War, also known regionally in the United States as “I Declare War”, is a Two-Player children’s card game that is especially popular in the United States, although it sees play in the United Kingdom as well, where it is known as “Battle”. The game is also similar to many national variations, which follow essentially the same rules.
How to Play War?
It is very easy to learn how to play War, and this guide will explain both how to set up and deal a game of War or Battle.
War is played using the Standard, 52-card Anglo-American deck. The 54-card Joker variant may be used, if the Jokers are removed from the deck before play. The deck should be shuffled, and then each Player should be dealt one card at a time, face-down.
Dealing continues until the entire deck has been exhausted, at which point the game may begin. Both Players will draw the top card from their deck at the same time. Both Players will reveal their card, this head-to-head trick representing the “war” or “battle” from which the game derives its name.
In War, suits are irrelevant, meaning the sole determination of victory is found in the rank of the cards played in the trick. Aces are high in War, and as such are the highest-ranking card a Player can possibly play.
The Player who wins the trick by Playing the highest ranking card may then take the cards in the center of the play area, and may either place them on the top, or bottom of their deck.
Players must place both cards in the same place, meaning both cards must either be placed on top, or on bottom of the deck. The cards may, however, be placed in any order.
For example, if a Player wins a 2 and an Ace in a trick, they may either place the cards on top or bottom of the deck, and may place the 2, or the Ace, as the top or bottom card, with the remaining card becoming the next top card or the second-bottom card.
If the two Players both play a card of the same rank, then those cards remain in the Play area, while both Players play another top card from their deck. This continues until one Player wins the “pot”, at which point the Player takes all of the cards put up.
These cards must follow the same rules as other victories. Cards must be placed in one stack at either the top or bottom of the deck, in the order of the Player’s choosing.
The game continues until one Player commands all of the 52 total cards in the game, at which point the remaining Player is the loser.
The basic rules of the War card game are summarized below:
- Rank is the only thing that matters, suit does not matter in War.
- Cards should not be looked at until they are played.
- Aces are high and are the highest-ranking cards in the game.
- Ties are resolved neutrally until a new “war” is fought.
Tips & Strategy
- Some versions of War do not include the ability to place taken tricks where desired in the deck. In these versions, there is no strategy. Those games are entirely luck-based.
- In this particular version of War, the strategy derives from where and in what order a Player places his taken cards into the deck. High-value cards should be placed at the top, while low-value cards should be placed at the bottom.
- Cards must be placed in single packets, however, and as such, a mixed packet, such as a two and an Ace, requires a Player to consider where they should place the card.
- Placing an Ace as the top card over and over may seem like a great strategy for winning streaks of Wars, however, if the opposing Player manages to play an Ace, forcing a tie, and then plays another card to win the tie, that Player will then take two Aces and potentially control 75% of the game’s Aces, assuming both Players began the game with 2 Aces in their deck. At minimum, they will control 50% of the game’s Aces guaranteed. Sometimes, it may be best to place an Ace at the bottom of the deck, to remove it from play.
War is scored solely by the number of cards in the deck. Players with no cards in their deck are losers, and Players with all the cards in their deck are Winners. Otherwise, the game is still ongoing until the very end.
Cards themselves are scored based upon their own ranking, and suit does not account at all. Cards are ranked in order, with Aces being high. 2-10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace. The highest-ranking card always wins the “war”.
Imagine the following scenario:
- 1: AxK
- 2: Ax4
- 3: Ax10
- 4: AxA
- 5: 10xA
- 6: 4xA
- 7: KxA
Notice that Player 1 begins the game with a streak, by winning Wars and placing the Ace back as the top card of their deck.
However, once Player 2 places their Ace down, Player 1 is forced to use the other cards won in the previous wars, as they were placed at the top of their deck in order to continue the use of the Ace.
This means that if you constantly play an Ace, there is a chance you lose all of the cards won in previous wars. Sometimes the best option is placing it at the bottom, for a guaranteed Ace later in the game.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many cards does each Player get?
Each Player, as there are only two Players in a game of War, gets 26 cards, half of the 52 present in the standard Anglo-American deck.
What does an Ace do in War?
Aces are the greatest cards in War because they can only be beaten by another Ace. Due to this guide’s chosen mechanics for the game, in order to add a layer of strategy to what is otherwise a game of pure luck, Aces can be used to win streaks of cards. They are associated with risk, however, because if another Player possesses an Ace, they may win back their Ace.
Can you play War with Three Players?
No, War is designed to be a Two-Player game. The game also requires both Players to possess the same number of cards at the start of the game. One Player would have a significant advantage, even though they only possess one additional card.
What is a Joker in War?
Nothing. There are no Jokers in the game of War. If you are using a deck that possesses the two Jokers, they should be removed from the deck.