Some games are very simple yet entertaining at the same time, and the War game fits that bill.
War card game rules are so easy to learn that it will take you about 60 seconds to get the grasp of the game.
If you want to chill after a long poker session or are looking for something to do when you have a friend over, this game is a great pick as you can teach someone to play it in no time, and you'll both have a blast.
War Game Info
- Mostly played by two players
- You only need a deck of cards
War Card Game Glossary
- Battle – placing two cards face up, with the highest-ranking card winning the battle and collecting both cards.
- War – happens when there is a tie, i.e., both players turn over the same rank cards.
- Capture pile – a pile containing all captured (won) cards during a round of the war card game.
- Prisoners of War – a variation of the basic war card game, usually played by three or more players, where the winner of a battle or a war gets to put one card “in prison.”
War Card Game Preparation
The only thing you need to play war is the standard deck of playing cards. You don't even need to have jokers in it.
Apart from cards, you need another person willing to play.
The card game war is played by two players, and that's when the game is the most exciting. I guess you could squeeze in the third person as well, but I wouldn't recommend it.
If there are more of you, you can do a knockout or a tournament system, especially if you have a few decks readily available.
That's all there is to it.
You don't need anything to keep score with as there is no score-keeping in this game.
Every game is a separate skirmish. You can always count the wins, but that's easy enough to do without any extra tools.
War Card Game Rules
I'm pretty sure you won't be able to find many games simpler than war, as even Go Fish has more gameplay involved.
War card game rules are extremely straightforward and easy to learn, which means anyone can play this game, ages 5 to 95+!
The Objective of the Card Game War
The objective of this simple game is to leave your opponents with no cards. Once they're out of “soldiers” to send out to do the battle, you win.
Dealing Cards in War
At the start of the round, the deck is split equally between the two players. You'll each start the game with 26 face-down cards in your pile.
No strict rules are defining how to deal cards in war.
You can do it one or two at a time, five at a time, or whatever else you feel like. This isn't a very serious game, so there is no reason to get worked up over small details such as these.
There is no special system of keeping score defined by the war card game rules, as already mentioned.
Every time you win the battle, you'll pick up all the cards on the table.
What these cards are doesn't really matter. You want to win as many individual cards as possible every time. Whether these are aces or deuces doesn't really matter.
Card Rankings in War Card Game
Card ranks are used only to determine the winner of each round. The game uses the same principle as poker hands. Aces are high, and deuces are low.
Suits don't matter and are never used to determine the winner.
How to Play War Card Game
So, how do you actually play the war card game?
Once you and your opponent both have 26 cards in your piles, the game can begin.
To start, you'll both draw the top card from your pile and turn them over simultaneously.
The player with the highest-ranking card wins and takes both cards, setting them on the separate pile, face down.
For example, you play a ten, and your opponent plays a King. They win the round and take both cards.
Let the War Begin: Playing Cards of the Same Rank
From time to time, both of you will turn over the card of the same rank. Since suits are irrelevant in this game, there is no winner.
This is when the war happens.
There are two main variations in this case, and you're free to pick whichever one you want:
- Both you and your opponent take one card face down from the pile and place it in front of you.
- You both take three cards each and place them face down in front of you.
After this, you'll both play the next card from the pile simultaneously and whoever has the strongest card wins all the cards placed on the table.
If there is another tie, the process repeats, so you'll add either one more or three more cards and then play the next card from the pile.
Winning in the Card Game War
The play continues for as long as you both have cards to play with. Once a player is out of cards in their pile, it's game over for them.
If the player doesn't have enough cards to play during the war (i.e., they only have two and need to place three on the table), they'll lose immediately.
War Card Game Variations
Now you know how to play the war card game in its most basic format. There are also a few interesting variations that you can try if you ever want to switch things around a bit.
Prisoners of War
Prisoners of War is an interesting variation of the game that usually involves more than two players. All the basic war rules still apply, but there is an interesting twist.
When you win a battle, i.e., play the strongest card, you can choose one of the cards to save as the “prisoner.”
The prisoner can't be one of your own cards, though.
You'll place the prisoner card face up next to your pile and can choose to play it on the next battle instead of the next card from your pile.
However, you aren't allowed to look at the card from your pile before making the decision.
If you decide to go with the prisoner card and win the battle, you'll pick up all the cards on the table (including the prisoner) and put them in your capture pile.
However, if you lose, you'll also have to give the winner the top card from your pile so they can put it in their capture pile.
If you win a war instead of a battle in the Prisoners of War variation, you can decide to pick one of the face-down cards from your opponents' piles as a prisoner (but with no looking beforehand).
War Drinking Game
I kind of made this up right now, but you can really turn any game with cards into a drinking game, and since war doesn't require much thinking, it's a perfect candidate.
Rules are very simple: every time a player loses a war, they have to take a shot!
When they lose the entire game, they have to take two shots.
You could also do the variation with a shot after every battle, but I'd strongly recommend against it since the game wouldn’t last.
If you're ever in a casino and want to play some cards but don't want to play a game as complicated as Ultimate Texas Hold'em, seek out casino war tables.
The casino variant is even simpler than the original one. You place a bet, and the dealer deals the cards. If you win, you're paid at even odds.
You can also bet on a tie in Casino War, with odds of 10 to 1.
If there is a tie and you didn't bet on it, you have two options:
- Surrender half of your original wager and end your participation in the hand.
- Place an additional bet equal to the original wager and go to war. The dealer will deal two more cards. If you win, you'll be paid at even odds on the original bet. If there is a tie again, you'll get paid at 2 to 1.
War Card Game Summary and Tips
There is really not much strategy on how to play the war card game. You don't get to make any decisions during the gameplay, and the outcome is determined by luck.
You'll win some, you'll lose some, and there is not much you can do to change that. But that’s good since sometimes you just want to chill and have a good time.
Having read this article, you should fully understand how to play war card game and its few variations. Yes, it's a simple game, but you never know when it might come in handy.
War doesn't require much space, so you can play it with a friend during a train or a plane trip, and it's a great way to pass some time.
If war doesn't do it for you and you're looking for something spicier, check out our strip poker guide. It might be more to your taste!