How To Play War Card Game — Ultimate Guide To Rules And Tips

The Ultimate Guide To Playing And Winning War (The Card Game)

October 5, 2020 Updated February 5, 2021

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Here’s the thing: Most of the time we’re pacifists. Lovers, not fighters. However, we do enjoy partaking in card games… even ones with fantastically contrarian names, like War. After all, it is just a game. Remember playing it with your cousins or the neighborhood kids when you were younger? Things may have gotten heated in the midst of your card-slapping frenzy, but your friendships likely remained intact. Even today as adults, nothing seals the end of a holiday meal or barbecue quite like playing with a deck of cards. It’s always a good time to whip out a game of War to play with family and friends. On top of being a great way to pass the time, it also brings you back to when you were a kid. It’s a reminder and an opportunity to pass your mad skills down to your own children. Think of it as a chance to train little War warriors and a moment to bond as well. Because, sure, playing this old classic brings out the fierceness in people. But at the end of the day, it’s based entirely on chance, the wills of the universe, and luck. Not to mention, War is such a fun, fast, and easy card game — perfect for a quick pick-up with pals. It’s also a decent way to teach kids number values and placements since the bigger valued card is the winner.

Of course, there are tons of great card games. Go Fish and Crazy 8s are other classic options. For more skilled card players, you’ve got Hearts and Spades. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you play as long as you have the chance to play together, right? Not to mention, you know, win. You obviously want to win. Okay, fine, camaraderie is the most important part of playing card games.

Regardless, pick War if you’re looking for some fast-paced fun. Keep reading for the full rundown on rules of play. Be forewarned, though: It’s mostly a game of chance, so don’t be surprised if your six-year-old wallops you.

How to play War

This is easy! Grab a deck of cards and an opponent. You can play a variation with more people, but it’s most optimal with just two players.

How to win War

Collect the most cards.

How to deal

You’ll start by dealing the cards between players. If you’re playing with two players, that will obviously mean each player gets 26 cards. Deal them back and forth between the two of you with the cards facing down. Who deals? It’s up to you to come up with an arbitrary rule, noting that you can swap turns with each game.

Dealing is often a point of contention between youngins. Settle the argument by having each kid draw from the top of the deck. The person with the higher-valued card is the dealer first. TBH, this is actually a great tactic for settling a multitude of fights.

Playing the game

Once both players have their cards, they’ll keep them facedown in one hand or in a stack in front of them. Next, both players should turn over the top card at the same time. (“1-2-3-Flip!” is often necessary.) Whoever has the highest card gets to keep both cards. Collected cards should be kept in a stack to the side.

What if both players put down cards with the same value? This means war! Each player should play two more cards — one face down and one face up. The player with the higher card during the official “war” gets to keep all six cards.

What happens if the players match up with the same card during their War? The same process keeps repeating until one of the players comes up with the higher card and scoops up the hefty winnings for themselves.

Need a visual on this and other rules? This super short video explains it all:

The game ends once the players have battled through their 26 cards. At that point, they should count the cards they’ve won. Got the most cards after the tally? Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Playing with more people

Let’s say you decide you want to expand your War card game circle. You’re going to need to divvy up your cards slightly differently. If you’re playing with three people, hand out 17 cards each. You’ll deal out 13 cards per person if there are four players. And so on. As you add more people, consider playing with two decks or creating two simultaneous games.

Not surprisingly, rules of play have to change a little, too. To start, have all players play a card at the same time. The person with the highest card still collects all played cards. However, if two players have equally valued cards, just those two players will go to war. Winner takes all played cards.

To end a game of War with multiple players, you could simply play through your hand. If you want to stretch it out a little longer, have everyone count their winnings. Let the winner keep their cards and combine the rest to be dealt out evenly (again). Keep playing this way until one person has so many cards that no other player could possibly beat them.

Seem easy-peasy? That’s because it is! Enjoy game night. Or, in this case, the spoils of War.

Card game quotes

Being good at War isn’t always about luck. Sometimes it takes strategy. Check out these quotes that explain how they apply in the game of life.

“Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” — Jawaharlal Nehru

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the game.” — Randy Pausch

“Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.” — Jack London

“Just because Fate doesn’t deal you the right cards, it doesn’t mean you should give up. It just means you have to play the cards you get to their maximum potential.” — Les Brown

“Has fortune dealt you some bad cards? Then let wisdom make you a good gamester.” — Francis Quarles

“Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her; but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.” — Voltaire

“Destiny plays its cards in a way that no one can comprehend.” — Anurag Shourie

“Just when you think you’re playing your cards right, God shuffles the deck.” — Mark Sheppard

Joker Quotes

Jokers are definitely a wild card — and so is Batman’s arch-nemesis, the Joker. So if you want to learn to play cards like a mad man (in a good way of course), some of his quotes may inspire the right kind of attitude.

“Smile, because it confuses people. Smile, because it’s easier than explaining what is killing you inside.”

“We stopped checking for monsters under our bed when we realized they were inside us.”

“Madness is the emergency exit. You can just step outside, and close the door on all those dreadful things that happened. You can lock them away… forever.”

“Why don’t we cut you up into little pieces and feed you to your pooches? Hm? And then we’ll see how loyal a hungry dog really is.”