Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

War (card game)

This card game is for two players. Standard Western 52-card deck. Ace high.

Deal each player half the deck.

Both players play simultaneously. Each player shows one card, and whoever has the higher card takes both cards shown. In case of a tie, both players play three face-down cards and one face-up card, and these face-up cards decide it. If there is another tie, the process is repeated, etc. In all cases of ties, face-down cards are exposed before being collected. In one variation, only one face down card. And in a bloodthirsty variation, the number of face down cards equals the pip value of the cards, with face cards being ten and ace eleven.

When a player runs out of face-down cards to play, they turn over their pile of collected cards and use it. Whoever has no card to play when they are required to play one is the loser.

In appearance, this very much seems to be a game of chance. However, an excellent memory and a skillful and quick hand can be used to do something which seems like cheating but isn't.

What you do is this: Let us say that you begin the game by beating my 6 with your 10. I notice that your face-up pile has the 10 on top, so the order of cards in it is 6, 10. Then I beat your 8 with my Jack. I will collect the 8 first so that the next pass through the deck will begin 8 beats 6 (I collect), Jack beats 10 (I collect again). If I had collected the Jack first, it would be Jack beats 6 (I collect), 10 beats 8 (you collect). However, if the other players see you scheming like this, they will probably try to stop the game.

Another way to cheat is to take advantage of an opponent who isn't paying attention. You play a Jack and the other person plays a Queen, but you claim the trick.

There was an old Apple II version of this game, contained in the game "little computer people". In the game, the winner of each trick always put the cards on the bottom of the deck in the same order. Frequently, the game wound up cycling. That is, the same positions would repeat indefinitely with no winner.

War may be played with more than 2 players. A war occurs only when the 2 highest cars tie. The war may involve only those players, or all players.

Another interesting variant

Add jokers to the deck. If a joker is played, there is an automatic war.