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War Variations

This page is part of the Invented Games section of the Card Games web site. It is a collection of variations of the traditional card game War.

Addition War

Contributed by Jesse Weinstein and Nancy Fuller , Los Angeles, 2000 AD

Two cards are played at once, and added together. The highest sum wins the trick. Wars are played in the usual way, three cards face down, two cards up: the sum wins all 14 cards. Last player to have cards wins. I, Nancy, invented this to get my kid, Jesse, to practice the addition facts. This game can be played with one or two decks, depending on how long you want the game to go on.

Subtraction War

Contributed by Jesse Weinstein and Nancy Fuller , Los Angeles, 2000 AD

Two cards are played at once, the lower subtracted from the higher. The highest sum wins the trick. Wars go the same way. This one was invented by both Nancy and Jesse on the floor of LAX airport at 1 a.m. while we were waiting for baggage and trying to save our sanity. This game can be played with one or two decks, depending on how long you want the game to go on. If any strange coincidences happen while you are playing this game, please let us know at . ;-)

Casualty War

Contributed by Jesse Weinstein and Nancy Fuller , Los Angeles, 2000 AD

The full name of this game is Triple Addition Casualty War

Use 2 decks, including Jokers

Ace of spades beats everything
Joker = 14
King = 13
Queen = 12
Jack = 11
all number cards equal their numbers
Lay out three cards, face up
The highest sum wins the trick
Occurs whenever there is any match one on each side (unmatched cards are taken by higher).
    1. Place another three cards face down, then three cards face up and proceed as in regular play
    2. If two matches occur, play wars on each. If one player wins both wars, s/he takes all cards. If each player wins one of the wars, those cards are distributed and the original war must be played again.
At the end of a war, all cards are turned face up and any groups of four or more of the same number are eliminated from the game. During regular play if four or more of a number show up among the face up cards, all are eliminated.
Last player to have cards wins. If one player runs out during a play or war, the other player must lend him enough cards to finish the turn.

Casualty war is strangely similar to real war - although you may win a particular battle, you may end up losing more than your opponent.

Scramble War

[Contributed anonymously]

This game can be played with or without jokers. You shuffle the deck and you just "throw" the cards on the floor [all cards should be face down] now you randomly pick a card from the pile, your opponent also randomly picks a card from the pile, and whoever has the higher card wins. The rank of cards, from low to high, is 2 < 3 < 4 < 5 < 6 < 7 < 8 < 9 < 10 < J < Q < K < A [< JOKER, if used].

This game is played like the traditional war game. So if both players draw the same card, you both say "I ... DE ... CLARE ... WAR!", and as the say this they draw 3 cards face down, draw a fourth card and flip it. The higher fourth card wins all these cards.

Both you and your opponent pick cards out of the same face-down heap. When the heap is gone, the person with the most points wins. [It's simplest to assume that every card is worth just one point in the final scoring, so that in fact the person with most cards wins. JM].

Good King, Bad Queen

(Or, "Josiah Vs. Jezebel") - "Where winning might work against you!"

Invented by Ed Vasicek (Vasicek@hisnet.org)

This game is a variation of the traditional game, "War." It is played with a standard 52-card deck, and best for 2 to 3 players. The normal rules of War apply except with these variations:

  1. If you capture a King, that is good: all players give you 5 cards. If you capture a Queen, that is bad: you award 5 cards to all players.

    Capturing a card means taking that card in a regular War trick (e.g., an Ace takes a Queen) or winning a card in a war (the open or turned down cards from your opponent, or your turned down cards-which count as won cards; also included are the cards won from the treasury as explained below).

    Example: you win a War. Between the treasury, the cards you won, and the turned down cards you played in the war, you find 2 Queens and 1 King. Since the king cancels one queen, you owe each player five cards. If you find a King and Queen of the same suit in this whole group of cards, you have won the game.

  2. If you win a trick by one point, you must put two cards in a separate pile called the "treasury." For example, if you take a 6 with a 7, you keep those cards, but place two cards from the top of your deck into the treasury. (An Ace counts as both high and low, so if you win a 2 or a King with an Ace, you would place two cards in the treasury in either instance.) Whoever wins the next War wins all the cards in the treasury as well.
  3. There are two ways to win the game: deplete your opponent's cards (the traditional way) or taking a Queen with a King of the same suit.

Poker War

Mark Perkins (mmp@cisco.com) writes:

On a recent plane flight, my son and I invented a game we call "Poker War". It is played like war except that cards are played in groups of 7 and the best 5-card poker hand takes the group of fourteen cards. When a player has less than 7 cards remaining, they lose. If there is a tie, the fourteen cards go to the winner of the next hand. We started with 5 cards each but found it boring because, usually, the best poker hand didn't even have a pair. As with regular war, it can be played with any number of people, although in this version, it is good to add another deck for each third player.


Contributed by trance574 (trance574@netscape.net)

You use a normal deck French suit deck of 52 cards (no jokers).

Number of players: 2 to 6

Step 1: Shuffle and cut the deck.

Step 2: Deal each player a total of 3 (three) cards. (All cards should be face down.)

Step 3: The object is to have the highest ranking card. (Ace is highest) Winner takes all other players card that were played.

[As far as I can tell this is meant to work as follows. Each player looks at their three cards and selects one to play. Probably the selected cards are to be placed face down and revealed simultaneously. The highest card wins all the played cards, and these cards are stored in a pile in front of the winner. The process is repeated with each player selecting a second card, and then again with the third and last card. JM]

If you have a tie in number of cards; Ex. heart6, spade6, and diamond6, the ranking is: Spades highest, diamonds second, hearts third, and clubs lowest. Therefore, spades would win.

