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War - card game

Type Adding-up-type
Players 2+
Skills 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
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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.

Gameplay

The deck is divided evenly among the 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 of the cards played and moves them to their stack.

If the two cards played are of equal value, then there is a "war". Both players place the next card (or three) 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.

Most descriptions of War are unclear about what happens if a player runs out of cards during a war. 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.

Game designer Greg Costikyan has observed that since there are no choices in the game, and all outcomes are random, it cannot be considered a game by some definitions. 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. 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.

Versions

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

Mobile versions

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.

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