War (card game)

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Type Adding-up-type
Players 2+
Skill(s) required Counting
Age range 5+
Cards 52
Deck French
Play Clockwise
Card rank (highest to lowest) A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Playing time 10–40 min.
Random chance Complete
Related games

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 down stack. In unison, each player reveals the top card of their deck – this is a "battle" – and the player with the higher card takes both the cards played and moves them to the bottom of their stack.

If the two cards played are of equal value, then there is a "war".[1] Both players place the next three[2] cards of their pile face down, depending on the variant, and then another card face-up. The owner of the higher face-up card wins the war and adds all six (or ten) cards on the table to the bottom of their deck. If the face-up cards are again equal then the battle repeats with another set of face-down/up cards. This repeats until one player's face-up card is higher than their opponent's.[1]

Most descriptions of War are unclear about what happens if a player runs out of cards during a war.[1] In some variants, that player immediately loses. In others, the player may play the last card in their deck as their face-up card for the remainder of the war.[3] However, the rules often do not specify in which order the cards should be returned to the deck. If they are returned in a non-random order, the decision of putting one card before another after a win can change the overall outcome of the game.[4] The effects of such decisions are more visible with smaller size decks as it is easier for a player to card count, however the decisions can still affect gameplay if taken in standard decks.


After one million games were run with a computer program, the following results were achieved using a variation where a war is played with each player putting three cards face down and a fourth face up:[2]

Statistic Value
Average battles per game: 253.314
Average wars per game: 15.0961
Average double wars per game: 0.756801
Average triple wars per game: 0.042637
Average quadruple wars per game: 0.002265
Average quintuple wars per game: 0.000113
Average sextuple wars per game: 0.000001
Most battles in a game: 5674
Most wars in a game: 155
Most double wars in a game: 12
Most triple wars in a game: 5
Most quadruple wars in a game: 2
Most quintuple wars in a game: 2
Most sextuple wars in a game: 1
Fewest battles in a game: 10

More Statistics[edit]

After 1,000,068,000 games were run with a computer program, the following results were achieved using a variation where a war is played with each player putting three cards face down and a fourth face up.(Same as above)

cards Win percentage Average length of game Simulated games
1 card vs 51 cards .77418 11.7506185 760,831,000
2 cards vs 50 cards 1.701 23.089 18,230,000
3 cards vs 49 cards 2.8914 35.432 25,624,000
4 cards vs 48 cards 4.47134 50.112 29,822,000
5 cards vs 47 cards 6.645 69.1447 12,192,000
6 cards vs 46 cards 8.6976 86.097 2,698,000
7 cards vs 45 cards 10.6779 101.656 4,345,000
8 cards vs 44 cards 12.6777 116.439 2,022,000
9 cards vs 43 cards 14.7575 130.802 2,004,000
10 cards vs 42 cards 16.799 144.2867 4,063,000
11 cards vs 41 cards 18.8846 157.151 6,924,000
12 cards vs 40 cards 20.9518 168.16 2,198,000
13 cards vs 39 cards 23.005 180.187 13,269,000
14 cards vs 38 cards 25.1003 190.7913 3,355,000
15 cards vs 37 cards 27.21487 200.235 2,094,000
16 cards vs 36 cards 29.239 208.5268 2,094,000
17 cards vs 35 cards 31.3502 216.4769 2,085,000
18 cards vs 34 cards 33.4198 223.645 2,237,000
19 cards vs 33 cards 35.4847 229.671 2,306,000
20 cards vs 32 cards 37.5068 235.137 3,206,000
21 cards vs 31 cards 39.396223 239.859 2,148,000
22 cards vs 30 cards 41.7237 243.3423 2,877,000
23 cards vs 29 cards 43.7675 246.3645 9,937,000
24 cards vs 28 cards 45..8408 248.3 9,799,000
25 cards vs 27 cards 47.691 249.6475 3,610,000
26 cards vs 26 cards 50 250.037 70,183,000


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

  • Add On – Players may flip additional cards each war, but bust if going over 15 (face cards are valued as 10).
  • Three-player 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.
  • Instant War – Any card that loses a battle is dead, or eliminated from the game. The card that wins returns to the original owner. When cards tie, only one card is played by each player in the war. A draw is possible, and game play is much quicker.
  • Five Straight Battles – If a player wins five straight battles, his opponent gives him his next faced down card.
  • Simple Math (only optional when 3 players are playing) – If the card of the winner of the battle is greater than both losing cards together (i.e., the winner had a King, and the losers have a 5 and a 4), each loser hands the winner their next faced down card.
  • Two Card War – Players place two cards each battle instead of one. If one of them is a king a queen or a jack then the player with the highest card wins. Otherwise the player with the higher value of cards (added value of both cards) wins. This game is meant to teach adding to children.

Mobile Versions[edit]

The game has been developed for multiple platforms including Android, Apple iOS and Windows Phones. The games have varying difficulties and number of players that can be played against.

See also[edit]


Finiteness in the card game of War. http://arxiv.org/abs/1007.1371

  1. ^ a b c http://www.pagat.com/war/war.html
  2. ^ a b "Here comes the science". Rajgiri.net. Retrieved 2012-12-11. 
  3. ^ Costikyan, Greg (1994). "I Have No Words & I Must Design". Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  4. ^ Lakshtanov, Evgeny (2011). "On Finiteness in the Card Game of War". Retrieved 2008-03-26. 

External links[edit]