Step 4: repeat from step 2 until 1 player has all cards.

The above rule gives the impression that the won cards are reused, as in normal War, until one player collects all 52 cards. However, in a later message, trance574 wrote:

"You play one card at a time and winner takes the cards. After all cards have been played, you deal out another 3 cards to everyone. After the whole deck has been used, players count the cards you won. The one with the most cards, wins the game."

21st Century War

by Osman Hussaini (dkbarron@hotmail.com)

Twenty-first century war is a variation on the classic card game of war. This variation adds a bit of strategy to a game that has always been merely a game of chance.

Object: To capture all the cards from your opponents.

To Play:

  1. Evenly divide the cards between the players.
  2. Each player stacks his or her cards in a pile without looking at them.
  3. Each round begins with each player drawing four cards from his or her pile.
  4. Players select a combination of cards to play. See rules below on possible combinations.
  5. All players simultaneously lay down their selected cards on the table. (The remaining cards are kept in the players' hands.)
  6. The player whose cards add up to the most points wins. Number cards are worth their number value. Aces are worth 1, jacks 11, queens 12, kings 13.
  7. In the event of a tie, the players whose cards total the same number play only one of the cards remaining in their hand to determine who wins. If one or more of the tied players have no cards left (i.e. if he/she has played all four cards already), they lose. If none of the players have any cards, each of the tied players draws one more card and plays it to determine who wins. If there is still a tie, drawing and playing one card continues until there is a winner.
  8. The winner gathers all the cards and places them at the bottom of his/her pile.
  9. All players return any excess card to the bottom of their piles and play continues by drawing four new cards at the start of each round until one player has all the cards.

Rules for combinations of cards that can be played:

  1. The ace is a wild card. It can be played with any combination of the below allowed combinations or with any face cards, or with both.
  2. The following combinations:
    1. Pairs.
    2. Lower cards that add up to another card in your hand can be played with the higher card as pairs (i.e. a nine and three can be played with a queen, two fives can be played with a ten, or a five and a four can be played with a nine, etc.)

Examples of valid and invalid combinations:

    A-Q:valid (an ace with a face card)
    A-K-J:valid (an ace with two face cards)
    A-9:not valid (an ace with a number card)
    A-2-7-9:valid (an ace with a valid combination: 2+7=9)
    A-5-6:valid (an ace used as part of a combination: 1+5=6)
    A-10-J:valid (1+10=11)
    A-4-4-J:valid (an ace with a face card and a valid combination)

Napoleon's War

This variation of War, contributed by Ian Ricksecker (Ian@ea.com) involves some strategy and is suitable for adults (or older children).

This game is for two players.  Use a 52-card deck.  Divide the deck into two equal piles.  (One player begins with all the red cards, while the other begins with all the black cards.)

Both players take their "hand", and may sort it into any order they please.  When they are finished sorting their hand, they place it face down, in a stack called their "deck", on the table.  Once the deck is set down, the player may no longer change the order!  Both players then turn up a single card.  As in regular war, whoever revealed the higher card captures both cards.  The two cards as placed face up in the players "capture" pile.

If the turned up cards are equal, there is a "war".  The tied cards stay on the table.  Both players play their next three cards face down, revealing their fourth card face up.  Whoever has the higher of the new cards claims all ten cards; repeat the process as long as the revealed cards are equal, with the eventual winner claiming all the cards in the war.

When one player's "deck" is empty, he picks up his "capture" pile.  This becomes his "hand", which he must again sort, and place it face down to become a new "deck".  (If both players' decks are empty, as is the case when the initial 26 cards expire, both players sort their hands at the same time. However, it is quite possible for one player to be sorting his "hand" while the other player still has 8 or 10 cards left - so card counting becomes important.)

While one player is sorting his "hand", he may ask his opponent how many cards remain in the opponent's "deck" and how many are in his "capture" pile, but may not inquire about or look at cards that are in the "capture" pile (save, of course, that the top card remains revealed).

The game continues until one player has all the cards and wins.  However, if the losing player can manoeuvre the deck in such a way that he runs out of cards during a war, the game is declared a draw.

Guerilla Joker

Contributed by Ryan Hill

This game is played just like standard war except the jokers are used. When a joker is played, no matter what the opposing card(s), you must go to war.

Duel King

Created by Chris Alexander and Jeremy L Minney

This version is for 2 players only. (It is possible to play with more than 2 players, but it's kinda hard.)

Object of the game: get all the cards.

Card order (highest to lowest): Joker / K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, A

How you play is simple. First, the dealer deals out the deck (52 cards plus 2 jokers) to the two players (27 cards each). Neither player can look at his/her cards.

Next both players, at the same time, deal 3 cards from the top of their decks face-down. These are the cards they will play in a single round.

When it's your turn, you must flip a card to play it. At the start of the game, the dealer goes first, then the opponent. Whoever flips the higher card wins both cards - his/her own card back, plus the card flipped by his/her opponent, and puts these two cards at the bottom of his/her deck. Now each player flips the second of their three cards, the higher card winning as before, and then the last card. Three rounds are known as a match. Whoever won the previous flip always flips the first card of the next round.

When all six cards have been flipped, both players take their winnings and deal 3 more face-down cards off the tops of their decks. The game continues like this until a player's deck is reduced 5 cards or fewer. A player with 5 cards or fewer in his/her deck loses the game.

