Games 101

What is a Ladder Climbing Game?

When most people think of a ladder climbing game they picture one of those carnival games with the rope ladder that is nearly impossible to climb without falling off. That’s not the kind of game I’m talking about. In the board gaming world a ladder climbing game is played with cards where each player is trying to beat what the previously player has played.. There are lots of examples of this type of game that can be played with a standard deck of cards, but there are also some really great custom games available in this genre that are worth picking up.

In this post we’ll go over both and you can decide which, if any of them, are right for your table.

What is a Ladder Climbing Game?

A ladder climbing game is a type of card game where players aim to get rid of all their cards before their opponents. The objective of the game is to climb up the ranks, or ‘ladder,’ by playing combinations of cards that are stronger than those played by your opponents. The game is won by the player who manages to get rid of all their cards first, thereby ascending the ranks of the ladder.

The rules of ladder climbing games can vary depending on the specific game being played. However, the basic principles are the same across all variations.Players take turns playing combinations of cards that are stronger than the previous play. For example, if a player plays a pair of 2s, the next player must play a pair of 3s or higher to beat the play.

Classic Ladder Climbing Game: President

President is a great example of a ladder climbing game. When we used to play it in high school we called it (we thought we were edgy). You can also use another term for the lowest player like peon beggar or servant. The game is played with a standard deck of cards, and the objective is to be the first player to get rid of all their cards.

In President, players are ranked based on the order in which they get rid of their cards in the previous round. To determine the order for the first round, each player randomly choses a card from the deck, the player with the lowest card is the first peon and deals the cards. Card ranks in President are face value except that the 2 is. the highest card, followed. by Ace and down from there.

The player to the left of the President plays first. They can play any single card or set of cards (multiple cards of the same rank). The next player must play the same number of cards of a higher rank, or they can “pass”. Passing. does. not mean you are out of the round, a player can pass and then play again when the turn comes. back around to them. The round ends when all of the players have passed consecutively. After this happens the cards played are cleared away and the player who played the highest card or set of cards on that trick leads the next trick.

The first player to get rid of all their cards becomes the President, the second player to go out becomes. the Vice President while the last player becomes the peon. For the next round the seating order changes, with the President sitting at the head of the table, the Vice President to their left and continuing around in order of who got rid of their cards first with the beggar sitting to the right of the President. The beggar is responsible for dealing the cards and clearing the cards when necessary.

If keeping score, the President gets two points, the Vice President gets 1 point and everyone else gets 0 points.

When starting the next round the beggar must give their highest card to the President and the President gives any card they want to the Beggar. The President then leads off the first trick of the round. The game can be played up to any point value the player agree to (11 points is a popular choice).

President is a fun and casual game that can be played with a large group of people. It is a great way to break the ice and get people socializing and can be played with any standard deck of cards.

Ladder climbing games are popular for a number of reasons. First, they are typically easy to learn and quick to play making them accessible to people of all ages and skill levels. They are also require strategic thinking which keeps them engaging but they don’t require so much focus that you can’t carry on a conversation while playing. They are often enjoyed by people who like set collection games like Rummy, or trick taking games like Euchre.

Other Ladder Climbing Games You Should Try


Scout card game

Scout is by far my favorite ladder climbing game right now. It uses a special deck of cards that each have a different number on both ends like dominos do. In this game you play sets and runs in a ladder climbing fashion but you can only play cards that are already in the correct order in your hand, and you’re not allowed to rearrange your cards

When you first look at your hand you can decide to play them as they are, or flip the entire hand over and play the other side, but once you’ve decided that you’re locked in. There is a way to add new cards to your hand and place those where they work best for you. The game is easy to learn, quick to play and provides enough strategy and choice to stay interesting. It was nominated for the Siel Des Jahres in 2022 for good reason. Definitely worth a look!

The Great Dalmuti

The Great Dalmuti is very much like the game President except it uses a special 80 card deck. Cards in this deck are numbered from one to twelve. The number of each card in the deck is equal to the cards rank (there are twelve twelves, there is a single one). In this game the one is the highest card.

Just like President players are ranked based on how they placed in the previous round. The winner of the round becomes “The Great Dalmuti” in the next round. The Great Dalmuti is a good party game because it is very light and plays up to eight players.


Shown in the popular move How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days this popular ladder climbing game is played with a standard deck of 52 cards and adds a bluffing element. Players have to play sets of cards in ascending order and play them facedown. If I put down three cards and say they are “three 7s”, you now have to put down eights. They can be any number of eights and you can have them or not, but you have to convince the other players that you actually put down the number of eights you said you did.

At any time a player can call BS and flip over your cards. If you were lying you have to pickup the entire pile and add them to your hand, if you told the truth they must take the pile. The game goes until someone is out of cards.

Final Thoughts

Ladder climbing games are simple to learn, quick to play, and offer a great way to socialize and have fun with friends and family. With so many great ladder climbing games to choose from, there is sure to be a game out there that suits your preferences and playing style. So grab a deck of cards and start climbing that ladder!