- Players: 3 or more; 4-6 is ideal
- Game type: Cards, war
- Objective: Win the entire deck
Ultimate war's main attraction is that it is a turnless game. In fact, the game simply begins and players scramble to collect cards from each other. Because of the chaos inherent in this game, read these rules carefully, or have an experienced player explain the game to you.
In normal war, players are given a stack of cards and attempt to gain cards through a series of confrontations. Each confrontation is a comparison of the topmost card from each player's stack. The player with the highest card (A, K, Q, etc., without regards to suit) wins the confrontation and wins the other players' cards. In the case of a tie (called a war), each player adds three cards face down plus a fourth card. The value of the fourth card is used for the break the tie. (In the case of another tie, this process is repeated until the tie is broken.) Most people learn this game as children, so these rules should be a review.
In ultimate war, determining the winner of a confrontation is done in the same way. However, the number and type of cards that can be used in a confrontation is greatly increased.
The deck is shuffled and split evenly among the players. For each player, there are three types of playable cards: the topmost card in the stack (as in normal war), plus the card-in-hand, and the field cards. There is at most one card-in-hand (which is placed in the player's hand) and at most three field cards, which are placed in front of the player on the table face-up. Thus, there are cards which can be seen by all players (field), cards that are only seen by their owner (card-in-hand), and cards that are concealed to all players (stack).
Cards are transferred from one position to another in a specific way. The topmost stack card can be picked up as the card-in-hand. Similarly, the card-in-hand can be revealed by placing it on the table, thereby making it a field card. Alternately, the topmost stack card can be placed directly on the table, making it a field card also. (The heirarchy is stack -> card in hand -> field.)
Confrontations can occur between any of the three types of cards, as governed by the following simple rules. (Pay close attention to the word any.)
- The winner of a confrontation is determined by the rules of normal war. The winner keeps the cards, which are placed at the bottom of his/her stack.
- Players do not take turns in initiating confrontations. The game simply begins and players confront at will.
- Any playable card can be used to confront any other player's field cards at any time. Thus, a field card can be taken with a higher card by another player without permission. This "free-for-all" applies only to field cards.
- A player can challenge another player's hidden cards (i.e. card-in-hand and stack) using any of his/her playable cards. This is done with a simple declaration of, for example, "I challenge the card in your hand with the card in my hand." The player must provide an option to the challenge, in the form of at least one field card. The player either accepts the challenge or confronts any of the option (field) cards.
There is an addition rule to keep the game moving and to allow desperate players a chance of staying in the game. The rule is that if a player does not have field cards for an "extended period of time", any other player can challenge him/her to a war. The term "extended period of time" is defined as enough time for a player to put down a field card.
The winner is the player who collects all of the cards.
- A player who is challenged may opt to change the card which is being challenged with any other playable card. This can only be done with the consent of the challenger.
- Multi-player confrontations can be initiated by a player by declaring such aloud. Each player places a card (usually a hidden type) in the center of the table, then all of the cards are revealed and the winner keeps all of the cards. Although no player can be forced to add a hidden-type card, a field card may be forced into the confrontation if the player decides not to join otherwise.
- The usual overall strategy involves using the card-in-hand as a cache for high cards and the field cards as a dumping area for low cards. Then, challenges between cards-in-hand usually involve the win/loss of a high card.
- Having noted the usual strategy, some players will purposefully keep a low card-in-hand to protect against challenges.
- Keeping a single, very high field card can be advantageous since it is the default option card during challenges. In this situation, a player can be more audacious in their challenges. The counter-strategy is to sacrifice a low card in a confrontation with that field card (recall from the rules that the confrontation is forced). Or, if that field card is not an ace, to capture it with a higher card.
Ultimate war was created by Elaine and Raymond Cheong on or about August 1997. The game is completely original and no other forms of this game are known.