This may seem simple. However, there are obstacles.

If a player flips a King, then all the cards (even if it's just one) on the table that are face-down are flipped face-up and the one who flipped the King takes them all. This is called a duel king. Jokers work in a similar way, except that when you win a match with a Joker, you take everything on the table plus the top 5 cards of your opponent's deck!

There is always a chance that you might flip a card of exactly the same rank as your opponent. If that's the case, then both players flip another card on table to see who wins those two and the rest of the face-up cards that have been played. This is called a duel. The player who flipped the first card of the round that caused the duel also flips first in the duel. If the two duel cards are also equal, there is another duel.

If you both flip cards of the same rank on the last round of a match - either an ordinary round or a duel - when there are no more cards on the table left to play, then there is a forced duel. In a forced duel the two players simultaneously flip the top card of their decks and the higher card wins.

If a King or Joker is flipped in an ordinary duel, then as usual it takes all the cards on the table, plus five extra cards for a Joker. It is important that players flip their cards in order in an ordinary duel - if the first player flips a King or Joker it will win all the cards on the table, even if the second player's card is also a King or Joker.

In a forced duel, Kings and Jokers beat all other cards but are equal to each other. If both players flip Kings, or both flip Jokers, or one of each is flipped, it is a tie and another forced duel must be fought. Nevertheless, if either player flips a Joker in a forced duel, they immediately win 5 cards from the opponent's deck, even if the Joker tied with a King or a Joker flipped by the other player.

If there are many, many forced duels, both players playing the same ranked cards, you might want to consider shuffling your deck.

If your opponent flips a King or a Joker, you have an opportunity to save any of your cards from the table by announcing a save duel. Each player then flips the top card of their deck. If your card is better you save the card, but no matter whether you win or lose this duel, your opponent takes both the cards used in fighting the duel, as well as the remaining cards on the table. If a King or Joker appears when fighting a save duel, the rules are the same as for a forced duel. If the two cards flipped in a save duel are the same rank, a forced duel follows to decide the result. In one match, you may have up to three attempts to save cards from a King or Joker by means of a save duel - you can try to save cards from the table or cards that you played in a previous save duel.

After any kind of duel - ordinary, forced or save, the winner of the duel flips first in the next ordinary round of play.

Speed War

Contributed by Eric W. Longley who writes "I'm sure we're not the first to think of this, but we enjoy it so I pass it on."

This is simply the game "WAR" with one variation. The smallest cards are continually removed from the game. To begin with, every time a two appears, it is set aside. The winner of that trick simply forfeits the two and claims the remaining card or cards. Once all the twos are removed, you remove the threes as they appear, then the fours, etc.

The advantage of this version is two-fold. First, the game will end relatively soon. Second, "wars" become more frequent as the remaining cards dwindle, making the game more unpredictable and exciting.

War of Kingdoms

Contributed by Eldad Yechiam

This is played like the regular game of War with two exceptions that add some strategy but leave much to luck (furthermore, the game retains most of its original features).

  1. The main difference from the original game is that every time a player wins cards, the player can arrange the cards just won in any order before putting them back on the bottom of the player's pack.
    Strategy tip: It is useful to create groups of high value cards in order to prevent the loss of a high value card when there is a war. Eventually, a successful player will create kingdoms, or collections of subsequent high value cards. For example, if a player got 2 and a Jack they should put the 2 first and the Jack last, in the expectation that the next won pair would contain higher value cards. Thus, if the next pair is an Ace and a 4, the Ace should come first.
  2. A second difference is that in a war, the player turns up three cards (rather than one) after the initial card that drew a tie. The third card determines who wins.
    This gives more weight to strategy as after a war there is a larger number of cards that can be arranged by the player.


A Boxing Card Game by Mackenzie Yeung

In the game, there are two players. You use a standard pack of 54 playing cards, including two jokers. Cards ranks are from high to low: A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 Joker.

Shuffle the deck of cards. Deal out all the cards, so that each player has 27. Players do not look at their cards, but keep them in a packet face down.

Both players place 10 cards from their packet, face down, in two rows (5 cards on top, 5 cards on bottom). This is your Health Bar. Both players now turn their top card from their packet face up and put them on the table. Whoever turned the higher card takes both cards and adds them (face down) to the bottom of their packet. The losing player (with the lowest card) takes 1 card from his/her Health Bar, and adds it to the bottom of their packet.

If the turned up cards are equal, then it is considered a draw. No cards are won, no cards are lost. The cards are placed face down, to the bottom of their original packets.

When a player loses all of his/her Health cards, it is a knock down (KD). The Knock Down round comes in play. Here's how it's played; both players will take 3 cards from their packet and place it in a second packet, face down. This is your Knock Down (KD) packet, and represents the three chances the knocked down player has to get up and continue the fight. Both players turn the top card from their Knock Down packet face-up on the table.

If the card placed by the Knocked Down player is lower then the other player's, both players turn up the next card from their KD packets. If the cards are equal, shuffle them back into their original packets. Both players draw 1 new card and place it at the bottom of their KD packet. Set the cards that have already been used, aside in your own separate pile face-up. No cards are collected in the Knock Down round. Continue doing this until one of the following things happen:

  1. 1. The KD player places a card down that is higher then the opposing player’ s card. This means the player has gotten up and can fight. The player places 9 new cards in their Health Bar (opposing player doesn't). The player shuffles all the cards from their KD packet, and the cards set aside, back to their packet. If you do not have enough cards to make a health bar, then you lose and the game is over.
  2. Every time a player gets up from a knock down, the players health will go down by 1 card (but in some cases it doesn't). So if a player gets knocked down 3 times, and he/she gets up, the player’s health heals by 7 cards if they get up, not 10. To make it a little easier, use the chart below.

