War Card Game (Rules and Instructions)

Big fish eats small fish. That’s basically all you need to know about the game of War. This card battle for two is an ideal choice for kids, beginners, or even seasoned players who like to keep it simple. My War card game rules will teach you how to play.

If you only have a single playing partner, your choice of possible card games is relatively narrow. Besides the classics like Speed or Kings in the Corner (check our Speed card game rules and Kings in the Corner rules if you’re interested), you can also try War.

In this straightforward game, you depend purely on luck: You play cards in a predetermined order and follow super-simple rules to decide who wins each of the tricks. There are also no compromises regarding the results: The winner must, literally, take it all.

This War card game rules guide will cover the following: 

  • What is the War card game?
  • What you’ll need to play the War card game
  • War card game rules
  • How to play the War card game (video tutorial)
  • FAQs
  • Other similar games to War (our guides)

Read on and learn how to play War from the initial setup to the final results.

What is the War Card Game?

War Card Game Info Image

War is an ideal choice for two kids, one adult, and a kid, or two adults who prefer simplicity and fast pace to the complicated tactics of some more sophisticated games.

Once you’re familiar with the basic version of the game (which I describe step-by-step in this rules guide), you can also try some alternative versions like Peace, which reverses the gameplay by allowing the lowest-ranking cards to beat the higher ones.

Number of Players: 2

Ages: 5+

Difficulty: Easy 

Length of Play: 20 – 60 minutes

Category: Catching-type card game

Similar to: Slapjack, Beggar-My-Neighbor, Peace

Main Objective: Collect ALL the cards from the deck.

Why We Love It: War is a rudimentary card battle that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere, and with anyone regardless of their skills, age, or experience.

What You’ll Need to Play War Card Game

To play War, you will only need a standard 52-playing card deck. However, make sure it includes Jokers, too – you will need them.

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War Card Game Rules and Gameplay

War rules couldn’t be much easier. It’s a battle of higher and lower-ranking cards where players don’t have to worry about suits, scores, or complicated strategies. If you’ve never played this game before, rest assured that you will learn it quickly.

Eventually, the most intricate part of the War is its length – the game can sometimes last very long due to the frequent and unpredictable twists. Since it’s all about the chance here, there’s not much you can do to speed it up.

Starting the Game

In War, you will deal all the cards from your deck among the players. Of course, players don’t have to hold all the cards in their hands: Simply form a down-facing pile of them and place it in front of you.

How to Play War Card Game

  • First, players simultaneously flip the top cards from their respective piles and place them side by side at the center of the table. 
  • The player with the highest-ranking card takes BOTH cards and puts them on their separated face-up discard pile. 
  • In the next round, players do the same.
  • If you both flip cards of the same rank (e.g., two Kings), you’ve entered a WAR.
  • In War, each player places three down-facing cards on his first card and another face-up card on the top. 
  • Whoever has the highest-ranking card on top wins all the cards on the table. 
  • Play another War over the previous one if you’re stuck in a tie. Continue with these battles until, eventually, one of the players wins.
  • If one of the players runs out of cards in the process, he loses the War. 

Ranking of cards

To decide who wins each round, you need to know the ranking of cards first:

Joker is the highest-ranking card in War. It is followed by Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten, and all the way down to Two, which is the lowest ranking card. 

What if you run out of cards?

Once you’ve played all the cards from your draw pile, turn your discard pile over, shuffle it well, and use it as a new draw pile.

War Card Game Scoring 

In War, there’s no scoring. Instead, the gameplay continues until one player gathers ALL the cards from the deck. This player becomes the winner of the War.

How to Play War Card Game – Video Tutorial 

War Card Game Frequently Asked Questions

Is there any skill to the War card game?

No. War is a straightforward game that does not require players to have any particular strategic skills or previous experiences. It is perfectly suitable for beginners or children.

Can you play War with more than two players?

Yes. The rules remain pretty much the same, but each player gets fewer cards. If you play with an odd number of players, sort out one random card to ensure that the players have an equal number of cards. Three players, for example, get 17 cards each. 

Do twos beat aces in War?

No. Twos are the lowest ranking cards in War. Whenever you play a two, you can be sure that you’re going to lose the trick – unless your opponent plays two as well and you enter the War.

Other Similar Games to War (Our Guides) 

Enjoy this game? Check out our guides to the following War alternatives:

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Read all the articles (121) written by Lucia Fajnerova