War (card game)

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War is a card game typically involving two players. It uses a standard French playing card deck. Due to its simplicity, it is played most often by children.



The deck is divided evenly among the two players, giving each a face-down stack. In unison, each player reveals the top card on his stack (a "battle"), and the player with the higher card takes both the cards played and moves them to the bottom of his stack. If the two cards played are of equal value, each player lays down three face-down cards and a fourth card face-up (a "war"), and the higher-valued card wins all of the cards on the table, which are then added to the bottom of the player's stack. In the case of another tie, the war process is repeated until there is no tie.

A player wins by collecting all the cards. If a player runs out of cards while dealing the face-down cards of a war, he may play the last card in his deck as his face-up card and still have a chance to stay in the game.

When the cards are dealt the outcome of War is not fully determined because of slight variations in how the cards are returned to play. Even without shuffling, the order in which each individual card is placed in the deck can alter the outcome for one side or another. Variations exist to increase enjoyment of the game play.


After one million games were run with a computer program, the following results were achieved[1]:

Presumably, the game with nine battles was the game with the sextuple war, which would have left the loser with one card. The loser of that war would then win a battle, then lose two in a row to eliminate all its cards.


Being a widely-known game, war has picked up many optional variations, some of which are listed below.

  • Multiplayer War - With three or more players, a war occurs only when the two highest cards tie.
  • Automatic War - A certain card, typically a 2 or a Joker causes an automatic war.
  • Threes Beat Faces - In this variation, a 3 wins against any face card, but still loses against other cards higher than it.
  • Fours Beat Aces - Usually played alongside the above variation, here a 4 beats an ace, but loses against other cards higher than it.
  • Slap War - A certain card, usually 5 if playing with the above rules, has no numerical significance, and when a 5 is played, the first player to slap it collects the cards. If two players play a 5 or a war is caused in some other way, the person to slap the 5 wins regardless.
  • Underdog - When a player has lost a war, he may check his three face down cards for a predetermined underdog card, usually 6 if playing with the above rules, and if one of the cards is a 6, he wins the war.
  • Casino War - A simple variation played for money in casinos.
  • Peace - A simple variation played the opposite of War. Lowest Card wins. Instead of 3 cards being laid down in a peace (a war) 5 are, 1 for each letter in peace.
  • Quatro - A drinking game variant in which four players are dealt three face down cards. The players turn over one of their cards in unison. The player with the lowest card is eliminated and must drink. The players continue with their remaining cards until all but one are eliminated. In the case of a tie, the players participating in the war are immediately dealt three additional face down cards and must turn over one card in unison. The player with the lower card must then finish his or her entire drink. In the case of multiple simultaneous wars, the battle between the highest cards takes precedent and the other battle is void.
  • Strategy War - Players choose which card to play from their hand. Hand size varies from 5 to the entire unplayed deck depending on the exact variant chosen.

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