Top 5 Reasons Chutes & Ladders Is The Worst Board Game Ever

by Gigi Ross on June 28, 2010

chutes and ladders

I am not a grinch. I’m really not.

But after about 4 to 5 years of playing Chutes and Ladders with my children, I am ready to either:

a. put a sharp stick in my eye

b. begin drinking heavily at a very early hour on a daily basis or

c. start a Twitter fight with Milton Bradley.

Chutes and Ladders is a great concept – in theory. So many learning opportunities: Count to 100! Turntaking! P erseverence!

But it honestly turns children into confused, angry jackholes. Here is why.

1.There is no START. Just a square with the #1 on it. Every time we play, my kids fight over whether to start on 1, or start off the board and 1 is their first space. Every.single.time. I know that 1 is not Start because it has a ladder on it, but they don’t know that:

2. Nonintuitive counting. What marketing moron at Milton Bradley came up with “let’s make the board have switchbacks so as to force a preschooler or early elementary schooler to count from right to left every other row instead of left to right?”

Every time we play, I have to remind Little CEO, who is one whipsmart 5 year old, to move her pawn in the OTHER direction. “Follow the way the numbers go up, honey”, I say as I mutter curse words in 7 different languages under my breath.

3. Tricking kids. Someone decided to put little arrows on the end numbers of each row, to trick kids into thinking that they actually get to SLIDE up from that space to the next numbered space like it’s Sorry Sliders.” Only it’s not! They don’t get to slide up. Some marketing exec was saying, “That’ll REALLY make those little ones cry! MUAHAHAHAHA!”

4. The chutes prolonging the game.   I have played this game with my children on several occasions where I secretly delight that one kid has quickly moved up several ladders and stands to put an end to my torture within 10 minutes or less. Without fail, that same child hits the big old giant chute that slides him or her back down to position 24 on the board where the rest of us losers are languishing because we keep hitting the smaller chutes. What should be a 10 minute game turns into a 45 minute, agonizing form of mommy torture. Is this game a metaphor for life?

5. The spinners. Spinners are bad juju. They lead to debates over what constitutes a valid spin. At one time, I was debating issues of constitutional law; now, I debate whether the spinner must spin around several times before it “counts.” Do you see my brain cells escaping my brain by the million?

Anyway, my lovely children broke our Chutes and Ladders spinner the first time we played the game 3 or 4 years ago. Since Little CEO began wailing like a dying cow the minute the spinner broke, I sent my husband on an emergency MacGyver mission to come up with a spinner solution. This is what he devised, using an extra cabinet knob we had laying around:

Only problem is that the knob is loosely secured to the spinner board, so it falls into the path of the spinner most of the time. The spinner doesn’t give you a good spin, unless one of the kiddos remembers to gently lift up on the knob with one hand, while flicking the spinner with the other.

Well guess what? The kiddos DON’T remember to do it. Or they rest their hand on the spinner board, so now IT is in the way of the spinner. So when I’m not saying “honey, go the OTHER way on the board,” or “I’m sorry you landed on a chute, don’t give up”  or “For the love of God and everything pure, I HATE THIS FREAKING GAME”, I have to brightly say “Okay, don’t forget to lift up on the knob before you spin.” There go those brain cells again.

So in closing, I believe that it is time for Chutes and Ladders to make a very mysterious and unplanned disappearance from my home. It will save my kids frustration, and me, several million brain cells.

What board game do you loathe the most? Part II of this series may have me discussing the drawbacks of Bingo.


Rachel June 28, 2010 at 4:47 am

I’ve actually never had to play chutes and ladders. I enjoyed playing candy land as a kid, but now I’d really rather not play it 20 times back to back like the little girl I babysat for last summer

Cari June 28, 2010 at 7:38 am


I love how you can turn anything into a comedic work of art.

My daughter is only 2, so we haven’t started playing board games with her as she has the attention span of a gnat.

Mamma Town June 28, 2010 at 7:54 am

Haha!! I was dying during this! OMG! I didn’t know they had a Dora version of this game, and although my childhood memories are very sweet….I’m starting to dread this game, so I think I will avoid it at all costs. We will play GO FISH instead:)

alicia June 28, 2010 at 7:59 am

Yeah, I agree with all those points. So glad my kids have outgrown that one. I can’t stand that “guess who” game. All the pieces fall apart and then fall out and then the other child sees and then fighting begins… etc, etc. Oh, and now they have the electric one and it doesn’t fall apart, but it is so obnoxious that I want to poke my eyes out.

gigi927 June 28, 2010 at 11:46 pm

We love Guess Who except that Little CEO cheats, and yes, the cards fall out. Very poorly designed. Same marketing exec as c&L. :)

Maureen June 28, 2010 at 8:12 am

Hey, thanks for the warning! Will stock up on some hard liquors for those days to come hahahaha.