    Knock Downs-----Health healed getting up
    1 knock down=9 health cards
    2 knock downs=8 health cards
    3 knock downs=7 health cards
    4 knock downs=6 health cards
    5 knock downs=5 health cards
    6 knock downs=4 health cards
    7 knock downs=3 health cards
    8 knock downs=3 health cards
    9 knock downs=3 health cards
    10+ knock downs=2 health cards
  3. The KD player has no more cards left in their KD packet; the player has been knocked out (KO). The game is over and the opposing player wins.

If a player does not have enough cards to construct a full knock down packet, then the game is over and the opposing player wins.

The game continues until a player loses a knock down round or has no more cards left in his/her packet.

Optional Rule - Fresh Packet: This rule gives you the option of shuffling your packet before placing a card or shuffling it before making a KD packet. This can be done anytime in the game. You are only allowed to shuffle your packet 5 times per game. This can help you win, but be sure not to go overboard with it.

Minor Warfare

A war variation by Joseph Smith in which battles outcomes are normally determined by suit.


  • A 52 standard card deck
  • 2 players

Game play

In this game,you don't go by the number of the cards unless there is an event of a tie. This is like a guessing game, but it has a lot more interactivity.

What Beats what:

  • Hearts beat Spades and Diamonds
  • Spades beat Diamonds and Clubs
  • Diamonds beat Clubs
  • Clubs beat Hearts

In this game,you draw fifteen (15) cards, then you pick five of them to lay down (your opponent cannot see the cards whatsoever) in any order that you think that they will beat your opponent. If your card beats the one in front of it,then that card on your side wins.

If two cards in front of each other are the same suit, then the one with the higher number wins.

Two cards that are not vertical (in front of each other) to each other cannot battle /face each other.

Playing Another Game

If you want to play another game after this one,then you must shuffle all cards that were drawn back into the deck, because the fifteen (15) cards were just there for having a variety of choices.


If you wish to gamble in this game,then before you turn a card over, you must bet on however much money that you think your card will win, then you do the same for the rest of the cards, unless someone decides to give up (folding).

Galactic War

A war variation by Lee Walker in which suits play a part in battles.

# of Players: 2 or more

You Need: Two standard 52-card decks (no jokers)

How to Play:

Shuffle the two decks together, then deal them evenly between all players. Players keep their cards face-down in a pack. Once all the cards are dealt, the game is played much like regular War. Players all take the top card of their pack and place it face-up in front of them. The player with the highest card (with the order being A,K,Q,J,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2 from highest to lowest) wins all the face-up cards, and places them face-down at the bottom of their pack. Play continues until one person is left with all the cards, who is declared the winner.


Battles are what happen when two or more players flip up a card of the same value. Unlike the original War game, the suit (even the color) is very much a part of this variation. When two or more players flip matching cards, the players whose cards match deal out a certain number of cards from their pack, face down (explained more below), then take the top card of their pack and place it face-up on top of their face-down cards(this final card is called the flip-up). The number of cards players deal face-down from their pack is determined like this:

  • If only the value of the matching cards is the same (such as 5spade and 5diamond), then players only deal out three from their packs.
  • If the value and color match, but not the suit (7spade and 7club), players deal out seven cards*, face-down.
  • If both value AND suit match (Jheart and Jheart), then a daunting eleven cards* are dealt from players' packs.

* NOTE: To make counting easier on myself, I prefer to deal out the seven in a 4-3 configuration, and the eleven in a 4-4-3 configuration. For example, four cards face-down in one column, then three cards in another column for the seven-card deal.

The player with the highest-valued flip-up card of the battle wins all the cards on the table. When two players have a match, and a third player flips a card that beats the value of the matching cards, there is no battle; the third player claims all cards on the table, and the game continues. For instance, let's say that Players 1 and 2 both flip a 6diamond and Player 3 turns up a 10club. Instead of the first two players setting up eleven cards each for a battle, Player 3 just takes the three face-up cards. With this rule comes two very similar variations.

  1. Players 1 and 2 do go ahead and battle, but all the spoils go to Player 3, regardless of the battle's result.
  2. Same as above, but the winner of the battle gets to choose one card from all that were used in said battle, and the rest go to Player 3.

If by chance, the flip-up cards match as well, then another battle is dealt out, following the bulleted rules above. If a player does not have enough cards to follow the rules, then they place as many cards as they can face down, leaving their last card as the flip-up. Should another battle occur, or if a player's last card was used to initiate the battle, then one of two scenarios happens, depending on how you want to play.

  1. The player who is short borrows a card from one of the players who is not involved in the battle (if possible).
  2. The short-handed player is out of the game, and the winner of the battle claims all the cards.

If the first variation is chosen, and the short-handed player wins the battle, they must return the winning card to the person they borrowed from (the lender). If they lose, however, the winner of the battle picks a random card from his earnings and returns it to the lender. Keep in mind that the lender has the option to choose whatever card they give you. However, if they pick and choose, the lender must shuffle their pack once they've lent out one of their cards.

