If you like board games, here's one you probably should check out. It's called Ludo King. Developed in India, Ludo is based on a centuries-old Indian game called Pachisi. And the roots of the game stretch back 3,000 years. For a game to hang around three millennia, it has to be fun, and as the world's internet population is finding out, Ludo certainly has an addictive quality.

The centerpiece of the digital version of the game is Ludo, but Ludo King (download for Windows, Android and iOS) also contains a Snakes & Ladders game that can be played just like the old-fashioned game you knew as a kid. You can also play Ludo King against a computer, against friends locally (by passing a device around) and online against players from all over the world. Up to six players can get in on a single Ludo King match, making for some intense action.

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Let's break down what the game of Ludo is about, the rules and how best to rise to the top of the Ludo King heap as an online gamer.

Ludo King gameplay

Gameplay in Ludo King is simple and largely automatic, with your only choices being to roll the die and select which token to move. If there is only one token that can move, the computer automatically moves it for you. During the game you can send emojis and canned comments to your fellow players. These actually make the game a little more fun and can both endear other players to you or make you want to crush them under the weight of your Ludo greatness.

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(Credit: Bart Farkas)

Ludo King rules

If you've ever played Parcheesi, Sorry or Trouble, you'll definitely see echoes of those games in Ludo King, since they are all subtle and not-so-subtle variations on the Ludo theme.

And while these games share commonalities, they are not exactly the same as Ludo and don't have quite the same addictive quality. There are many subtle variations on how to play Ludo, so we're going to focus exclusively on the Ludo King version of the game, which stays very true to Ludo's roots.

The game takes place on a board with four colored areas (one for each of four players): green, yellow, red and blue. Each player has four tokens that reside in their home base.

The game is played by rolling a single die, and the goal is to get each of your tokens all the way around the board and into the center area before any of your opponents.

To move a token out of your base, you must roll a six, so games begin with all the players rolling the die to see who gets the first token out of the base. If you do roll a six, then you automatically get another roll. Once you have a token out of your base, you're on your way around the board.

The challenge with circumnavigating the board comes from another of Ludo's rules. If another player rolls the die and can land one of their game pieces on your game piece, your piece is going back into your base and you'll have to again roll a six to get it out and start the journey around the board again.

Here are the basic rules:

  • Ludo is played between 2 to 6 players. Each player has 4 tokens. Whoever gets all four tokens to the home (in the center of the board) first is the winner. The game continues until all four places are decided (first, second, third and fourth).
  • A token can only move out from your base and start if a six is rolled by that player.
  • When a player rolls a six, they get another turn to roll the dice.
  • If a player rolls six three times in a row, their turn is then skipped.
  • If a token crosses the finish line, that player gets another dice roll.
  • If a token captures another token, the capturing player gets another dice roll.
  • There are eight safe squares on the board (they are colored squares and starred squares).
  • The tokens must exit each player's base and move around the board to win.

Ludo King game choices

The main event in Ludo King is the game Ludo. And you have four ways to play Ludo King:

Vs. computer: This mode allows you to have a two- or four-player game against computer opponents. It's all done on your smartphone and doesn't require an internet connection. The computer plays well but doesn't cheat (or at least, as far as we can tell it doesn't seem to cheat).

Local multiplayer: This mode allows you to play against two or four friends from a single device (think handing the mobile device from person to person after each turn).

Online multiplayer: This is where Ludo King really shines. You can go online and play against random folks from anywhere on the planet in real time.

Play with friends: This multiplayer mode allows you to create a lobby (or choose from one) and play with established Ludo King friends that you've acquired in real life or during online gameplay.

Other Ludo King options

Rankings: By hitting the crown icon you can have a look at the world rankings for today, this week, this month, and all-time.

Store: By hitting the Store button you can purchase coins or diamonds and sometimes special offers.

Settings: The settings button (an icon with two cogwheels turning) gives you access to a number of parameters:

Achievements/Leaderboards/Challenges: You can gain bonus points for achieving certain goals while playing Ludo King.

Rules: A breakdown of the rules (earlier in this article if you need to review them) are always available to you to peruse.

Other games offered: There are a couple of other games available for download from the Ludo King developer.

Music: You can turn the background music on or off (it's on by default).

Sound level: The sound can be adjusted in-game, as well as on your device itself.

The main screen also has a store where you can purchase more of the game's currency (diamonds and gold coins), a series of social-networking buttons for Facebook, sharing, and meeting up with buddies and friends. Finally, there is an icon that allows you to spin a wheel for extra coins. You can do this once every three hours, and if you want to spin more often you have to watch advertisement videos in the Ludo game.