Caroline @SmartyPantsMama June 28, 2010 at 8:13 am

Oh how I agree! It just doesn’t make sense how this game has been as successful as it has been. It makes Candyland seem like a game for the Gods!

Joy June 28, 2010 at 8:25 am

I pretty much hate any board game right now, because I have two kids who get the concept of a game and a toddler who thinks, “Ooooo…. cards to grab and fold, game pieces to chew, messes to make!” And then the screaming and hitting begins.

Dropping by from the Lady Bloggers, and also from Alicia at a Beautiful Mess — you’ve had quite a big week! :)

gigi927 June 28, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Oh THAT is frustrating when some of the kids *can* play and the other…cannot :( Toddlers. Walking destruction. Thanks for comin’ by :)

plantress June 28, 2010 at 8:38 am

Imagine how our parents felt playing chinese checkers and candy land with us!

Natalie June 28, 2010 at 9:02 am

I never paid any attention to it before, but agree with you on EVERYTHING! This post made me laugh out loud…thank you!

#1 is my favorite for sure…as I remember having the same thing happen when I used to play with my nieces!

Mrs. Jen B June 28, 2010 at 9:06 am

Omg I’m dying over here! I have managed to escape C&L but I can definitely see how it would make me want to kill myself. What a rip, having to be sent aaaaaall the way back down a long chute like that. That’s around the time my brother would pick up the board and throw it (at least the game would be over).

My personal un-favorite is Candyland. At first I like it just fine. But it seems that the more I want the game to end already, the greater the chances of being sent back to the beginning of the game by a Mr. Plumpy card, or whatever his name is. He is my nemesis and has been since I was a small child. My Mr. Plumpy breakdowns are the stuff of family legend.

Draea June 28, 2010 at 9:53 am

I gave up on all board games about 6 years ago, right about the time I had my 4th kiddo. Between the fights and whining and fits…the magically disappearing pieces frustrated everyone. It did, however, give us and excuse to chunk the in the trash…I don’t even attempt to buy board games anymore, cards are as close as we come in this household.

Kirsten (results not typical girl) June 28, 2010 at 10:06 am

First off, throw away the spinner and steal one of the dice from another game. Every spinner brought into our home falls into a cursed-zone of physics anomoly. Just sayin.

Secondly, wait until the kids get old enough that they think they’re big enough for board games designed for the general population. Case in point: Monotony, er, Monopoly. Egad. Someone push my van up closer to one of the dumptrucks that demand 200ft. boundaries so I can get smashed by flying rocks and hard stuff.

Good luck! – Kirsten

Sherri June 28, 2010 at 10:33 am

I am SO with you on this! Hate, hate Chutes and Ladders! I agree with Mrs. Jen B about Candyland too….it’s just too much drama for the kid (or adult!) who draws that stupid card that takes you ALL THE WAY BACK.

Another one I hate is Hi-Ho Cherry-O, which has a stupid spinner in the middle of the game. This means that when the kids spin the spinner many of the little “cherries” come out of their little holes on the game board, rolling all around. The ensuing fight about whose cherries they are is enough to make you grab the stick you talked about (or the drink).

gigi927 June 28, 2010 at 11:43 pm

OMG! Yes! We have Hi Ho Cherry O also. Those cherries all get lost, and then you step on them in the dark….horrible.

Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points June 28, 2010 at 10:38 am

Oh this is brilliant. This is right up there with the psychotic butter dish of doom.

Someone out there wants women to stay oppressed. They are the ones designing these games. They figure even if moms started out as brilliant lawyers, doctors, physicists, they’ll end up as incoherent, drooling boobs after a few years of raising small children.

It’s a conspiracy.

gigi927 June 28, 2010 at 11:42 pm

or worse yet, incoherent and drooling…with NO boobs! :)

Diane June 28, 2010 at 11:30 am

Hilarious! I too, hated ALL those things about Chutes and Ladders and my kids used to beg me to play it until I was so delirious that i could no longer think straight. My youngest outgrew it a couple of years ago.

