How to Play
The object of Ladder Splatter is to get all of your paint cans from the bottom platform onto the painter’s feet without tipping over the ladder.
Each player’s turn begins with the player rolling the die. Based on what is rolled, the player takes the following action:
- 2, 3, 4: The player moves one of their paint cans the corresponding number of spaces up the ladder. The whole number can only be applied to one of the paint cans.
- Paint Bucket +: A player is able to move a paint bucket from anywhere on the board to the painter’s feet.
- Paint Bucket –: A player needs to remove a bucket from either one of the ladder rungs or from the painter’s feet and move it back to the base.
If due to a player’s move the painter topples over, the board is reset (all buckets are returned to the base). The player who caused the painter to tip over ends up missing their next two turns while the other players begin moving their buckets up the ladder again.
When one player is able to get all three of their buckets on the painter’s feet without tipping over the painter, they win the game.
Ladder Splatter is far from a household name. Made by a company named International Playthings, I didn’t have very high expectations for Ladder Splatter. The game looked cheaply made and it looked like a knock off of other games from the genre. After playing the game, I was actually surprised.
Ladder Splatter is far from perfect but it is better than quite a few of the games I have played in this genre of games. The reason I like the game is that you actually have to consider quite a few things before you make your final move. You need to factor the weight distribution on the painter, on the ladder and along the base. An unequal distribution on any of the three layers could force the painter to fall down.
The three different layers also makes it quite exciting when the ladder starts to move. With most of these balancing games the tower just falls down. You might get a little foreshadowing that the tower is about to fall. In Ladder Splatter the gameboard almost moves constantly. Pretty much every movement of a paint can makes the tower move at least a little. The game can actually get pretty tense/exciting when the ladder begins to swing back and forth. You think that the ladder is going to fall down but it ends up staying upright.
I actually found the contents of the game to be surprisingly good. The outer box makes the game look kind of cheap but I didn’t have many issues with the contents. I think the numbers/symbols on the dice should have been engraved so they would have lasted if the paint faded/chipped off. Otherwise the contents are made of pretty solid plastic and should last as long as a moderate amount of care is taken with them.
The biggest problem with Ladder Splatter is the rule regarding what happens when someone knocks over the tower. Ladder Splatter tries to do something different than most of these “Jenga” type games. Most of these games eliminate the player that knocks over the tower. Meanwhile Ladder Splatter keeps the player in the game but gives them the disadvantage of losing two turns.
While I give the creators credit for trying something new, I think they should have stuck with elimination. By following the current rules, the person who tips over the painter is punished but the punishment is not harsh enough. With a lucky roll a player can make up the missed turns within one or two turns. In one of the games I played, the person with the two turn penalty actually surpassed a player after one roll. If the game wanted to keep the turn penalty they should have made it at least five turns so it would be very unlikely for that player to be able to win the game.
The other problem with the handling of the ladder tipping over is that players that were doing well are punished. When the ladder falls everyone is reset to 0. It doesn’t matter if you were one turn away from winning, if the painter falls down everyone is reset to the same position. If one player was a poor sport and they were way behind, they would benefit by purposely trying to tip the ladder over. With the rules the way they are, there is no benefit to doing well if you are unable to get all of your paint cans to the top without knocking down the ladder.
Personally when playing the game I would recommend just changing the rule to eliminate any player who knocks down the ladder.
Another problem with the game is that the ladder is actually quite hard to knock over. As a matter of fact I don’t think you can knock down the ladder until late in the game. The ladder base is too stable in the early game. The ladder will not fall down until most of the paint cans are near the top of the ladder. This presents a problem where your early moves don’t really matter since no matter how poorly you move your paint buckets there is no fear of knocking down the ladder. Obviously the ladder needs to be pretty steady at first or no one would be able to finish the game. It is unfortunate though that the early turns of the game don’t have that much of an impact on the game.
The final problem with Ladder Splatter is that like most of these type of games, there is quite a bit of reliance on luck. I honestly don’t think you can win if you don’t get at least one paint bucket + to be able to move one paint bucket from the bottom all of the way to the top. Players fortunes can quickly change. You can come from last to first if you get one or more paint bucket + rolls. On the other hand if you get one or more paint bucket – rolls you can easily fall from first to last.
Ladder Splatter is not fantastic but for some reason I actually had some fun playing the game. I actually found it to be more enjoyable than quite a few of the “balancing” type of games that I have played recently. The game does rely too heavily on luck though and the “reset” rule is pretty stupid.
If you don’t like balancing/dexterity games, you won’t get anything out of Ladder Splatter. If you already own quite a few “balancing” game, Ladder Splatter is probably not different enough to warrant a purchase. If you are interested in a somewhat unique take on the genre though I think you will get some enjoyment out of Ladder Splatter.