War rules title

OBJECTIVE OF WAR: The objective of the game is to win all cards.


MATERIALS OF WAR: standard 52-card deck

TYPE OF GAME: Card game

AUDIENCE: All ages


War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Okay, we’re joking. What it really is, is a great card game. War is a two-player game that is based almost entirely on luck. It’s easy enough to understand, so even the kids can join in on the fun. There are many variations of this game, but let’s first go over the rules for the basic version.


The setup for War is very simple. All you need is a standard 52-deck of cards and a partner, well, opponent, to be more precise. In war, the rank of the cards is as follows:

  • A (High)
  • K
  • Q
  • J
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 2 (Low)


War is only played between 2 players. Choose one player to be the dealer. Then, deal the cards evenly amongst the two of you, so 26 cards each, and do not look at your cards. You can add the jokers if you would like. If you opt to add jokers they will then count as the highest card. 


war rules turn

To play, count down from 3 and flip cards at the same time so that they are face up. Only flip the top card; there is no peeking! Other cards must remain secret. The player with the higher card wins and collects both cards, returning the cards to the bottom of their personal deck. If players flip the same card, the “war” begins.


During a war, each player places three more cards, face-down, on the table next to their already flipped card. After they do this, then they flip over a fourth card so that it is face up. Whoever’s card is the highest is the winner. That player collects all the cards, 10 in total, and the next round begins. 

If the fourth card is also the same, then the war continues. Repeat the previous instructions until there is a winner.

If a player does not have enough cards for the war, they must place their last card face-up.

war rules example


Once one of the players collects all the cards, they are the winner, and the game is over. They have officially won the war!



If you wish to play with 3 or 4 players, follow the same directions listed above. However, when dealing, each player should have 17 or 13 cards, respectively.

A war in a three or four-player game: If there is a 3 or 4 person tie for the highest card, each player places a single card face-down followed by a single card face-up. The player who has the highest card wins. If it results in another tie, follow the rules previously stated, and another war shall commence.

Steal War

Some variations include Jokers in the deck. They are considered the highest card that beats all others, including the variation Steal War, developed by Gary Philippy and Hayes Ruberti.


In Steal War, the game is somewhat of a hybrid between the original game and Stealing Bundles. It is based on normal War, where wars consist of three cards face-down and one face-up, however, with the addition of the high-value Jokers to the deck. Another difference is that after a war has been won, instead of collecting cards and placing them at the bottom of one’s deck, they are placed in a separate pile face-up. Cards that are newly won are placed on top, and the winner can decide which to place directly on top.

As opposed to the traditional game, players can look at their cards from the face-down pile before playing them. If the value of your card matches the top card of your opponent’s face-up pile, you have the opportunity to steal that pile. Place your card on top of the pile you wish to steal, steal it, and place the new deck on top of your face-up pile without changing the order of any of the cards. The game continues.

Once you play a card, you lose the opportunity to steal; however, you may choose to play and not steal. You may choose to play if you have a greater opportunity of winning a war rather than stealing a small pile.

In multi-player, if your card matches more than one of your opponent’s decks, you may steal both decks.

During War, you cannot look at the three facedown cards or use them to steal decks. However, you can do so with the fourth card.

If the face-down pile runs dry, shuffle the face-up pile to continue the game. If a player runs out of cards during War, they automatically lose the game.


In Război, the Romanian version of War, the number of cards used in the war is determined by the number on the card that initiated it.

For example, if 2 (or more) players flip an 8, place 7 cards face-down in the war and the eighth face-up.

In this variation, all face cards have a value of 10, so during a war 9 cards should be placed face-down and the tenth face-up.

Love War? Try out Fox in the Forest Duet for another great two-player game. You should also check out our list of the 20 best card games for kids for other great ideas!


What Is the Ranking for War?

The ranking for War the card game is Ace (high), King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2 (low).

What Happens If You Both Flip the Same Rank of Card?

If you flip the same card rank, then a war begins. To complete a war, each player deals three more cards to the center play area face down, and after those are dealt, deal a final 4th card face up. Compare the two cards, and the winner is the one with the highest value card. The winner collects all 10 cards and places them at the bottom of their deck. If the 4th card flipped is also the same rank for both players, then deal 3 additional cards face down, and an 8th card is flipped to determine a winner. This continues until you find a clear winner.

How Do You Win War?

The player that collects all 52 cards into their deck wins the game.

How Many Cards Does Each Player Start the Game With?

Each player starts with half of a 52-card deck, so 26 cards each.

Alan Lemus
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