How To Play War Game | Explained Step-by-Step

Learn how to play war games. Get tips on effective strategies and techniques for winning your next battle!

How To Play War Game

Do you want to challenge yourself and your friends to a thrilling game? If so, War Game is the perfect choice! It’s a simple yet challenging strategy-based card game that pits two players against each other in a battle for supremacy. 

With surprising twists and turns, it can quickly escalate from a peaceful competition into an all-out war. In this blog post, we’ll teach you how to play War Game, discuss its history, and give tips on winning strategies. 

Whether it’s just for fun or more serious gaming nights with family and friends, preparing yourself for battle by mastering the basics of War Games will ensure many memorable moments of competitive enjoyment. So buckle up – You’re about to go on an adventure around the world!

What Is the War Card Game? 

The War card game, also known as the “I declare war” game, is a game of chance. This game of chance pits players against each other in a battle to capture their opponent’s cards. With its basic rules and exciting gameplay, it’s no wonder this classic card game remains popular among kids and families.

In the standard two-player game, and even in the version for three or four players, simplicity and enjoyment are key. So gather your friends and family and prepare for an unforgettable card game experience. Get ready to flip over cards and strategize to capture your opponent’s cards with higher ranks.


Cards: The game is played with a standard 52-card deck.

Card Ranking: The cards are ranked in the following order: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.

Deal: Each player is dealt 26 cards, one at a time. The cards are then placed face-down in front of each player.

Game Type: This is a shedding game.

Target Audience: This game is suitable for families.


The objective of the War card game is to collect all the cards in the deck by playing higher-ranked cards than your opponents throughout multiple rounds.

Number of Players:

Enjoy a thrilling game of War with 2 players for a standard game. Alternatively, modify the rules to accommodate 3-4 players.

Playing Time:

Immerse yourself in the exciting gameplay of War, which typically lasts between 10-45 minutes. Prepare for the possibility of extended play, as the game continues until one player possesses all the cards. For a shorter game, set a timer to 15 minutes, allowing players to complete their current hand. The player with the most cards at this point emerges victorious.

Note: To maintain randomness, it is recommended to shuffle the winning cards periodically.

What You Need:

Engage in the War card game with a standard deck of playing cards. Remember to remove the Jokers before starting the game.


Develop and reinforce essential skills while playing War. Sharpen your math abilities by intuitively understanding higher, lower, and matching numbers. Enhance your social aptitude by learning to take turns and gracefully embrace victory and defeat. It’s important to note that War is largely based on luck, eliminating the need for strategic decision-making.

Age Recommendations:

War is perfect for players of all ages. However, we recommend this game for children aged 5 and older, as it offers an excellent opportunity to practice general number sense skills and grasp the concept of higher, lower, or equal numbers. Younger players can also participate if they have an understanding of numbers.

Why We Love the War Game for Kids:

Games like War, with simple rules and no strategy, are excellent for helping children develop fundamental game-playing skills, such as taking turns, social interaction, and understanding winning and losing. We especially recommend the War card game for young children between the ages of 4 and 6 to practice and strengthen their general number skills, including recognizing higher, lower, and equal numbers.

How to Set Up War Game?

  1. Understand the objective: The goal of War is to win all of the cards. This game can be played between two or up to four people. The ranking of cards from highest to lowest is A K Q J T (10) 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2. Remember, an Ace trumps everything, and a 2 beats nothing.
  2. Shuffle the deck: Use a standard 52-card deck and thoroughly mix it up. If you’re using a new deck, make sure to shuffle it well.
  3. Deal the cards: Alternate dealing the cards between you and your opponent until both of you have an equal number of cards (26 each). Important note: Neither player should look at their cards.

For games with three or four players, follow the same procedure. Each player should be dealt an equal number of cards – 17 for three players and 13 for four players.

Now that you have everything set up, get ready to battle it out and see who can conquer all the cards in War!

How To Play War Game: Step-by-Step Guide

Two-Player War

In this thrilling game, two players will engage in an epic war using a standard deck of 52 cards. No need to worry about suits – they won’t affect the outcome.

Here’s how it works: deal out all the cards evenly between the players, with each player receiving 26 cards. Keep your cards face down – no peeking! The goal is simple: win all the cards.

Both players simultaneously reveal the top card of their deck. The player with the higher card takes both cards and adds them to the bottom of their pile. The excitement builds as each player reveals their next card, and so on.

But what happens if both players reveal cards of equal value? Prepare for a war! The tied cards remain on the table as both players put down one card face down and then reveal another card face up. The player with the higher face-up card emerges victorious, collecting all six cards from the war and adding them to their pile. If the new face-up cards are still equal, the war rages on – more cards are played, face down and face up, until a difference is found. The player with the higher card claims the entire war.

The game continues until one player holds all the cards and emerges as the ultimate victor. It’s a battle of patience and strategy that can last quite a while.

Now, what happens if a player runs out of cards during a war? There are two possibilities to consider:

If you don’t have enough cards to complete the war, you automatically lose. If both players run out of cards, the first player to run out is declared the loser. If both players run out simultaneously, it results in a draw. For example, if Player A and Player B both play sevens and a war is triggered, but Player B doesn’t have any more cards to continue the battle, Player A claims the victory.

