Corporate Ladder the Card Game gives players the chance to work their way up to the top of the business world. Part of it is putting in an honest day’s work; the rest, of course, is using one’s office mates as stepping stools to success.
The rules sheet for Corporate Ladder includes a flowchart, which fits perfectly not only with the business theme but also to smooth out the short learning curve even further. At the beginning of the game, every player receives cards from the “Performance Review” deck and the “Business Card” deck. Each of the Performance Review cards are stamped with a number from one to five, and on their turns, players make “Negotiations,” verbally agreeing to put down a mutually beneficial number, even though it could be a bald-faced lie.
When the cards are revealed in Corporate Ladder, the player wielding the higher number wins a Promotion while the loser gets a Warning. As players reveal their Performance Reviews, they may slap them down on a Business Card, giving bonuses related to corporate positions. The corporate theme runs strongly through the card set, such as Legal making an opponent’s card number stay at what they had said they would lay down, Accounting catching an opponent in a lie causing them to automatically receive a warning, or Marketing giving the player a bonus if they lie and the opponent did not.
The game continues until one player earns enough Promotions to win or becomes the only employee left by everyone else being fired for receiving too many Warnings. The mechanics are well balanced, such as having a Performance Review of one beat an opponent revealing a five, just as in the real office life when the manager attaches a team under a dreg to ensure at least some work gets done.
While the mechanics in Corporate Ladder are sound and make for a fun bluffing game, what puts it over the top is the hilarious dedication to mocking business life. Many of the cards are worthy of Dilbert, such as one level-5 Performance Review reading “You are my best employee. I would recommend you for a raise, but then I might lose you.” The Warning and Promotion cards are particularly funny, with front-and-back pairs such as a cozy “Fireplace” versus a shocking “Place on Fire” or living in a “Gated Community” as opposed to having “Asbestos” in the walls.
Corporate Ladder is a bluffing game for two to six players aged thirteen and up. With its straightforward rules set, younger players might join in, but they likely will not enjoy the nuances of the game on the same level as players who have had a taste of office life. It is a quick game that lasts under half an hour, perfect for a party activity or perhaps a lunch break.