Snakes and Ladders

This is a completely separate game that's available from the main screen in the app. Snakes and Ladders allows you the same four game modes that Ludo King does. You can play vs. the computer, a friend on one device (locally), against a random online player or against an established friend. Is this a riff on Snakes and Ladders that takes this venerable old game to the next level? No, it isn't. Still, if you like Snakes and Ladders, this allows you to play expedient games to your heart's desire.

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(Credit: Bart Farkas)

Ludo King strategies

So what are the things you need to know to make the right decisions in Ludo, and just how to do you become a Ludo champion? The fact is that ultimately Ludo King is about rolling the die and getting favorable rolls for the situation of your tokens on the board at any given time. That said, how you choose to move your tokens (and where you move them to) absolutely plays a factor in your chances of winning the game.

There are even academic papers about Ludo, so it's not all just luck. Indeed, you have a handful of tried-and-true strategies that are worth taking note of.

Keep seven steps ahead of your enemies

The goal is not to have an enemy land on your token once it's out on the board. If this happens, your token automatically goes all the way back to your base and you have to again roll a six to get it out and back on the board -- from the original starting point. The highest roll a die can have is six, of course, so if you are at least seven spaces in front of the nearest enemy piece, you are mostly safe. Sure, that enemy could roll a six (which grants another roll) and then roll a one immediately after, but those odds are 1 in 36, so staying seven spaces ahead is a fairly safe bet.

Reduce the odds

Reduce the odds of having an enemy land on you. In a game with four or six players, there can be lots of tokens on the board (as many as 24) at the same time. It's important not to be in a position where there are two or more tokens less than six spaces behind you. If you are faced with the choice of moving a token that can land on a safe space (a star or a colored square) or moving a token four spaces ahead of two enemy tokens, choose the safe space. It's all about reducing the overall odds of having an enemy token land on yours.

Kill!

Here's a scenario: You have all four tokens out moving around the board and you roll a three with the die. With one token you can move it up the ramp (which is a safe area) toward the final destination, or you can move a different token and knock out an enemy with the roll. As a general rule, always take out the enemy. Setting enemies back while you continue to circumnavigate the board will help ensure that they don't get home before you.

Use discretion

If you are faced with a roll that can guarantee safety (by landing on a safe square) for a vulnerable token that's three-quarters of the way around the board, it's better to take that opportunity rather than bring a token home. It's all about managing probabilities and the situation in the moment.

Wait it out

If you have a token (or even two) that are sitting on a safe space and you don't have desirable die rolls to get them off the safe square -- say, there are several enemy tokens just behind you -- it can be prudent to wait out the other tokens until they've passed you, thereby giving you a great opportunity to roll onto them and send them back to the start.

Know the rolling rules

There are three situations in which you get to roll the die immediately again after your die roll:

  1. When you roll a six.
  2. When you have knocked an enemy token back to its base.
  3. When you bring a token to the end square in the middle of the board.

Keeping these rules in mind when you are moving can greatly expedite your token's passage around the board as you play the game. For example, you roll a three and have a choice of moving a piece to a safe square or moving another piece to knock and enemy back. If you knock the enemy back you immediately get another roll, which ultimately can be used to move the first piece. It's win-win.

Consider the odds

When rolling a die, the odds are fairly simple. For example, the chances of rolling any one number in a single roll are 1 in 6, and the odds of rolling the same number twice are 1 in 36. So if there is a player four spaces behind you, there is a 1 in 6 chance he or she is going to roll a four and knock you back. Considering the odds can help you make informed decisions about which tokens to move and when.

Ludo King loophole

When playing Ludo King you can use diamonds -- one of the game's two commodities -- to grant yourself an immediate second roll if you don't like your first roll. This doesn't give you successive rolls, but it does give you the chance of changing your first roll. By using diamonds to do this, you can improve your chances of getting the die to roll you way want from 1 in 6 to 1 in 3. But remember, diamonds cost actual money through in-app purchases and must be purchased from the app store (the developer has to make money somehow, we suppose).

Ready to roll!

Ludo King is a deceptively simple game that actually has enough nuance and strategy to keep you playing again and again. To be sure, it's addictive and it's a fun way to pass five or ten minutes while waiting in a doctor's office or just sitting on your couch (or heaven forbid, while you're at work!). And it's certainly addictive and fun enough to keep you coming back to play and try your luck against players from around the world.

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Bart G. Farkas is an author and writer and has more than 100 print gaming strategy guides to his name. He has been writing about gaming and technology for over 20 years in numerous magazines. He has also written more than a dozen non-gaming technology books and writes the odd romance novel when so moved. Bart lives in Alberta, Canada.