How to Play the "War" Card Game

Updated on October 16, 2019
TheKatsMeow profile image

As an avid card game and board game player, this has always been one of my go-to games to play.

How to Play the War Card Game
How to Play the War Card Game | Source

"War" Is Very Easy to Play

My elderly uncle was staying with us for a few days, and he and I were sitting around wondering how to pass the time. I suggested we play cards, but he balked at that idea, saying he had a hard time understanding card games and learning game rules. So I suggested we play the card game "War": I told him it was easy to learn and I always had fun playing it as a kid. Before long, he had mastered the game and had a great time playing this "new" card game with me!

War the card game: learn an easy card game
War the card game: learn an easy card game | Source

The Basics of the Game

The “War” card game is a simple game that is played using a regular deck of 52 cards. It is a game that has been played by young and old for many years, and it’s something that is very easy to learn, making it a great card game choice for young children.

It is generally played between 2 people, but variations of the game exist allowing more than two people to play at a time. The concept of the war card game is straightforward, and the rules are a piece of cake!

Have You Played War?

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How to Play

The Setup

  1. Remove the jokers from the deck.
  2. Start the game by shuffling the deck to ensure that the cards are mixed up.
  3. With the cards facing down, deal out the cards to yourself and to your opponent, so that you each have half of the deck (each player receives 26 cards).
  4. Once the cards are dealt you can begin to play the game.

The Fundamentals

  1. The value of the cards is based on their numbers: twos are the lowest value in the game and aces are the highest cards. The values from lowest to highest are: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A (Alternatively you can play with aces being the lowest value).
  2. Cards are kept face down until used, and players are not supposed to look at their cards until they play them.
  3. You and your opponent play at the same time. You both flip over the top card of your deck, so that it is face-up and visible to each other.


Depending on what number value you have flipped over, one of two things will happen: If you or your opponent’s flipped card is higher than the other person’s card, you win the round: you keep your card and collect their card as well. These cards are placed at the bottom of your deck to be used again. If there is a tie (meaning that when the cards are flipped over, you both have the same card value) there is war.

"War" in the war card game
"War" in the war card game | Source

Having a "War" With Your Opponent

War occurs only when you and your opponent flip over a card with the same value. For example, if I turn over a king and so does my opponent, this is called war.

What to Do When "War" Occurs

  • To fight the war, both players place the next card on their deck face down. Then they take the next card from their pile and flip it over so that it is face-up.
  • Whoever has the highest value on their face up card wins the round: the winner collects all the cards that were used in that turn by them and their opponent. That means that you collect both of the cards that were placed face up, the cards that were placed face down and the cards that started the war (A total of 6 cards).
  • Place these cards at the bottom of your deck and continue playing.

How to Win

Players continue to play the game until one person runs out of cards. The person who manages to take the entire deck away from their opponent wins the game.

How to Play With More Than 2 People

Generally, “War” is played between two people, but it can be played with more people. Divide the deck equally into as many people that are playing the game. This means that you will need to discard some cards.

If you are playing with 3 people each person will get 17 cards and 1 random card from the deck will be discarded. If you are playing with four people, each person gets 13 cards. When two or more people in the game turn over the same card, there is a war as usual, but all the players will participate.

An Alternative Way to Play

There are always variations of every card game. In this card game, when there is a war and you are playing the face down card, some people prefer to play 3 face down cards instead of just one. This means that more cards are being played, won or lost when there is war.

Questions & Answers

  • what if you're playing war and you tie again on your third card?

    You do another "war" so you add an additional 3 cards and the final one determines the outcome.

Have you played "War" before? Was it similar or different to how it is played here?

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    • StoneCircle profile image

      Susan McLeish 

      7 years ago from Rindge, NH

      I just finished showing my nieces how to play this. I bought them a small deck of cards due to their hands aren't that great at holding a regular deck right now. Great game to help teach young folks numbers and math. Great hub. Thumbs up!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      7 years ago from USA

      This is a fun game. It is quick to teach someone how to play. and it plays pretty quickly so it is a great game to play while you are waiting, etc. We have war with three cards, and say "I declare war". Each of these words is said as we put one card down. You have explained the steps very well. Voted up.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      This is a great idea for a hub! Not only does it bring back memories but maybe it'll start getting young parents to play cards with their kids and spend some one on one time. Family game time was always something we looked forward to until technology knocked it out!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • TheKatsMeow profile imageAUTHOR

      Katee Shew 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for the comment @bdegiulio! it's appreciated :)

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Boy does this bring back memories. We played this all the time as kids. Great job explaining how to play in simple and clear steps.


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