a 5 to get out of the starting area, so you don’t get to re-roll when you get one piece out.

  31. Clovis says:

    Ever heard of Bunco? It’s way worse than Ludo. My wife bought the game thinking it was some kind of fun dice game since it encourages you to play at “Bunco Parties”. Well, in the current version of Bunco you roll three dice and hope to get a certain number (1-6). When you get enough you win. That’s about it. There are absolutely ZERO decisions in Bunco. You just roll dice and count. You can also ring a bell if you want.

    I remember opening the game and reading the instructions. I have never been embarrassed by reading, or explaining, rules before. I actually blushed and sweat a little. I read the instructions several times wondering what I had missed. I get queesy if I see the game at the bottom of our pile of boardgames. I wish I could burn it.

    Bunco, it turns out, is simply an excuse for houswifes to get together and drink. So, you know, great for multiplayer!

  32. Meat Circus says:

    @Psychopomp:

    Ha! An AD&D4 apologist? Burn the heretic.

  33. Premium User Badge

    solipsistnation says:

    I would bet that the fucking is probably better after the waiting. Plus you now have a shared experience over which to bond. You do something sort of unpleasant but nominally entertaining (like playing Ludo), and then wander off to your bed, or couch, or kitchen table, or sandy beach where the waves break over you and you hardly notice so wrapped are you in one another, and as the sun goes down you sigh contentedly, sweat cooling in the Mediterranean breeze, and say, “Hey, how about another game of Ludo?” and get punched. And the make-up sex will be even better.

  34. Meat Circus says:

    Fucking is definitely great for the multiplayer.

    Cocks are imba. Nerf plz, devs.

  35. user@example.com says:

    AD&D4 does not exist. Come on people, only 2 editions out of… about 7? had an A in front of the D&D. It’s not that hard.

    And D&D 4e’s better than 3/3.5. OD&D’s better, especially if you stick to the core and don’t let in the munchkin supplements with their non-d6 hit dice and their high-level spells and their thief class.

    Stupid thieves.

  36. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    Oh Meat, if they nerfed your cock any further it would be a third nipple.

  37. Meat Circus says:

    @AndrewC

    Thank god I buff it regularly.

  38. Nick says:

    I’m sad no one has got my Hancocks Half Hour reference yet =/

    Then again, its probably fairly obscure for the RPS demographic.

  39. GuiSim says:

    TF2 has good players.

  40. Guido says:

    While I appreciate a good board game, those 7-in-1 family games rarely are of that sort. The good one, I mean. Except for chess, chess is awesome.

    If you got to like board games through this little incident, you might like Descent, the dungeon crawler. Or for something lighter, try Small World, that’s awesome. If you feel like playing the most awesome space opera ever, get Twilight Imperium, or (way more abstract) Supernova.

    There’s hundreds of really good board games out there :)

  41. jonfitt says:

    All the while reading through the article I was thinking: “surely given the vista in the background of these pictures there are things you’d rather be doing than playing fucking Ludo”.
    As it turns out that was completely true.

    Also, that was probably the most thrilling Ludo game that has ever been played.

  42. ...hmm... says:

    This has to be the best article kieron has spewed forth in his career; putting him firmly in the pantheon of great writers.

    i used to play ludo with my gran and my sister.
    oh my god, thats why my life is so boring…

  43. Dave says:

    ::casts Time Stop::

    D&D 4 is the best version ever.

    No, really.

  44. Meat Circus says:

    My point still stands.

    In World of Warcraft, the player exists only to roll the dice and move the pieces. So WoW is Ludo with better graphics.

  45. kafka7 says:

    You say that Ludo cannot be a game since the ‘playing’ merely involves the throw of a dice. But since that singular action is within your physical control, and mastery of dice-throwing to fashion predictable results would take many lifetimes of practice, that technically makes Ludo the hardest game in the whole fucking universe.

  46. Kieron Gillen says:

    Meat: It’s move the pieces and roll the dice and nothing else. Choosing which dice to roll when and where to roll that dice and – in the case of Wow – position the player (“Move” in Ludo isn’t directly analogous to “move” in WoW. The latter is entirely up to you, the former is entirely *dictated* to you. In Ludo, you are the engine).

    I haven’t played it yet, but just by picking apart the rules, I really like D&D4.

    Oh – this is the worst game I set up yesterday. It’s just a terrible game we happened to enjoy this once.

    I love the German name for Ludo. Brilliant.

    KG

  47. Martin MPK says:

    Its at this point I would like to direct everyone to http://www.downtimetown.com

    Dont hate the games, hate the players who slag off the games!

  48. ketch says:

    These things count as games still? I was unaware!

  49. Clayton says:

    To be fair, it is slightly higher on the “is a game” number line than Candy Land.

  50. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    “Everything’s fun in multiplayer.”

    Mind blown.