Design Journal – Snakes and Ladders – A Campaign Mechanic

Design Journal – Snakes and Ladders – A Campaign Mechanic

I heart the interwebs!

Note: there are going to be quite a few links in this post. I have some ideas about a Campaign mechanic that I think is pretty cool, and I want to be sure I point back to the guys that brought it to my attention. If I have missed any references, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!

I found a really great blog called Grid Based Wargaming – but not always where the author had a tremendously interesting idea for Campaign Management – a Snakes & Ladders style game board!

He may or may not have picked up the idea from Bob Cordery, of Wargaming Miscellany (and The Portable Wargame fame!) who is also looking to create a simple Campaign System for wargames. Cordery decided to look into some other boardgames that have been successful, and perhaps get some inspiration.

He says he thought about Snakes & Ladders, but discarded the idea. Peter from Grid-Based Wargames grabbed that Snakes & Ladders idea and ran with it.

I mentioned it on Twtr and @lifeontheborder noted that, “It pre-dates that. Peter Pig/RFCM uses similar for scenario pre-games. PBI was one of the first I saw. But glad Bob revived and expanded on it.

Man of Tin blog also mentions a very old game called The Prince’s Quest.

Bob Cordery posted about Snakes & Ladders again, last year, with links to several other gamers who also took Peter’s idea and created their own tools. (Pop over to Cordery’s site for those links!)

This is Peter’s final Snakes and Ladders Campaign diagram (click to embiggen):

Grid based wargame snakes and ladders campaign map
snakes and ladders mini campaign map by Peter

I sketched out a rough facsimile and set about reverse-engineering it. I had a couple of questions and Peter was kind enough to respond to my comments on his blog. He told me the arrows were placed first, based on various designs of the children’s game he had seen online. He then selected Events to go in the appropriate boxes.

I’ve created the following procedure for designing this style of Campaign map. The technique is a little different, relying more on randomness, as I think it will be better for solo play.

  1. There are 35 available movement spaces, place an “Event” note on 10 of them. I rolled 2d4 twice for each horizontal line. When a player lands on one of these Event spaces, they will draw a card to determine the random event.
  2. Choose two of the Events to be Strategic Objectives (not on the bottom row, I think. I rolled a d8 twice, started counting on the second row). When a player is the first to land on an Strategic Objective space space, they will receive 1 VP to be added to their final score. They do not move up or down. Once taken the space is considered empty.
  3. After the Events have been mapped out, add the arrows (Snakes) for the winners of the four battles on the ends of each row. I decided that the arrows from battles 1 & 4 would lead to the Strategic Objectives on the following lines.
  4. The four battles leading to the Climactic Battle at the end can be laid out in advance or generated randomly. This will definitely depend on what era/genre of battles you are playing.
  5. Each of the four Scenario Battles are worth 2 VP to the winner, 1 VP each if it is a draw.
  6. The Climactic Battle is worth 4 VP.

I am working on a system to play-test using cards for the Events. This is the completed sketch of the game board:

draft snakes and ladders campaign map

In the system I envision, when your token lands on an Event, you’ll draw a card, and the card will tell you whether to move up or down. Weather effects will definitely be controlled by Event cards. Possibly there could be a challenge of some kind that would add some extra drama to the Event.

I still have not decided what to do if a space is occupied by two tokens of the different sides. This may be a good time to play a mini-game, like Scouting, Courier, or Supply Train. I am also considering including a Resource Management mechanic of some kind. Some Twtr peeps suggested a couple of ways that the campaign could be affected by supplies and their disruption.

I also made a video where I discuss this in a little more detail.


The Courier and Supply Train mini-games are WIP. For more content like this, with even more detail and “behind the scenes” info, check out the Substack: (Courier and Supply Train mini-games coming soon!)

Any comments, suggestions or ideas are certainly welcome!


2 thoughts on “Design Journal – Snakes and Ladders – A Campaign Mechanic

    1. It has taken me a while, but I think I have finally worked out a way to incorporate a card-based system for determining the events!

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