When I was a kid, I remember that feeling of winning at a hand of Rummy against my Oma (grandma). It didn’t happen often, but I felt like a boss when it did. Ladder 29 from Green Couch Games has a classic card game feel with great design and challenges that keep every round fresh.
In Ladder 29 players start with a hand of 13 cards and have to pass 3 of these cards to the player on the left. These cards are colored red, blue, yellow and green and have fantastic firefighter themed illustrations on each suit. These colors have a hierarchy so a yellow 5 will beat a green 5 and a red 5 will trump all the other colors of that number.
After players pass their 3 cards, they have to pick a “Hot Spot” card from the center of the table. These are essentially rules or challenges that only apply to that player. These challenges are specific and change the way you play that hand. Each “Hot Spot” card contains a rundown of points for first through fifth place. You want to get rid of all your cards as quick as you can to earn the points on that card. The first player to 29 points wins.
Too Hot to Handle
I really love the mechanic of the “Hot Spot” cards. A player who wants a lot of points might choose a tougher card because they want to take the lead. These cards dictate how you can play your hand. No two rounds will be the same because your choice of a “Hot Spot” card will greatly affect it.
A player will set the lead and each player gets a chance to beat the previous players cards. For example, player 1 plays a pair of 5’s. Player 2 plays a pair of 9’s, now player 3 has to play a pair that is greater than 9. Players are forced to pass if they cannot beat the lead that was set.
It was a lot of fun setting the lead with a run of 3 cards when another player at the table was stuck with a single card left in their hand. Because they couldn’t play a run that turn, they couldn’t play that single card and go out this round.
Ladder 29 often relies on playing cards at the right time and making some assumptions about the other players hands. It can be rough holding on to a specific card and missing the perfect window to play it.
The game is pretty simple to understand and teach to new players. It has a classic card game feel and that makes it accessible to a wider audience than your average board game.
We found that playing with 4 to 5 players was perfect. The competition at that player count was a lot of fun. One rule that we were not big fans of was that the last player always received 0 points. In a 3 player game, this was especially devastating. Two last place finishes usually meant you were out of that game.
The artwork really drew me in and I loved how classy Ladder 29 felt. Each suit has its own fire fighter themed illustration and the game is very attractive on the table. From the art design to the game mechanics to the “Hot Spot” challenges, Ladder 29 has definitely climbed its way to one of our top card games this year.
You can get your copy of Ladder 29 through the Kickstarter campaign that runs until April 12th.
Green Couch Games provided us with a prototype copy of Ladder 29 ahead of their Kickstarter launch. This in no way influenced our opinion on the game. Previews are a glimpse into an upcoming game with the pros and cons that we experienced prior to production of the game.