Just for the sake of completeness, let's say the following happens while playing:

Player 1: 8heart        Player 2: 8heart        Player 3: 8diamond       Player 4: 8spade

Players 1 and 2 will deal out eleven cards face-down from their pack, Player 3 will deal seven, and Player 4 spits out a measly 3. Play then continues as normal, with the person having the highest flip-up claiming all the cards on the table.

Prisoner of War

Contributed by Ken Scherer

"Prisoner of War" is played like the classic card game of "War", with the following variations:

Any face down card that you win from your opponent during a war is, at your choice, either

  1. put face up into a concentration camp that you control on your side, or
  2. used for a prisoner exchange.

Prisoner exchanges are done immediately after you capture your opponent's face down card(s) in a war. You cannot use captured cards to initiate a prisoner exchange with any of your opponent's cards after you have put then into your concentration camp.

When you make a prisoner exchange, you give back to your opponent one card for each card that you want to liberate from your opponent's concentration camp. The winner of the war gets to select which card(s) will be used for the prisoner exchange. The winner of the war does not have to make a prisoner exchange. Put any card that you do not want to do a prisoner exchange with face up into your concentration camp. If you win more than one face down card from your opponent, you can do a prisoner exchange with one or all of them. After each prisoner exchange is completed, both players immediately put the exchanged cards on the bottom of their packs (not into concentration camps), in any order they choose.

If you run out of cards in your pack, you lose, even if you have cards in your concentration camp. Prisoners cannot be used to fight battles.

The strategy involved in this variation of war is to exchange lower value cards for higher value cards when you initiate a prisoner exchange.

Clone War

Contributed by Ken Scherer

"Clone War" is a variation of the classic card game called "War", with one major difference. You only play with face cards; Jacks, Queens, and Kings.

Prepare to play "Clone War" by sorting out all the Jacks, Queens, and Kings from at least four packs of regular player cards. You need at least 48 cards (i.e., 16 Jacks, 16 Queens, and 16 Kings).

Once you have prepared your deck, follow the exact rules for "War".

Clearly wars will be much more frequent than in the standard game because there are so many equal cards. A player who runs out of cards in the middle of a war loses the game if any other player still has cards. However, if both/all players run out at the same time in the middle of the war, the player with the highest final card played (face up or face down) is the winner. In the event of a tie with the players' playing equal last cards in the middle of a war, the game ends in a draw.

Ken Scherer writes:

Personally, I think using only face cards makes "War" more visually interesting. Using only face cards certainly causes more wars. The last two games I played had the following stats:

    Game 1
    Playing time: 22 minutes
    Number of Wars: 40 (including 11 doubles, and 2 triples)
    Game 2
    Playing time: 47 minutes
    Number of Wars: 76 (including 12 doubles, 8 triples, and 3 quadruples)


Contributed by Emma Dean who writes:

My little brother and I used to play WAR all the time ... when that got boring, we decided to play RAW (war backwards). The object is to lose all your cards... (still a really long and drawn out game... but a new twist)

The rank of the cards is reversed. From most to least powerful it is 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-J-Q-K-A, so for example the 2 takes all other cards.

In case of a RAW battle (WAR), you place three cards face down and then turn the last one up and the player with the lower (more powerful) card will take the cards.

The player who gets rid of all their cards wins.


Contributed by Dan The Man , who writes: "This variation of war brings a new level of excitement to standard war, and is much more fun. If a player is short stacked and wins a double war he is right back in the game. I hope other people will see what a great game this can be and start playing it regularly."

From a standard 52 card pack excluding jokers, all the cards are distributed equally between the two players and held as a face down stack. A chip is used to indicate whose turn it is. The first card from each player's stack is used to determine who gets the chip to start and the chip alternates from player to player after each round.

Each round is begun by each player laying down the top 3 cards of their stacks face up in front of them in a row. The player with the chip acts first and must use a card from his or her row to capture a lower card from the opponent's row (suits are irrelevant). After that player has captured a card it is the other player's turn to capture, and then after the first two captures are made on the board the player with the highest card left wins their opponent's last card. This completes a round, and the chip is passed to the other player. If a player is unable to capture any of his opponent's cards on the board then his opponent will take all the cards left on the board.

All captured and capturing cards are stored face down in a pile in front of the capturing player.

In the event that a player and his opponent have the equal cards on the board at the start of a round, those corresponding cards will lock and will not be able to capture or be captured. After everything else on the board is captured, the two players both lay 2 cards from their stacks face down on top of the war card (the locked card), and then flip the a 3rd card from their stack face up which will be used as the tiebreaker card (higher card wins and takes all cards used in the war). If players lay down the same tie breaking card another 2 cards are put face down and an additional tie breaking card is placed face up, this is repeated until a player has successfully captured a lower tie breaking card.

In the event of a match between two pairs of cards on the board there will be a double war, and each player must lay two cards face down and the next card face up on both war cards. If one player wins both tiebreakers than he gets all the cards involved in the tiebreaker. If one player wins each, they each take the cards in the war they won. If each player has the same set of 3 cards on the board there is a triple war under the same rules.

Examples: 10-8-8 against J-8-4. One of the first player's 8's is locked with the second player's 8. The 10 captures the 4, the jack captures an 8 and then there is a war for the final 8's.
K-9-5 against K-7-5. The 9 captures the 7 and then there is a double war between the kings and 5's
J-J-10 against K-9-8. There is no lock because both jacks belong to the same player. Jack beats 9, king beats jack and 10 beats 8.