If you run out of cards during a war, don’t despair! Your last card is turned face up and serves as your representative in all battles within that war. If both players run out of cards and their last cards are equal, the game ends in a draw. For instance, if Player A and Player B both play sevens and a war ensues, but Player B only has one card left to play, which happens to be a queen, Player A must continue the war. As Player A plays their cards, Player B’s queen remains on the table as their last card, until eventually, Player B emerges as the war’s victor.

Prepare yourself for an intense, strategic card battle that will keep you engaged and on the edge of your seat until the last card is claimed. 

3 or 4 Players War

To set up the game, distribute the cards equally among all players. For three players, each player receives 17 cards. For four players, distribute 13 cards to each player.

The objective of the game is simple – each player reveals a card simultaneously, and the player with the highest card collects all the revealed cards. In the event of a tie for the highest card, a war ensues. During the war, players place their next card face-down and reveal a third card. This process continues until one card triumphs over all the others, granting the victorious player all the cards involved in the war.

It’s important to note that all players participate in a war, regardless of whether they had the highest cards initially.

As the game progresses, players may run out of cards, and they are eliminated from play. The game concludes when only one player remains with cards, and that player emerges as the ultimate victor.

Variations in Card Wars

Play 3 Face-down Cards in a War

Play three face-down cards in a war

Instead of revealing just one card, some players opt to play three face-down cards at once. When both players uncover cards of equal value, the excitement intensifies. The players then proceed to play the next three cards from their deck face-down, uttering the iconic phrase “W – A – R”. The following card will determine which player triumphs and claims all ten cards.

But that’s not all. Some players prefer a slight variation, exclaiming “I – de – clare – war” as they reveal the new face-up card. In this scenario, if one player lacks sufficient cards to participate in the war, a fair agreement is reached. The player with fewer cards puts all their remaining cards on the line, while the other player only plays an equal number of cards.

For instance, consider a scenario where one player has a mere three cards, while the other possesses more. In this case, each player will play two cards face-down and then reveal one card face-up. 

Jokers in War Games

Elevate the excitement of your war game with a thrilling twist – the addition of two jokers to your deck! These formidable cards reign supreme, surpassing even the aces. 

To maintain balance, many players opt to strategically distribute the jokers, ensuring they are not monopolized by a single player. 

Simply separate them from the deck, allocate one joker to each player’s stack, and brace yourself for an exhilarating battle of wits. Unleash the full potential of your war game with the electrifying presence of jokers in the mix.

Romanian War variant

In Barry Rigal’s book, Card Games for Dummies, he introduces a fascinating rule: the number of cards dealt face down during a war is determined by the rank of the cards involved. Get ready to strategize as you deal two cards for a 2, three cards for a 3, and so on.

But that’s not all – when a war is caused by a Jack, Queen, or King, brace yourself for 10 cards. And if it’s an epic battle over Aces, prepare for a massive 11-card showdown!

To level the playing field, if one player doesn’t have enough cards for the war, all players will play the same number of cards as the player with the fewest. Beware, if a participant has no cards at all to play during a war, they’re automatically out of the game.

This intriguing twist on war is known as the Război variant in Romania, as confirmed by Daniel Grad. 

Play face-up card

Instead of playing face-down cards, players go head-to-head by playing their cards face-up at lightning speed. The anticipation builds until an Ace or a Joker is played – the ultimate show of power. 

The first person to play an Ace (or a Joker, if designated) wins all of the cards played. Capture the excitement as the captured cards are stacked face up in front of each player, waiting to be revealed. 

Only when a player’s face-down cards run out will they turn over the captured cards.

Play with half a deck for a shorter variation of War

Speed up the excitement with a unique twist on War! Try playing with a half deck to experience a faster-paced variation. Simply gather two of each card (e.g., two Aces, two Kings, two 3’s) and separate them from the remaining half of the deck. After shuffling, use only these 26 cards to engage in the game. 

Enhance gameplay with unique card rules. 

For instance, introduce a powerful wild card at the start of the game. For added excitement, declare the 2 of hearts and the 3 of diamonds as unbeatable cards. Even the mighty Ace can’t match their strength.

Play 52-card war

Create a thrilling head-to-head showdown by lining up your 26 cards face-down, directly across from your opponent’s 26 cards. Step by step, flip each card, eagerly watching your opponent do the same. Claim victory by collecting the pairs of cards you win and continue the relentless battle. Only one player will triumph by securing all the cards. 

Steal War

Explore the exciting combination of War and Stealing Bundles in this captivating variation of the classic game. Gary Philippy and Hayes Ruberti have created a hybrid that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

In Steal War, players engage in a traditional game of War, with each war consisting of three face-down cards followed by one face-up card. However, there’s a twist – the deck includes two jokers, which rank as the highest cards.

Instead of adding won cards to the bottom of their supply, players place them in a face-up pile beside them. Each player has their pile, where newly won cards are added to the top. The winner has the freedom to choose which cards to place on top of their pile.

