Ludo is simplification of the Indian game Pachisi. Invented at the end of the nineteenth century, Ludo has been a popular game from then till now. Though the player has some choice in what to do, luck dominates in deciding who wins and who loses, making it an excellent game to play against children.
Up to four players each have four pieces, which they race around the outside of a cross-shaped board according to the throws of a single six-sided die. Once a piece has completed a circuit, it turns towards the centre of the board where it finishes its journey. The first player to get all four pieces to the centre wins the game.
History of Ludo
The nineteenth century saw an increased interest in Indian board games in the west. Pachisi, a four-player race game, was particularly popular in India and received some attention in England. Pachisi is a reasonably strategic partnership game, and some simplification was apparently needed to make the game accessible to children. The result was Ludo.
Ludo dispensed with many of the complexities of pachisi. The use of cowries to control movement, with their different scoring rules, was dispensed with, and a single six-sided die used instead. Partnership rules were also forgotten, each player simply racing their own pieces to the finish. The two-way travel to and from the middle was simplified, pieces beginning on the outside of the cross. And finally, the protective castles were eliminated.
From its inception, Ludo's simple nature made it an ideal children's game, but less entertaining to adults. The game maintained its popularity during the twentieth century and remains in production in the twenty-first.
Rules for Ludo
1. Two, three or four can play.
2. Each player starts the game with four pieces in his "yard", the area in the corner of the board.
3. Players decide at random who takes the first turn.
4. A player starts his turn by throwing the die.
5. A throw of six may be used to enter a piece from the player's yard to his start square. Alternatively, it may be used to advance by six spaces one of his pieces already on the track.
6. Any other throw is used to advance one of the player's pieces already on the track by the appropriate number of spaces. If the player has no pieces on the track, then the turn is lost and the die passed clockwise around the board to the next player.
7. A throw of six allows the player another throw, after the corresponding move is made. A second throw of six similarly allows a third throw. If the third throw is six, however, the throw is lost and the player's turn ends.
8. The course of a piece from the player's start square is clockwise around the board, till it arrives back at the end of the arm of the cross from which it started. It then proceeds up the central row of spaces on that arm, till it arrives at the middle by an exact throw. At the middle the piece's journey is over.
9. A player cannot land one of his pieces on top of another; only one piece may inhabit a square at once. A piece can, however, pass by another friendly piece.
10. If a piece ends its move on a square occupied by an opponent's piece, the opponent's piece is taken, and returned to that opponent's yard to begin its journey again.
11. A player wins the game when all four of his pieces have reach the centre of the board. Other players may play on to see who gains the second and third places.
Strategy in Ludo
As the game is intended as a simple race, there is very little strategy. The player does have more choice than, say, snakes & ladders, but the choice of which piece to move is usually either obvious or irrelevant. There are, however, some tactics that are worth considering.
Firstly, one should try to maximise choices where possible. It is usually best to use a throw of six to enter a new piece on the board. Having only a single piece in play leaves it completely at the mercy of the throw of the die, and renders impossible any of the tactics that might occasionally have any influence on the game.
Avoid having a piece just in front of an opponent (i.e. between one and six squares), as a piece in this position is vulnerable to capture. You should not pass an opponent's piece unless the move takes you onto your home row, and out of the path of the enemy. It may somtimes be worth passing an opponent on a throw of six, in the hope that the next throw will take you beyond the opponent's immediate reach.
It is also worth "chasing" an opponent who is just ahead, as this maximises the opportunities for making a capture.