If a player runs out of cards before he is able to lay down 3 cards at the start of a round, the player must shuffle his captured pile and lay down the additional cards needed to place 3 cards on the board. The same rules apply in a war.

If a war occurs and a player has no captured pile left and does not have enough cards for a normal war this example will show what happens; player 1 only has 2 cards left in her stack so she can only lay 1 card face down and flip the 2nd card face up. Player 2 has to do the same thing: lay 1 card face down and the 2nd face up. As usual the higher card face up wins the war. In a double war, both wars are played simultaneously. If one player does not have enough cards for both, they play all the cards they have and the other must play the same number of cards.

If a war occurs when a player has run out of cards she must use the original war card as her tie breaking card and her opponent would have to lay down 1 additional card to determine the winner of the war. In the same way, if you have only one card left for a double war, you place it face up on one of your cards while your opponent places face up cards on both cards to creak the tie.

Aces can be the highest card or the lowest card - players must decide before beginning. Jokers are not used.

Psychic War

Contributed by Emily Goodlife

Play is similar to War and the goal is to get all the cards. (I like to divide the decks perfectly evenly so that players start off on equal footing. One easy way to do this is to give one player all the red cards and the other all the black). In this variation on War, the two players can look at their cards and choose which card to play at each turn.

Of course, if there is a war, both players will want to play their highest card. To keep things interesting, there is an additional rule: Ace beats King but loses to everything else.

Mom's Bluff

Contributed by David Lewis

This War variation for 3-5 players has a poker-like element of bluff. It is played with two standard 52-card decks - 104 cards in all. The rank of the cards from high to low is K-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A-Q. So King is high, Ace is below the Two. The Queen, known as Mom’s Bluff, is the lowest card of all, but has special powers - see below. As in ordinary War, the objective of the game is to win as many cards as possible.

The cards are distributed as evenly as possible to the players and players keep their cards stacked face down.

Beginning with the dealer and continuing clockwise, each player looks privately at the top card of the pile and declares whether they are playing or folding. Those who are playing keep hold of their cards. Those who fold put their card face down in the center of the table, together with the next card from the top of their pile, which they do not look at. When all players have decided, those who are playing show their cards. The result is as follows.

  1. If all the cards are different in rank, the highest card wins. The winner takes the centre cards from those who folded, and the cards from those who played. In addition, each of the other players who did not fold must give the winner three cards from the top of their pile. The winner takes all these cards and places them face down at the bottom of his or her pile.
  2. If any two or more cards are of the same rank, the players who played equal cards have a war to decide the winner. (This happens even if the equal cards are not the highest - for example if the cards are 10-K-10 the players of the two tens have a war and the player of the king cannot win. However, if there is more than one set of equal cards - for example J-J-10-10 - then only the highest set of equal cards take part in the war: the players of the lower cards lose.) The warring players each put three cards from the top of their piles face down in the center of the table and then show their next card. The highest of these wins. If there is another tie the war is repeated. When a winner emerges, the loser(s) of the war, as well as those who played but were not involved in the war, must as usual give three cards from their piles to the winner of the war, who also takes all the played cards and cards from the center.

Mom's Bluff. A Queen automatically loses unless it is the only card played (or another Queen is played, causing a war). If a Queen wins, either because everyone else folded or by winning a war, then all the other players who folded must put two more cards in the center of the table - that is three cards in all in addition to the card they folded, as though they had played and lost. On the other hand, if you play a Queen and lose, you only give one card to the winner, instead of the usual three.

The winner of each round starts the next round by taking the top card of his or her stack and declaring whether to fold or play as before.

Players who run out of cards are eliminated from the game. (Players who run out during a war automatically lose the war.) When there are only two players remaining, they place their piles of cards next to each other, and the person with the biggest pile is the overall winner of the game.

Push It

Contributed by Gary Philippy and invented by his grandson Hayes Ruberti.

This is a variant of Steal War using jokers (54 cards in all), in which the aim is to get rid of cards rather than acquire them. The two jokers are the highest cards, followed by the aces, kings and so on down to two.

As usual the deck is divided between the two players, who simultaneously turn over the top card of their face down stack. The higher card wins, but when cards are won they are not added to the bottom of the winner's card supply but placed in a pile face up beside the player. Each player has a single face up pile. Newly won cards are added to the top of the pile and the winner can choose which of the new cards to place on top.

As players take cards from the top of their face down packet to play, they look at them before playing them. If the rank of your card matches the top card of your own face-up pile, then instead of playing it normally you can use it to 'Push' that pile onto your opponent's pile, thus ridding yourself of cards and adding to your opponent's pile. You put your card face up on top of the pile you are pushing and then take the whole of your pile and place it on top of your opponent's pile without changing the order of the cards. You then look at the next card from your face down packet and play it.

The cards played face down during a war are not looked at and cannot be used to push your own pile to your opponent's, but the following card can be used to push instead of competing to win the war if it matches your own pile.

Once you have played a card and let go of it, you can no longer use it to push your pile over to your opponent's pile. Sometimes players miss pushing opportunities accidentally, but you may deliberately choose to play your card rather than pushing with it. For example you might prefer to use it to lose a war rather than push a small pile.

As soon as a player's packet of face down cards runs out, the player's face-up pile is turned over and shuffled to make a new face-down packet of cards to play from.

A player who runs out of cards during a push wins immediately.

Theoretically, you may use a card that you are playing to steal your opponent's pile as in Steal War, but in practice, since the idea of this game is to run out of cards to win, you probably will not be stealing any piles.

