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Card Games: Climbing Games

In climbing games, each player in turn must play a higher card (or combination of cards) than the previous player. A player who cannot or does not wish to beat the previous play can pass. This continues for as many rounds as necessary until someone makes a play which no one will beat. That player wins the "trick" and leads to another one. Because players can pass, their cards are not used at an equal rate and some will run out before others. Often the aim is to get rid of cards, but sometimes it may be to win cards in "tricks".

Climbing games, like trick taking games and beating games, must have a card ranking order. Often higher cards beat lower ones irrespective of suit. Usually it is possible to play combinations as well as single cards, so these too must be ranked.

Climbing games are quite widespread in the orient, especially China. Only in recent years have they become known in the West.

In many games of this group a mock social status, ranging (for example) from emperor to peasant, is awarded to the players according to how well they do on a hand. This status is then perpetuated in subsequent hands by making the losers give away their best cards to the winners, as well as suffering other indignities. This social dimension appears not only in climbing games but also in certain trick taking games such as the Russian game Koroli and (in a mild form) Sergeant Major.

Goita, a game played in Japan with chess cards or pieces, is classified here as a climbing game since players have the option to pass or play. However, it is unlike other climbing games in that cards are beaten by matching them rather than by playing a higher card. Moreover, at least in the modern form of the game, each trick consists of only two cards.