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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games. #28: Chutes and Ladders (Marvel)

I think we all know Peter Parker loses. Always.

Some board games are sufficiently iconic and generic that they invite cross-branding. Think Monopoly, Clue, Trivial Pursuit. There are versions featuring Harry Potter, Pokemon, Star Wars, Downton Abbey for all I know. When our sons were little 10-12 years ago, the ubiquitous popularity of all things Marvel entered the chat, much to my delight. All parents know the joys of sitting on the floor playing games with their children. There's something heartwarming and special about that shared experience. It's even more special when cherished characters from your own youth help grease the skids, and I was always just a little more eager to roll the dice or flip the cards or spin the spinner when Spider-Man, Captain America, or Doctor Doom were in harness with me.

Marvel's iteration of the classic Chutes and Ladders was on heavy rotation in our house when the boys were toddlers. The cutesy, cartoonish Super Hero Squad renderings of the familiar comic characters helped assuage the inherent random savagery that in inherent to Chutes. Of all the board games out there, Chutes is the one that most realistically approximates the rollercoaster of emotion and experience that is the human condition, teaching stoicism in the face of unfair reversals and gratitude for unearned triumphs. Consider that it originated in medieval India as Moksha Patam, or Snakes and Ladders. Climb the ladders, fall victim to the snakes, all based on the caprice of the gods and chance. Milton Bradley first adapted the game as Chutes and Ladders in 1943, adding in little illustrated morality plays to imply that advancement (ladders) come to those who share and forgive and help out around the house, while setbacks (chutes) seek out shirkers, bullies, or fools.

If only. Ask Wolverine or Iron Man. You can have the best intentions and bust your ass and still hit every slide and snake on the board. Sometimes the dice just have it out for you. It's an important to lesson to learn before Kindergarten.

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