If both players draw a card that is equal to the top card of one of the stacks, then the owner of the stack must push it, and the opponent is allowed to push it back. If both players draw cards that match the top cards of their own stacks, and decide to push, then the two piles are exchanged. These rules are necessary to avoid a timing problem in which the result depends on the order in which players decide whether to push.

The first player to run out of cards is the winner. 

Equilibrium Joker

Contributed by John Peterson

This War variant is played with standard 52-card deck with two jokers added. The joker cards win when played against an A, K, Q, or J, but lose against any number card. If both jokers are played they go to war as normal. This makes the face cards and aces somewhat more fallible and gives the number cards, especially 2, 3, and 4, a bit more power.

Progressive War

Contributed by Mark Stamp

This variation makes the game go a lot faster. The play is almost the same in standard War, the only difference being in the number of cards played face down when a war occurs. For the first war, the players each lay down 5 cards, then turn up the next card to determine the winner. For each subsequent war, the number of cards laid down by each player is increased by one. That is, for the second war, each lays down 6 cards, for the next war, each lays down 7 cards and so on. A double war is treated as another war. If someone runs out of cards, they turn their last card face up and the other player lays down the same number of cards. In this case, if the player with no more cards wins, the number of cards to lay down in the next war is still incremented. Eventually the wars become very large, and it's likely somebody will lose all of their cards in one of these big wars.


Contributed by Connor Browne (address withheld by request).

Setup: As usual there are two players. A standard 54-card deck (including two jokers) is split equally between the players.

Game play: Like in normal war, players keep their cards stacked face down and both players flip over a card. The higher value wins. The captured card is then taken and moved to the bottom of the capturer's deck. However, the player with the higher card leaves the winning card face up in front of them on the playing field. Both players then flip over another card, so the winner of the first round will have two cards and the loser will only have one. Again, higher card wins the battle (more details below).

Each player can have a maximum of four cards in play at one time; once you have four cards on the playing field, you don't flip over any more cards until you lose some of them.

Reinforcements: if a player has three or four cards in the field after a battle, and will therefore have four for the next battle, the other player flips two cards face up instead of just one. This is known as receiving reinforcements.

Battles can get confusing when there are lots of cards in play. The method for resolving them is as follows. Look first at each player's lowest card. Whichever lowest card is higher, this card captures all the cards that are lower than it. These captured cards are removed and placed at the bottom of the winner's stack. Repeat this process with the cards that are now lowest on each side and continue until no more captures can be made.

Example 1: P1 (player 1) has two cards on the field, a 9 and a 6 and P2 has none. Now P1 turns a king and P2 a ten. So the cards are:

P1: K 9 6 vs P2: 10

First P2's 10 captures P1's 9 and 6. That leaves just the king and the ten, so P1 captures P2's ten, leaving just the king on the playing field in front of P1.

Example 2: after a battle P1 has a nine a ten and a king in play and flips a six. P2 receives reinforcements because P1 had three cards and flips a seven and a jack.

P1: K 10 9 6 vs P2: J 7

The battle is resolved like this:

  1. P2's lowest card (7) is biggest than p1's (6), so the 7 captures the 6.
  2. Now P2 still has the 7 but P1's lowest card is the 9, so P1's 9 captures P2's 7.
  3. Now the lowest cards are P1's 9 and P2's jack, so the jack captures the 10 and the 9.
  4. Now only the king and the jack remain. The jack is captured by P1 and the king remains in play.

Ties: Ties are not played like in normal war. Instead the tied cards are considered "locked in battle". Cards locked in battle may not capture cards lower than them, however they may still be taken by higher cards. Once a card has been freed from a lock, it acts as normal.

Example 3: P1 has beaten P2's four with a six. On the next round, P1 plays a three and P2 plays a six.

P1: 6 3 vs P2: 6

Since the sixes are locked in battle, P1's three may not be taken and all the cards remain in play. On the next turn, P1 plays a ten and P2 plays a four.

P1: 10 6 3 vs P2: 6 4

First P2's four captures P1's the three. The sixes are locked and cannot capture anything, but P1's ten is in play and it captures both the six and the four. P1's 10 and 6 remain in play for the next battle. Suppose that P2 had played a nine instead of a four.

P1: 10 6 3 vs P2: 9 6

Now, ignoring the locked sixes, P2's lowest card is the nine, so this captures P1's three and six. Then the ten takes the six and the nine. Had P2 played a jack instead of the nine we would have:

P1: 10 6 3 vs P2: J 6

In this case the first thing that happens is that P1's ten captures P2's six. After that, P2's jack takes all of P1's cards.

Example 4: P1 and P2 have sixes locked in battle (no other cards are on the playing field this time). On the next round, P1 plays an eight and P2 plays a four.

P1: 8 6 vs P2 6 4

The eight takes the six and the four, and on the next round P1's eight and six will both act as normal. Had P2 played a queen instead of a 4:

P1: 8 6 vs P2 Q 6

the eight would have taken P2's six and then the queen would have taken both of P1's cards.

Multiple locks. Occasionally it may happen that there are more than two cards of the same rank in play. In this case each card locks just one equal card belonging to the opponent, so if for example two sevens play against one seven, two opposing sevens are locked, and the player with two sevens has a free (unlocked) seven that can make a capture. If there are two cards of the same rank on each site, such as 9-9 vs 9-9 then all four cards are locked. If there are two locks of different ranks, for example 8-5 against 8-5, then the higher lock captures the lower one - so in the example both fives are captured along with any other cards lower than the eights.