Here’s where the stealing comes into play. When players draw a card from their face-down packet, they can look at it before playing. If the rank of their card matches the top card of an opponent’s face-up pile, they have the option to steal that pile. By placing their card on top of the pile and taking the entire stolen pile, players have the chance to strategically expand their pile without changing the card order. In a game with more than 2 players, it’s even possible to steal multiple piles and continue playing.

If both players’ cards match the top card of the other player’s pile, they can engage in a mutual steal – exchanging their capture piles.

During a war, the three face-down cards are not revealed and cannot be used to steal. However, the following card can be used to steal instead of competing to win the war if it matches an opponent’s pile.

Once a card has been played, it can no longer be used to steal. While players may accidentally miss stealing opportunities, they can also strategically choose to play their cards rather than stealing a smaller pile. Winning wars can sometimes be more advantageous than stealing.

When a player’s face-down cards run out, their face-up pile is turned over and shuffled to create a new face-down packet.

Important note: In the original description of the game, there was a possibility for a stolen pile to be stolen back immediately. To prevent prolonged waits, a suggested solution is to make a card that matches your pile to protect it from being stolen during that turn of play.

P’yanitsa (Drunkard)

Leo Broukhis presents the Russian version of War, a game commonly played by kids during rainy days at summer camps.

Player Count:

2, although 3 or 4 players are not uncommon.

Card Deck:

36 cards – A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6 of each suit. Using a 52-card deck is possible but unusual.


Two versions exist: one focuses on avoiding collecting all the cards, while the other requires not running out of cards.


All cards are dealt face down evenly among the players, who hold their packs facing down.


The game is comprised of individual tricks. Each trick is played as follows: every player (in no specific order) reveals the top card from their pack, placing it face up on the table. The player with the highest-ranking card wins the trick, collects the cards on the table, and adds them to the bottom of their pack in any order.

Card ranking is from ace (highest) to six (lowest), except that six beats an ace. In other words, if both a six and an ace are played, the six is considered the highest card and wins the trick. However, if a six is played and no one plays an ace, the six is treated as the lowest card. (If playing with a 52-card deck, the 2, not the 6, would beat the ace.)

If there is a tie for the highest card, players can either:

Place a new card face up on top of the previous trick’s card.

Place a new card face down on top of the previous trick’s card, followed by a face-up card.

Players must agree beforehand on which method to use. In either case, the player with the highest face-up card wins the trick. If another tie occurs, the process is repeated.

End of the Game:

In one version, the player left with all the cards at the end is the loser or the “drunkard” who “had all the booze.” In the other version, the first player to run out of cards loses and becomes the “drunkard” who “spent all the money.”

Life and Death

Embark on a nostalgic journey to Mecklenburg, Germany with Günther Senst’s simple yet captivating variant of Tod und Leben. Unlike traditional card games, this variant brings a unique twist by playing through the deck just once, with no recycling of cards.

Using a 32-card pack, each player is dealt 16 cards face down. The cards, ranked from highest to lowest – A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, have no suits.

The excitement unfolds as both players simultaneously reveal their top cards. The player with the higher card claims the two-card trick. These cards are set aside and not added to the player’s supply for future rounds.

In the event of a tie, each player reveals the next card, expanding the trick to a thrilling four cards. This continues until the players’ last cards are equal. When this happens, each player incorporates their own played card (or more, if the preceding cards were also equal) into their tricks.

Once all 16 cards have been played, the player with the most cards claimed emerges victorious for the round. The game can be played for as many rounds as desired, providing endless entertainment.

Casino War 

In this exciting gambling game, you place a bet and go head-to-head against the house. One card is dealt face-up to both you and the house. The higher card wins, giving you a chance to win big!

If the house has a higher card, you lose your bet. But if your card is higher, not only do you get your bet back, but you also win an equal amount of winnings!

But what if the cards are tied? Don’t worry, you have two options:

  • Option 1: Surrender – Get half of your bet back while the other half goes to the house. For example, if you bet $10, you only lose $5.
  • Option 2: Go to war – Take a risk and place an additional bet equal to your original bet. Three cards are dealt face down, and then another card is dealt face up to both you and the house. If the house’s new card is higher, you lose both bets. However, if your card is equal or higher, you not only get your bets back, but you also win an amount equal to your original bet! So if you initially bet $10 and go to war, you can either win $10 or lose $20.

And that’s not all! You even have the opportunity to bet at fixed odds of 10:1 that there will be a tie.


War is the ultimate game of strategy and chance! Now that you know how to play, why not grab some friends, family members, or strangers and give it a try? You’ll be amazed at how quickly it can bring people together. 

Not only will you have a great time playing but also the challenge and excitement experienced along the way will give your mind and body an incredible feeling of achievement. Whether you’re playing casually or competitively, always remember that in War – there are no winners or losers. 

You’re here to have fun, strengthen your relationships with others, as well as broaden your knowledge of different tactics within the game. 

With all this great information regarding War available to you now – there’s no better time than now to get out there and play! So pick up those cards today and enjoy this unique journey that awaits you!

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