WarGops card game.
Version of Saturday 21 April 2012.
Dave Barber's other pages.

Introduction. WarGops, a game using playing cards, is a cross betweeen War and Gops. Required are:

• At least two players
• Playing cards
• A means to keep score, traditionally pencil and paper.

These instructions presume that the cards come from an Anglo-French pack, which has thirteen ranks and four suits. However, many other packs can easily be adapted, among them a 40- or 48-card Italian or Spanish pack, or a pack from Rook, Flinch or Uno.

Rules. The cards are not shuffled. Rather, each player receives one (or a larger number if agreed) card of each rank. Suits have no official status in WarGops, but they offer a convenient way to divide the cards before play begins, each player taking all the cards of one suit. These cards become his hand. With two players, only 26 cards are used in total; with three, 39. Each player then picks up his cards and holds them where he, but nobody else, can see them.

An ace counts 1 point, jack 11, queen 12, king 13; and the number cards count whatever number they bear. Thus a player begins each game holding 91 points.

Each game is played as a sequence of symmetric tricks:

1. Each player selects a card from his hand and places it face down on the table. All the players can do this more or less simultaneously.
2. All the players turn their cards up, again more or less simultaneously.
3. Whoever played the highest-valued card wins the trick:
• The card that won the trick goes face down into the trash pile, and is retired from further use in that game.
• All non-winning cards in the trick go into the winner's hand and become available for use in future tricks.
Ties will be discussed later.

At many stages of the game, some players will hold more cards than others. When a player runs out of cards, he retires from the game; but those who still have cards continue playing tricks until only one player has cards left. That player's score for the game is the sum of the points of the cards still in his hand, other players receiving nothing. Occasionally, all remaining players run out of cards simultaneously; then nobody scores.

Note that if a player plays his last card to a trick and wins it, he is still in the game because he will collect cards from winning the trick, and those cards can be used on future tricks.

A player may not pass; if he has a card he must participate in a trick.

After a game is complete, and the score recorded, another game is played. A session is a series of games, and is won by whoever totals the most points throughout all the games.

Because of a card going into the trash pile at every trick, the active pack inexorably shrinks, and some players will inevitably run out of cards. High-ranking cards are removed faster than low-ranking.

Ties. The rules pertaining to ties are intuitive, but slightly complicated. The principle is that the cards of a tied trick are ultimately awarded to whichever player, of those involved in the tie, has the best card in a subsequent trick.

An entire tie is when all cards played to a trick are equal, and this happens to be the only kind of tie possible when only two players are competing. One of the equal cards (it does not matter which) goes to the trash pile, and the remaining cards are awarded to the player who wins the next trick. Example 1 (each row of the table represents one trick):

 contributions to trash results Al 8, Bo 8, Cy 8 8 Two 8s remain. Al 5, Bo 6, Cy 3 6 Bo collects 5, 3, and two 8s.

A player who runs out of cards (signified by X) before the tie is resolved is out of luck. Example 2:

 contributions to trash results Al 9, Bo 9, Cy 9 9 Two 9s remain. Al 7, Bo 4, Cy X 7 Al collects 4 and two 9s.

If there are several successive entire ties, quite a few cards can pile up. Example 3:

 contributions to trash results Al 3, Bo 3, Cy 3 3 Two 3s remain. Al 5, Bo 5, Cy 5 5 Two 3s and two 5s remain. Al 2, Bo 6, Cy 10 10 Cy collects 2, 6, two 3s, and two 5s.

If the last trick of a game is an entire tie, it is orphaned, and nobody wins it — for this to happen means that all the remaining players run out of cards at the same time. The same applies if the last several tricks are entire ties.

A partial tie is when the cards played to a trick are not all equal, but at least two of them are tied for highest. One of the high cards goes to trash, and the remaining cards are awarded to the tied player who has the higher card on the next trick. Example 4:

 contributions to trash results Al 6, Bo 9, Cy 9, Di 2 9 2, 6 and the other 9 remain; only Bo and Cy can win them. Al 10, Bo 4, Cy 7, Di 3 10 Al collects 4, 7 and 3.Cy had a higher card than Bo, so Cy collects 2, 6 and 9.

A sequence of partial ties must be handled carefully. Example 5:

 contributions to trash results Al 6, Bo 9, Cy 9, Di 2 9 2, 6 and the other 9 remain; only Bo and Cy can win them. Al 10, Bo 4, Cy 10, Di 3 10 3, 4 and other 10 remain.Cy had a higher card than Bo, so Cy collects 2, 6 and 9.

Sometimes a later trick may be resolved before an earlier. Example 6:

 contributions to trash results Al 1, Bo 7, Cy 7, Di 7 7 1 and two 7s remain; only Bo, Cy and Di can win them. Al 10, Bo 6, Cy 6, Di 4 10 Al collects 4 and two 6s. Di loses eligibility to win the previous trick because her card is lower than Bo's or Cy's. Bo and Cy are tied with each other, so 1 and two 7's remain. Al 2, Bo 8, Cy 4, Di 9 9 Di collects 2, 8 and 4. Bo's card is better than Cy's, so Bo collects 1 and two 7s.

The cards of a partial tie are orphaned when all its eligible winners run out of cards simultaneously; this can happen even when other players still have cards and are continuing to play other tricks. Example 7:

 contributions to trash results Al 6, Bo 9, Cy 9, Di 2 9 2, 6 and the other 9 remain; only Bo and Cy are eligible to win them. Al 10, Bo X, Cy X, Di 3 10 Al collects 3. No player will ever collect 2, 6 and 9.

A player might contribute his last card to a trick and lose that trick, yet remain in the game if his card was able to win a partial tie remaining from an earlier trick.

In a game that has many players, or that uses a pack of cards having few ranks (such as pinochle), partial ties may occur so frequently as to be cumbersome to administer. The following method of addressing ties, both partial and entire, may be preferred:

1. All the cards tied for highest are turned face down, but not moved to the trash. Non-highest cards remain where they are, face up.
2. Each high-tied player selects a replacement card from his hand and places it face down on the table. All the high-tied players can do this more or less simultaneously. Other players do nothing.
3. All the high-tied players turn their replacement cards up, again more or less simultaneously.
4. A fresh determination is made of who might have won the trick. All face-up cards are considered, and all face-down cards ignored. Thus players who had been tied for high have no advantage in winning the trick.

As always, a player who runs out of cards while a tied trick is being resolved cannot win it. In example 8 are three multi-stage tricks, with replacements underlined:

 contributions to face down to trash results Al 6, Bo 4, Cy 9, Di 9, Ed 7 two 9s — Ed collects 6, 4, two 9s; 5, 2 Al 6, Bo 4, Cy 5, Di 2, Ed 7 — 7 Al 7, Bo 7, Cy 7, Di 7, Ed 7 five 7s — Bo collects five 7s; two 2s, 4, 8 Al 2, Bo 9, Cy 4, Di 8, Ed 2 — 9 Al 7, Bo 4, Cy 9, Di 9, Ed 5 two 9s — Al collects 7, 4, two 9s, 5; 7, 2; 3 Al 7, Bo 4, Cy 7, Di 2, Ed 5 two 7s — Al 8, Bo 4, Cy 3, Di 2, Ed 5 — 8

Strategy. It is difficult to establish a winning strategy for this game, because at the beginning all players are in an equal position. Indeed, if all players adopt the same strategy and it does not involve randomness, a stalemate is assured. However, if at some point players' hands become unequal, a rigorous approach might be possible, aided by each player's always knowing exactly what cards are held by each other player.

One thing certain is that some cards are more powerful for winning tricks than others, although the prospect of ties make no card a sure victor.