Traitor: The jokers are traitors. Upon playing a joker, all the cards in the playing field of the person who played the joker are immediately captured by the other player, including the joker itself. All the opposing player's cards stay in play, whether higher or lower than any of the first player's cards.

Note: it is possible to combine this version of war with addition war, but it is not recommended as it can get really confusing.

Joker's Dagger

Contributed by Michayla Gussler

This 2-player game is played with a standard deck plus one Joker - 53 cards in all. The rank of the cards from high to low is K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A. The Joker has a special power - see below.

The dealer shuffles the pack and divides it as nearly as possible in half - one player has 26 cards and the other 27.

Each player spreads their cards face down on the table. Next each player selects 13 of the opponent's cards which the opponent will keep as a hand, and places the remaining 13 or 14 cards into a common stockpile known as the "Healer's shoppe". This selection is made without looking at the cards.

At the start of the game the Healer's Shoppe contains a stack of 27 face down cards and each player has a hand of 13 cards spread face down. Each player also has a 'dungeon' of lost cards which begins empty. Play begins with dealer, and the players take alternate turns.

On your turn, first select one card from your hand, then select one of card from your opponent's hand. All selections are done without seeing the cards. Turn the selected cards face up.

  • If your card is higher than your opponent's, your card is returned to your hand, and your opponent's card is placed in their dungeon.
  • If your opponent's card is higher than yours, your card is placed in your dungeon and your opponent's card is returned to their hand.
  • If the two cards are equal, both are placed in the respective players' dungeons.
  • If either card is the Joker, return the other card to its owner's hand, then turn all your opponent's cards face up and place all your opponent's kings, queens and jacks in their dungeon.

At the end of your turn draw one card from the Healer's Shoppe and add it to your hand without looking at it. Then both players must mix the cards in their hands so that neither player knows the location of any previously exposed card.

The game ends when one player has no cards in their hand. This player is the loser.

5 Man Melee

Contributed by Ed 'Whitey' Walker, formerly at http://homebrewgames.net

This game is played with a standard 52-card deck. It's scalable for 2 or more players. Using a single deck the maximum recommended number of players is 4, but multiple decksa could be used for a larger game. Regardless of the number of players, if there are insufficient cards left while dealing so as to not allow all players to receive another card, the extra cards are placed to the side.

The deck of cards is divided evenly between all players, face down. Players do not share or exchange cards. Each of the players shuffles his own deck and places it face down beside themselves as their personal draw pile.

Players draw the top 5 cards of their deck to form their combat team and each arranges the team into a secret battle order and places it face down.

Simultaneously all players turn over the TOP card in their 5 man team. The highest card wins, and is placed at the bottom of the winning player’s draw pile (not the 5 card team), face down. All losing cards are discarded and removed from play. Players do not immediately replace lost cards. This causes their combat team to shrink.

In the case of a tie, the tied players will turn over the next card in their remaining combat team stack to join the fight and break the tie (then the next card and so on until the tie is broken or all combat team cards are exhausted). Once a tie is broken, all the losing and tied cards are discarded. Only the final, highest winning card is moved to the bottom of the victor's draw deck. The victor's other played cards are discarded.

If a player's combat team stack has been fully depleted (all cards played) not allowing a tied player to flip a card, then that player forfeits that fight. If both players run out of cards the fight is a draw and all cards are discarded by those players.

Once a player's 5 card combat team is depleted, it is replenished by drawing five new cards are drawn from the top of the draw pile and secretly arranging as normal. This occurs after the completion of the battle round in which the combat team was depleted. If the draw pile has fewer than 5 cards, then draw all cards.

Between combat rounds, players may rearrange their remaining combat team cards before beginning another combat round based upon what they think their strategy should be. They do not draw new cards to replenish to 5 until the combat team is fully depleted.

Players never shuffle their draw deck, but keep drawing a stack of 5 from the top of their deck.

Once a player's draw deck and combat hand are depleted they automatically lose the game. The game is over when all other players cannot field a combat force, making the remaining player the winner.

Card rank is as follows high to low (high always beats low): Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. Suits do not matter, so cards of different suits with the same face value tie.

Suit High

Contributed by Jason Berger

The game [for two or more players] is called Suit High. It combines 500 and war.

First you take out the twos in every suit and lay them down on the table in order: highest suit to lowest suit. I use Hearts (High)-Diamonds-Clubs-Spades (low). Then add 2 jokers to the deck. Now play is like war except that the highest card in the highest suit takes the trick (e.g. if the 5 of clubs, 4 of hearts, 10 of diamonds and the 7 of spades were played the 4 of hearts would take the cards).

If two cards of the same rank are played (regardless of suit) and no joker is played there is a war for the players of these cards even if neither of them would have taken the trick. [Only the players of the equal cards take part in the war. After a war, all players' cards are compared again and any player may win the trick or there may be a new war, possibly involving other players.]

If one joker is played to a trick the joker wins unless there is an ace of any suit in the trick. [If both jokers are played there is a war between them.] For tricks containing a joker and an ace there are two variants:

  1. A trick with one joker and one ace is taken by the ace (regardless of suit). A trick with one joker and more than one ace is taken by the joker.
  2. If the trick contains a joker and an ace, the player(s) orf the joker(s) go(es) to war with the player of the lowest card in the trick. If this variation is played it doesn't matter how many aces are on the trick.
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Last updated: 15th January 2015