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War - The Card Game

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War is probably the most pointless thing ever devised by the mind of man.

War is the name of a card game played by two players who are really bored and willing to become even more bored. It is common for participants to wonder why they even bother.

The rules of the game are so mind-numbingly simple as to exclude any possibility of strategic thinking. In this way, it is similar to Noughts-And-Crosses, but that game has at least the rudiments of strategy, and can be interesting to little children. In War, there is only luck. It is impossible to be a 'better' or 'worse' player.

The Rules

The rules of War are completely deterministic. Programming a computer to play War could be an interesting exercise for a beginning programmer.

The Deck

It is standard to play with an ordinary 52-card deck, but it doesn't matter.


The cards are divided evenly between the two players. They can be dealt alternately, or counted out, or the deck can just be cut roughly in the middle. Again, it doesn't matter.

Ordinary Play

Each player holds their cards in a face-down stack without looking at them. Play consists of a series of 'battles'. In each battle, both players place the top card from their decks face up on the playing surface. Whichever player plays a card of higher value 'wins' the battle, and collects both cards, placing them on the bottom of his or her stack. Then play proceeds to the next battle.


A 'War' occurs when a 'battle' cannot be decided because the two cards are the same value. In a war, the two original battling cards are left face up on the playing surface, three additional cards are dealt face up onto the surface, and then another battle takes place. The winner of this battle collects all of the cards on the playing surface, and places them on the bottom of his or her stack.

If a War results in another tie, all cards are left on the playing surface, three more are dealt, and the process repeats, with ever-rising stakes, until one player wins a battle, or one runs out of cards.


One player wins when the other player runs out of cards. The 'winner' is left with a hollow, empty feeling, wondering whether it was worth it, or whether the time could have been put to some other, more constructive use. This feeling is heightened by the fact that games of War often last upwards of an hour, without actually being fun. War seems to drag on and on, mercilessly.

Can Something Good Come of This?

...You may well ask. It is possible that the game of War inspired other, more interesting card games. One likely candidate is Egyptian Rat Screw, also known as Egyptian War and a host of other names. It seems not improbable that Egyptian War was developed in an attempt, (or series of attempts), to make War less fatuously horrible.


War is Hell. You don't have to play it..

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