I'm always on the hunt for games that can be played by all generations. We've had fun with bocce and croquet, but those require a fairly smooth, dry lawn. Now I've discovered ladder ball, which is another multi-generational game and one that can be played in any open space, as long as windows aren't nearby. It goes by many names, including ladder golf, ladder toss, lasso golf and hillbilly golf. I bought the version known as BlongoBall.
Ladder ball consists of two components: ladders made of PVC pipe and bolas, which are basically two golf balls on a cord. Points are scored by getting the balls to wrap around or hang from the rungs of the ladders.
The ladder in BlongoBall is color-coded to indicate point values. The top rung is worth one point, the middle two points and the bottom, three points. If a bola hits the ground and then nails a rung, it is called a bouncer and scores five points. A player can take away another player's score by knocking the bola from the ladder. A player or a team wins by scoring exactly 21 points.
The players are supposed to stand 25 feet from the ladder, but that can be adjusted for younger kids. Another way to adjust for different skill levels is to handicap the better players by giving them only two bolas instead of three. (We discovered this when one of ours went missing!)
Another way to adjust for age is to take away the requirement that exactly 21 points be scored to win.
Instead use a score of 21 points or over.
The Fun Factor
Why is BlongoBall so much fun? First, there is something inherently cool about throwing a BlongoBall and seeing it cartwheel through the air, not to mention the thrill when it wraps around a rung. Second, there is an element of suspense. Will the bola stay on the rung, or will it fall?
Third, there are a couple of nice twists in the rules, which involve both chance and strategy.
Pluses and Minuses
The set comes with two sets of ladders that have to be assembled for play. That's both a good thing -- they store in less space -- and a bad thing -- they have to be assembled for play. If you have space to store the ladders assembled, they may get more use. You could even glue them together to keep them from falling apart when being moved.
The traditional way of playing is similar to washers or horseshoes, where teams face each other and take turns tossing. This works great for adults, but not so well for children, because the balls are hard, and youngsters' heads may be about the same height as the ladders. A better way to play, in my opinion, is to set up two ladders side by side. That enables more people to play at one time and reduces the chances of someone getting hit.
This set comes with only two sets of bolas, and more would have been nice. Extras can be ordered, as can a nice carrying bag for the set. Also available are bolas made of soft balls, which make the game feasible indoors in a playroom or basement. The softer bolas are safer, too, but you still wouldn't want a child hit by one.
Where to Play
BlongoBall has become quite the thing for tailgating parties, and it can also be frequently spotted at parks, campgrounds and beaches. I also can't wait to take mine to our family reunion. I know it is going to be a hit.