Home Page > Invented Games > Broken Ladder

Broken Ladder

Contributed by Logan Flinke .

One standard 52-card pack is needed for every two players in the game.

Deal. After shuffling the cards, the dealer deals one card in the middle of the table face up (the Head), and then one card face up to each player (the player's Starter). The dealer now deals each player five cards face down (their Hand or Rungs) and stacks the remaining cards face down in the center of the table to form the Draw Pile. Players look at their hand cards, without showing these cards to the other players.

Objective. To be the first player to successfully lay their five cards which added to the player's Starter make a total equal to the Head card, and where possible to collect cards of high value.


To begin playing, one card is flipped over from the draw pile and laid face up next to it. This is called the discard pile (and must be kept separate from the Head card). 

The player on the dealer's left will play first, and players take turns in clockwise order around the table. On a normal turn you draw either the top card of the draw pile or the top card of the discard pile, add the drawn card to your hand, and discard one card face up on top of the discard pile. At the end of your turn you should have five cards in your hand.

Instead of drawing and discarding, you may lay down your five cards face up on the table if they have a valid total as described below.

Aces count 1, 2-10 face value, jack 11, queen 12, king 13.

The Starter and Head cards always count as positive, but in your hand, red cards are positive and black cards are negative.

Your hand has a valid total if the Starter card value plus the total value of the five cards in your hand is equal to the Head card value, and your had does not contain more than two cards of the same rank (for example three sixes, irrespective of color).

Example: Starter card 3; Head card 5. Black ace, black 3, black 3, red 4, red 5 would be a valid hand to lay down, because 3 + (5+4-3-3-1) = 5.

Note. If after drawing and discarding you have a valid sequence, you must wait for your next turn before laying it down.

When someone lays down a valid set of five cards, the play ends and the hand is scored.


The person who lays down a valid set of five cards is the winner. This player scores the total value of their hand cards, counting all cards as positive irrespective of color, multiplied by 10. In the above example the winner scores 160 - that is (5+4+3+3+1)×10.

The other players simply score the total value of the cards in their hand, counting all cards as positive. For example K, Q, Q, 9, 8 scores 54 (13+12+12+9+8).


To make it easier, you can play with the rule that you can have more than two of the same number in a hand for it to be valid.

Some people may like to play with three decks for every two people instead of two.

Other Rules

If someone lays down a sequence that is invalid, they automatically are out of that game. If you are keeping score, they are only out for that round and lose the numerical value sum of their invalid sequence times ten from their grand total. So if the sum of their invalid sequence was 53, they lose 530 points from their grand total. 


After seeing your hand for the first time, it is always a good idea to make a plan. Add up your cards and work out by how much your total is too large or too small. If the card on top of the discard pile differs from some card in your hand by exactly that amount, you will obviously want to take the discard, so that you can win on your next turn.

If unable to win immediately, it is generally good to collect large cards, provided that you remain within striking distance of your target. That way if someone lays down their cards before you, you have more loser points in your hand. 

Home Page > Invented Games > Broken Ladder
Last updated: 1st August 2011