Update the Classics – Candy Land Squad (Squandy Land)

Candy Land – Make it deep, strategic and adult oriented.

Anna Henson, Adam Thompson, Nitesh Sridhar, Andrew Chang, Caroline Hermans

What are Candy Land’s core mechanics?

  • Competitive Race: The game is a race to the finish line.
  • Determinism: The movement is based on a deck of shuffled cards, where the order of the shuffle determines the entire rest of the game.
  • Turn-based: Each turn, you draw a card that determines your next move.
  • Random Special Moments: There are several elements in the game that keep things interesting – such as the special character cards and the rainbow bridges.


What makes it distinctive?

  • The gameplay is very simplistic, and players don’t need to plan their next move, which makes it ideal for younger children. The game can also help children learn about colors. The game board is bright and inviting, and the characters make the game distinctive as well.  
  • Even though the game is deterministic, it feels as though there is an aspect of chance. Still, there is some level of excitement before every turn, where you don’t know which color you’re going to draw next.


What are its best and worst aspects?

Best Aspects: Candy Land requires no reading and the most basic of counting skills, making it accessible to the majority of people, and especially to young children; the game is a simple introduction to following rules, and as such is a good primer for more developed game play later in life; the game is quick to set up and quick to play, making it ideal for families, especially those with small children

Worst Aspects: Candyland requires no skill and its outcome is entirely a result of chance; the game eliminates all personal agency; the game glamorizes unhealthy dietary choices to children; pre-2002 versions of Candy Land featured no diversity in character depiction; the game imposes no real consequences for straying from the path (early versions of the game were aimed entirely at “finding the way home”).


What made it successful?

Candyland was invented during the outbreak of Polio in the US in the late 40’s / early 50’s. Candyland first came out in 1948, and was invented by Eleanor Abbott, a victim of the disease who was a former teacher. In the Polio ward, she noticed that children were alone often – their parents were not there and they needed something to entertain them. The game could be played easily; it had a low barrier to entry as it did not need reading, just recognition of colors. The game was also designed as a loop – it did not need to end, so the children could play for hours without having to declare a clear winner. The designs of colorful candy worlds would entice and enchant the children whose lives were often constrained to hospitals or homes. The original game board also featured a little boy character who wore a leg brace – to identify with many of the kids who had to wear leg braces as a result of Polio. The game was bought by Milton Bradley in 1949. In 2005 the game was inducted into the National Game Hall of Fame. The game has been successful in iterations as other characters were licensed to theme the game, such as Winnie the Pooh, Dora the Explorer, etc. Candy Land builds skills in socialization by playing together, patience in taking turns, color recognition practice, learning and following rules and directions.


What was its evolution?

Early iterations only had fictional locations that you passed by. The narrative was also just about children finding their way back home, but getting distracted along the way. Later, the setting moved to a fantasy candy world and characters were created, which appealed to children. They removed Plumpy from the game.

Fixed the last square by making it rainbow instead of purple (god bless).


What are some similar games?


Develop the prompt

Deep: More than just about candy. (Polio?) Games with high depth are strategically interesting and underlying options help create a system that can be played through multiple times without boring audiences.

Strategic: “Strategy” has been defined as “the art of planning and directing” and so our research might focus on how decision-making, deal-making, and deal-breaking might alter the dynamics, depth, and length of game play.

Adult-Oriented: As Candy Land is designed as a game that is both educational and entertaining to children, our research into an adult-oriented version will also focus on how the game can be entertaining and educational for adults. We might begin with the question: what is a valuable basic life skill that all adults need in order to build other skills and function within any society?



We see our prompt as two parts: a new theme, and a strategic game design. We did some initial prototyping of injecting strategic gameplay into Candy Land. Some of our various experiments were, in no particular order:

  • Instead of drawing one card each turn, you start with a hand of five cards.
  • You can’t move yourself, you can only move other players. When you draw a card, you move the other players forward by that amount.
  • If you land on the same square as another player, you have to battle. You play the card in your hand that can move you forward the farthest. whoever‘s card moves them the farthest gets to go there, whoever loses has to go back to the closest card with their color.
  • Each character is a boss battle, and no one can pass the character until you collectively defeat the boss. You defeat the boss by playing cards that correspond to the boss (they’re different for each boss).

Some of these were fun and some weren’t, we’re still looking into more possible dimensions to add to the game, and we plan on testing new mechanics one by one.

Next to explore: what if it was a resource management game, and you could trade with other players to get better cards?

Some possible themes – requires more brainstorming

  • you can play as adults trying to stop children from having fun
  • medical illness and medication
  • “Brandy Land” alcohol themed

Minimal version of the game

There are a deck of cards with numbers on them. You draw a card with a number on it. You move forward that many spaces. Whoever reaches the end first wins.