Social Climbing - card game rules
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Social Climbing

Climb up and down the social ladder, trying to make as much money as possible. Hob-nobbing with aristocrats boosts your earning potential - but you might lose touch with the common people who pay you!
Each player builds their own two columns of cards, in which successive cards have the same or adjacent numbers. Each turn they can add a card to a column (from any of three draw piles), discard a card, or 'bank' a column (remove its cards to score points). When the draw piles run out, the winner is the player with the highest score based on banked cards.
This game was invented by Ben Finn & Ari Ghosh. Thanks to John Sheehy for testing.

Players and Cards
For 2-6 players
Requires 1 or 2 packs of cards - the backs needn’t match
Takes 7-10 minutes (1 pack), 15-20 minutes (2 packs)

Social Climbing Setup - 3 draw piles
Starting position: 3 draw piles

For 2 players: use 1 pack of cards
For 3 players: use 1 or preferably 2 packs
For 4-6 players: use 2 packs​

  • Remove jokers, combine the packs if using two, and shuffle thoroughly
  • Split the cards into 3 approximately equal face-down piles
  • Turn the piles face-up in a row in the middle of the table. These are the 'draw' piles.​


  • A shared face-down 'discard' pile goes next to the draw piles, but starts off empty.
  • Each player creates their own 2 face-up columns of overlapping cards in front of them, which also start off empty.
  • Each player also has a face-up 'bank' pile to one side of their columns, which again starts off empty.
Middle of a 2-player game
The middle of a 2-player game - players are at top and bottom.
At top left & bottom left are the players' bank piles.
The face-down pile is the discard pile.
The top player only has one column at the moment.
The bottom player can bank his left-hand column
as it ends in a 6; he previously chose not to bank it
when it ended with another 6 (of diamonds).

Players take turns. Each turn, do any one of these:

  • Start a column: if you have no columns or only one, take the top card from any of the draw piles and place it in front of you to start a column
  • Add to a column: take the top card from any draw pile and add it to the end of one of your columns. But it must have the same or adjacent number as the column's current end card (i.e. the card nearest you). Suits are ignored. Aces are high and low, so they can follow or precede 2, K, or another A
  • Bank a column: if a column's end card is a 3/6/9, move all cards in the column to your bank pile, leaving the column empty
  • Discard a card: move a column's end card to the discard pile.

​If a draw pile runs out of cards, just continue playing with the remaining draw pile(s). As soon as the final draw pile runs out:

  • The current player finishes their turn (by using the last card to start/add to a column)
  • All players bank any columns which end in a 3/6/9
  • Add up each player's score. Only banked cards count. Numbers score 1, J / A score 2, Q / K score 3
  • The winner is the player with the highest score.

Preferably play a few times in succession and keep a running total of scores or number of wins, to reduce the element of chance.


  • You must make a move - you can't pass
  • If more than one move is possible you can choose which to do; e.g. you don't have to bank a column as soon as you can; you don't have to start a second column as soon as you can - you can e.g. add to the other column instead.
  • You can bank (if it's a 3/6/9) or discard a single-card column, making it empty again - perhaps even leaving both columns empty.
  • You can access the aristocracy via the dregs of society, as the 2 is the Ace's drug dealer.

Copyright © Ben Finn 2021

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Last updated: 10th June 2022