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.

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73 Comments »

  1. Saul says:

    I was playing Left4Dead the other night with my brother, my cousin and my flatmate. We’ve been playing campaign mode on Expert nearly every night the last few weeks. We always fail, but it’s the most fun I’ve had gaming in years.

    Anyone complaining that Left4Dead gets boring hasn’t played with us!

    (yeah, it’s the people)

  2. Pantsman says:

    In Canada (and maybe the states, I don’t know) we have a version called “pop-o-matic Trouble”. It’s the same as this Ludo thing, except the dice is encased in a transparent plastic bubble affixed to the board. To roll, you push down on the bubble, and a little mechanism pops the dice into the air against the wall of the bubble.

    In other words, it’s Ludo, but it pretty much rolls for you.

  3. solipsistnation says:

    @Pantsman: It’s Ludo, but it’s designed so that when you throw the damn thing across the room in disgust, you don’t lose the dice.

  4. Bret says:

    And also the Pop-O-Matic provides more amusement than most of Ludo.

    It pops!

  5. DMJ says:

    So I guess this definition of “good player” encompasses the concept of someone with low expectations of game-mediated interaction, and with whom you can have kisses afterwards. I endorse this.

  6. Barts says:

    In Poland it is called The Chinese or (rarely) Don’t get angry, man, similarly to Germany. My Grandmother used the second name when she played it with me (sniff… I miss you, Grandma).

    The more common name (The Chinese) is a reference to Chinese patience you need to complete this game, or so I’ve heard.

    Polish wiki:
    http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chińczyk_(gra_planszowa)
    and translation:
    http://translate.google.com/translate?prev=hp&hl=en&js=n&u=http%3A%2F%2Fpl.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FChi%C5%84czyk_(gra_planszowa)&sl=pl&tl=en&history_state0=

  7. Barts says:

    In Poland it is called The Chinese or (rarely) Don’t get angry, man, similarly to Germany. My Grandmother used the second name when she played it with me (sniff… I miss you, Grandma).

    The more common name (The Chinese) is a reference to Chinese patience you need to complete this game, or so I’ve heard.

    I have also put a version of this comment with links to Wikpedia, but it was eaten by spam filter. On a related note, I would like to say that your spam policy sucks donkey balls, RPS. There is a number of my comments that were never moderated OUT of spam, even though message says that such message would be presented to site admins and it really, REALLY sucks, because I spent quite some time on them. Generally, it’s an incentive against using any sorts of links and writing longer comments. Why do I even bother sending this one out, I wonder?

  8. SuperNashwan says:

    This article is better than it has any right to be, hats off to Kieron for an excellent piece of writing.

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    Barts: We get thousands of posts of spam per day. I don’t know about the “we think this message is spam stuff but the admins will check”, which I’ll talk to people about, as it’s not true – I suspect it’s a basic message in the system. If you have messages in Spam, mail us about it, and we’ll approve them. If you don’t do it quickly, the spam-backlog autodeletes – I just approved the only one I could find in there.

    Sorry to lose your work, sir. Prod us directly if it happens again.

    KG

  10. Premium User Badge Mr Pink says:

    Anyone ever played 42 all time classics on the DS? Well Ludo is on there. In the “campaign” type mode you play all of the 42 games one after the other, getting 3 points on each (where the game awards you 3 points for winning the game, and a pity point for losing it). Anyway, I decided to go through the campaign on hard mode, being a sucker for punishment. Now think about this, as Kieron said there is no skill in Ludo at all. How do you think the designers made a hard difficulty mode? Yup, they weight the dice against you.

    If you think normal Ludo is bad, try being condemned to sit and watch dice roll through three games of FUCKING LUDO in which you have literally almost no chance. Ludicrous.

  11. TooNu says:

    This was pretty damn funny :) I guess in the world series of Ludo, the limited tactic options available would probably be a game breaker but purely based on luck. Especially engrossing would be the 4 player championship final, 4 expert Ludo players hoping the dice roll their way whilst anticipating their fellow opponents. Willl they take a peice out with that roll of a 6? or will they move 1 at a time?

    Just for future references to a great series of articles,you could have a 7 in 1 summary or perhaps a mega thread with all 7 in 1 thread for one continous awesome read.

  12. Chis says:

    Yes Kieron, I’d recommend fucking over fucking Ludo, also.

    ‘Tis an infuriating game, at best. Chess at least allows for some measure of tactics. Now I remember why I stopped playing Ludo when I was about… 12!

  13. Count Zero says:

    In Romanian it’s “Don’t get upset brother!”, a fitting name since most of the time the game, due to the length, and arbitrary nature it tends to bring out the worst in people. I hadn’t touched this since I was 6 and then I played it with my 8 year old cousins this Easter, it gets surprisingly tactical later on, and players tend to forge alliances and make deals when taking out pegs.
    Still, it’s a terrible game to inflict on others, and I’ll make sure not to have it in my house when I have kids…

  14. mrrobsa says:

    When I was 8 my gran gave me such a resolute thrashing at Ludo that I proceeded to cry.
    Fucking Ludo.

  15. TooNu says:

    Nice :)

  16. Craymen Edge says:

    Some of those pieces are overlapping the lines. You disgust me.

    I can’t be the only one here who nudges other player’s pieces so they’re properly in their squares, or straightens the the pile of discarded cards when playing games.

  17. Barts says:

    @Kieron Gillen
    Thanks a lot for your reply, much appreciated!

    There indeed is such a message after one’s comment gets eaten by spam filter, promising that someone will check the comment. Changing it might be a good idea.

    As for the rest, I’ll just quote immortal Deus Ex:
    In the end, all sins are forgiven – even yours

    Thanks!

  18. Kieron Gillen says:

    It was something hard-coded into our spam-system, but Alec’s done some bashing it with his hammer, and it should be a proper message now.

    KG

  19. fugo says:

    anyone played the board game Frustration? same rules (except the block one) but with a different layout and a dice in a popper thing in the middle.. somehow my family always loved Frustration, mainly because it was an all-out war with four players!

  20. Filipe says:

    A pal and I were stuck with a Ludo-like game once (the game “Trouble”, which is exactly like the above mentioned “Frustration”) and decided to take two colours each. The game opened up a bit and became almost a simpler form of backgammon.

  21. Oddtwang says:

    @Craymen Edge: Yeah, I do that a bit. Basically a splash of anally retentive in your personality, that is :)

  22. Shadowcat says:

    Digital Eel has just unleashed Space Ludo upon an unsuspecting universe.

    I figured that Kieron would want to know :)