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Players battle to win the most cards.
War is a card game for two players. It uses a standard Western 52-playing card deck; aces can be high or low.
Each player is dealt half the deck, and both players play simultaneously. Each player shows one card, and whoever has the higher card takes both cards shown and places them at the bottom of his deck. In case of a tie, both players play three face-down cards and one face-up card, and these face-up cards decide who will receive all the cards. If there is another tie, the process is repeated, etc. In all cases of ties, face-down cards are exposed before being collected. In some variations, smaller numbers of face-down cards are played (for example, one card is placed face down, while the second is played face up). In one bloodthirsty variation, the number of face-down cards equals the pip value of the cards, with face cards being ten and ace eleven.
Whoever runs out of cards first loses the game.
War seems to be a game of chance. However, a player with an excellent memory can improve his or her chances of winning by ordering the cards that the player wins in rounds.
This is best demonstrated with an example – suppose Alice is playing to beat Bob. The game begins with Bob beating Alice's 6 with a 10. Alice notices that Bob collects the two cards and puts them on the bottom of his deck with the 10 on top of the 6. In the next round, Alice beats Bob's 8 with a jack. Alice now collects the two cards and places them at the bottom of her deck with the jack on top of the 8 so that the next pass through the deck will begin jack beats 10 (Alice collects), 8 beats 6 (Alice collects again). If Alice had instead placed the 8 over the jack, the next pass through the deck would go 10 beats 8 (Bob collects), jack beats 6 (Alice collects), which is not as beneficial to Alice.
However, over the long-term, as the deck sizes change (as both players collect cards) and as more and more cards are revealed, it becomes extremely difficult indeed to implement this strategy. Only a player with an extremely good memory and the ability to quickly visualize card positions in both decks, will be able to consistently implement this strategy over the course of a game.
Something analogous to natural selection occurs in war: if you have fewer cards, they tend to be of higher quality. Conversely, as you accumulate cards, they become weaker. However, the rule for handling ties mitigates against this problem somewhat.
It is possible to cheat by taking advantage of an opponent who is not paying attention. Suppose the first player plays a Jack, and the second player plays a Queen; the first player quickly reaches out and claims the trick before the other player really has a chance to look at the card. The reason that cheating in this way is easier in War than in many other card games is that the game of War plays very fast.
Multiplayer War & Variants
War may be played with more than 2 players. A war occurs only when the 2 highest cards tie. The war may involve only those players, or all players. The main variant is adding jokers to the deck. If a joker is played, there is an automatic war. Alternatively, the joker beats all other cards.
The game of Top Trumps is similar to war in that the highest card value wins. However, in this case a special pack on a particular theme is used such that the winner of the previous round can choose one of a number of categories for the value, increasing the complexity of the game.
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