Leitergolf (Spin Ladder): an alternative to Kuub has come to Rostock – game on!

In all honesty, I had no idea what “Spin Ladder/Leitergolf” was when I first saw the name. In fact, I hardly had an idea of what it should be looking at the contents in their box, but then the answer hit me, the answer to most of my odd curiosities regarding games I’m unfamiliar with: think Stefan Raab.

Not because Raab represents my inner logical self as Tony Hawk does for the protagonist in Nick Hornby’s “Slam” but because Raab has acted as a kind of inspiration to me ever since I started watching his TV show “Schlag den Raab”[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schlag_den_Raab] many moons ago. For those poor souls among you who haven’t seen this show yet (or can’t find it within your cold hearts to become as besotted and obsessed with watching it as I certainly have), it is a show where Raab, a famous television host, musician and songwriter, allows his audience to select a contestant to pit themselves against him in numerous and diverse games and quizzes of varying levels of mental and physical demands to attempt to win a ridiculous amount of money. The fascinating thing is that although Raab is clearly not exceptionally gifted either intellectually or physically, he is certainly a good all-rounder at most things he attempts and his ambition, passion, and determination see him succeed surprisingly often against people of vastly superior general fitness and intellect. The other truly fun aspect of the show is that games are selected ranging from the most ridiculously simple childrens’ game such as “frustration” to games that require a high degree of skill such as solving a puzzle represented by parked cars by re-parking them under time pressure. The games err on the side of being so simple that anyone could play them or win, but clearly the most fundamental aspects of hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, and ability to perform under pressure are those that provide an edge. And it is that aspect of the show – being exposed to ridiculously simple (in terms of not needed particularly special equipment) but unfamiliar cult games – that always draws me in: the chance to forget about all the stresses of work and life, etc, the chance to make a fool of yourself with other people with a better excuse than that you are generally a fool, the chance to discover a new favourite way to waste time in a mundane but enjoyable manner by playing games.

It was this same inspiration I sought, found, and that persuaded me to buy and learn to love a game with one of the most ridiculous titles I think a game could choose – thanks be that I recognised it from the picture.

A Sling

“Leitergolf” translates to ‘ladder golf’, which would make no sense to me (as a former regular golfer) unless it meant playing golf with ladders instead of clubs – it isn’t this, I would put such an endeavor in the bracket of being even too silly for me to want to engage in (though I might be interested in watching other fools try on Youtube). The English title of the game, “Spin Ladder” makes me think of that log tossing highland game (but with ladders, and spinning instead of just tossing them), which I would also lump in the same bracket as the first of silliness. It isn’t like that either.
“Spin Ladder” would be better named “Sling [http://www.wordnik.com/words/sling] Wrap” or at least something that would indicate the physical action required or something less not like the physical action required or something. Anyway, with that rant over, it has simply become my new favourite silly game of the moment, and it’s a perfect way to spend an inexpensive fun day out with friends in a very similar manner to Kuub. You can even build one yourself. [http://www.ehow.com/how_6774837_build-ladder-ball-spin_it-game.html]

You set up the wooden ‘ladder’, set a distance, and then sling two wooden balls attached by string hoping to wrap the sling around one of the steps/levels on the ‘ladder’. I’ve seen different suggestions for how to play it[http://laddergolf.dustindefoe.com/How-To-Play/], but the instructions I follow say that the top step is worth 3 points, the middle step is worth 2 points, and the bottom step is worth 1 point. There is also the possibility of earning (fluking?) a bonus point by wrapping all shots on one step/level or wrapping all shots around a different step/level. The winner is the first within a round to get precisely 21 points (any more and that last round is annulled) or if two people in the same round have 21 points, they go into a ‘sling-off’ (1st person with the most points wins) Ridiculously simple in essence, physically undemanding in principle, yet horribly frustrating in that gooey addictive way. I have willingly lost hours of my life slinging two wooden balls at a wooden ladder with friends and family, willingly playing a game with the wholly inappropriate name of “Spin Ladder”.

It reminds me of when I first encountered Kuub: I thought “why are so many people in Rostock standing around throwing sticks at other sticks”, but then I threw my first stick with a bizarre look of concentration, frustration, and delirious pleasure on my face. Football could be described as a cross of ballerinas and chimpanzees kicking a ball around on grass, my favourite sport (basketball) could be reduced to sweaty baggy-clothed people trying to get a ball into a net by bouncing it around – my point is that all sports are pretty ridiculous when you think about them on a basic level, but if you need an escape from the monotony of the world and want to get outside a bit (or you are equally as pathetic as I am – all a matter of semantics, I suppose), they can provide relief. However much you might want to mock the idea of my silly spinning balls game having heard about it, it’s like anything in life and perhaps fried mars bars, in particular, try it, savour it, and join my club – if you’ve got the wooden balls, that is.

I’d particularly recommend the harbor or Kastanienplatz for a good game in Rotsock. They are generally good meeting points, attractive places to spend time, and in close proximity to good pubs with good beer (harbour=The “Alte Fritz”, Kastanienplatz=The “Trotzenburg” – the only pub in Rostock that serves beer in 1L quantities and brews its own beer at the pub itself). You can though, of course, play it at any singly place you find some space where there is no danger of slinging something kaput!

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About Gareth Vaughan

I am originally from the south of Wales in Britain and have been working at Rostock University since 2004. I have set up this blog to give Rostock's English students (and a few guests) the opportunity to both express themselves as writers and to share the kind of information on Mecklenburg Vorpommern that I wish I could have found when I first arrived and that I only found by living here or knowing people. Our envisaged audience are not confined to students or the young -- but certainly young at heart ;)

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