Bethany June 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm

For some reason, Chutes and Ladders has never bothered me that much, even though I totally hear everything you’re saying about it. I will admit to being pretty annoyed with the game of Life. My kids are too young to take all that on alone, so I have to play with them and it feels like playing by myself with three different minivans.

gigi927 June 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I used to love Life..that had the way cool builtin spinner, if I recall? haven’t moved up yet to Life with my own kiddos..maybe we’ll just skip on by!

Heidi June 28, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I loved Chutes and Ladders as a kid! I think I’d love it even more as an adult. I’m so fiercely competitive that mature games that require a brain and cognitive abilities like Cranium or Gestures tick me off, because – unbelievably – I am not always as good as everyone else.

Chutes and Ladders? No skill involved!

gigi927 June 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm

How are you with Yahtzee?? LOVE that game!

joann Mannix June 28, 2010 at 3:27 pm

You know who has a good spinner on their board? the game of Life, that is one wicked, good spinner.

I can’t remember all the mindless board games from those days. I try to forget them. But here’s some good news, Geeg. When they get bigger, the games get better. My girls and I now have so much fun playing real board games that don’t want to make you poke your eye out with a stick. And here’s another plus, they get to a certain age when they can go to the same movies as you. That’s right! No more excruciating afternoons spent watching sugary sweet movies while kids scream and cry all over the theater.

These are good days my friend. I promise, yours are coming.

gigi927 June 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm

It already is getting better. Light! I see it! End of tunnel! In sight! :)

Hutch June 28, 2010 at 4:50 pm

That doesn’t even look like the Chutes & Ladders I remember! But I’m not gonna lie, I loved that game :)

Nicole Abdou June 28, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Kid toys typically freak me out – but this – NOW I am traumatized by C&L. LOL

gigi927 June 28, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Run. Run away fast. :)

Snakes and Ladders June 28, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Snakes and Ladders is the traditional, not dumbed down for North American kids version and is much better, though it does follow the same format — though without the arrows at the ends of rows in the version I used to play with my grandmother. You could always “lose” the spinner and replace with a die. Otherwise I share your pain with this game. My son has no patience and insists on giving up before the end anyway…

gigi927 June 28, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Yes, we finally moved to dice the last time we played. Huge improvement :)

Sara June 28, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Amen….and a little extra Amen for putting Dora on it…I know that Dora is the thing but it totally cheesed the game out.

gigi927 June 28, 2010 at 11:35 pm

I hate Dora. This game is one of the last vestiges of Dora in our house. Thank GOD!

Cari June 28, 2010 at 10:55 pm
ericka @ alabaster coweri June 28, 2010 at 11:30 pm

i am not looking forward to ava understanding games now. :)

ericka @ alabaster cow June 28, 2010 at 11:31 pm

um i don’t know what an “alabaster coweri” is but i want one now…

gigi927 June 28, 2010 at 11:35 pm

it’s you, only Italiano. :)

Alexandra June 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm

chutes and ladders: what a sadistic game. guaranteed tears when they have to slide downthe ladder.


We tossed it out…

Cute post, gigi!

Uyen June 29, 2010 at 6:46 am

this is too funny. I never thought of Chutes & Ladder in the same manner that you just described…LOL!! I love how your husband put that knob on the spinner!!

Beth Zimmerman June 29, 2010 at 10:03 am

I hate most pre-school board games, for reasons similar to those you have enumerated (brilliantly I might add), but I think the game I hate with the most passion is Risk. I know people who love the silly thing but I almost came to blows with my fellow players on my first Risk endeavor (and I’m pretty mellow) and decided to steer clear of Wars from that point on!

Jamie Bishop July 2, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I love your blog. I’m glad I found it again. You were following me at Little Bishop Chronicles…it got disabled. Would you mind following me here at the new one? It’s been a nightmare losing my entire blog and followers! Oh and later this evening for the first time I’m gonna have enough that I’m pissed off about to participate in your flip off! Yay!

kelly December 29, 2010 at 5:01 pm

We left Chutes and Ladders on our doorstep for the game fairy to take away and replace with another game. I could play Operation all day. Chutes and Ladders can kiss my butt to the right then to the left then to the right and then to the left and then get totally confused in which direction after a tear shedding chute. uck. thank you game fairy.

kludgymom December 29, 2010 at 8:26 pm

amen sister!

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