Camen Design

c share + remix

Court Wars

  1. Set Up
  2. Playing Instructions
  3. Variations
  4. History

Court Wars is a playing card game invented by myself (Kroc Camen) and Prenuntius over a couple of days whilst on holiday. It has a surprising level of consistency and balance with plenty of strategy, and plays somewhat like a trading card game.

The goal of the game is to defeat the Court (King, Queen, Jack) of the opponent, whilst protecting your own. It can be played by 2 to 4 players.

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Set Up

Take turns to draw a card and then either play the card or discard it, doing this three times each. That is:—

Playing Instructions

Decide who goes first using any favourite method such as tossing a coin, rolling a dice, paper-scissors-stone or whoever’s birthday is nearest. If playing multiple rounds, for two players the player who lost should go first, but with 3 or 4 players who goes first should go clockwise each game.

On a player’s turn they can choose to do one of two things:

1. Defend

Take a card from the pile. (Note: Any time the pile runs out of cards, just flip the discard pile. You should therefore discard cards face up)

  • A Court card (J, Q, K) causes you to miss your turn, put the card on the discard pile and play moves to the next player

  • If it is a Guard (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10) then you can choose to either:

    • Play the Guard by placing it on top of one of your Court cards or an existing Guard, as long as the value is lower than the exisiting Guard (though not strictly sequential)

    • Discard the card for strategic reasons

    Once either of these actions are taken play moves to the next player

  • A Joker can impersonate a Court card. Therefore if one or more of your Court cards has been defeated, a Joker can be placed on the back of the Court card and acts the same as a regular Court card. If you have no defeated Court cards the Joker must be discarded. In either instance, play moves to the next player

    A Joker is played on the back of a defeated Court card. Once defeated, the Joker is discarded
  • An Ace allows you to both attack and defend (draw a card). Discard the Ace card first and then decide if you want to attack (if possible). Once you have done your attack (or skipped it), draw a card.

2. Attack

To attack, you must discard some, or all (your choice), of the Guards attached to one of your Court cards that add up to a total value equal to or greater than the total value of one or more of your opponent’s Guards (if any) stacked on a Court card, up to and including the Court card—thus defeating it.

Note: With 3 or 4 players, there is no order to who may attack who. You may choose to attack any opponent you please.

Whenever a Court card is defeated, flip it over rather than discarding it. This avoids having to pull them back out of the deck when playing multiple rounds.

Take this scenario as an example of attacking:

An example play scenario with two players protected with multiple guards

Player 1 (top) has:

  • King: 12 attack + 22 defence
  • Queen: 0 attack + 10 defence
  • Jack: 7 attack + 17 defence

Player 2 (bottom) has:

  • King: 9 attack + 19 defence
  • Queen: 12 attack + 22 defence
  • Jack: 9 attack + 19 defence

Let us imagine that it is player 2’s turn. They have a few options open to them:

  1. Their Queen is their only Court card with a total attack over 10 (7 + 5 = 12), thus player 2 could choose to defeat player 1’s Queen which has no additional defence and thus a basic defence of just 10.

    Player 2 has spent their 7 & 5 Guards (12 attack) to defeat player 1’s Queen (flipped over)

    By doing this however it would leave their Queen with no more Guards and Player 1 could choose to defeat it with their King (12 attack)

  2. To avoid mutual destruction, player 2 could opt to first remove some Guards from the opponent, without actually defeating one of their Court cards.

    The example play scenario again

    Player 2 could spend their Queen’s 5 Guard, or the Jack’s 3 & 2 Guards (5) to remove the 4 on the opponent’s King—lowering player 1’s King to just 8 attack, or spend their Queen’s 7 & 5 Guards (12) to remove the opponent’s 8 & 4 Guards (12), which would look like this:

    Player 2 has spent their 7 & 5 Guards to remove player 1’s 8 & 4 Guards on their King

    Now player 1 is left with very little offence.

You may only spend Guards from one Court card, and only in increasing value. That is, you cannot use the value of a Guard in the middle or top of a stack, you must count upwards from the last one.

When attacking, first discard your chosen Guards (all at once rather than one by one), then discard the opponent’s Guards, and if the Court card was defeated too, flip it over. If the opponent is using a Joker, discard it once defeated

After an attack is complete, play moves to the next player.


Here are some suggested rule variations:

Allow same-value Guards to be stacked
Normally you can only stack Guards that are lower in value than each other. One variation to play is to allow equal value Guards to be stacked (e.g. 8+8+4). There will be less discards, but it will also allow players to amass massive attack / defence values, increasing the challenge.


I had the idea for this game in 1999, as a way to mimic trading card games like Pokémon TCG with a regular pack of cards. The original principle was that a card could be chosen to be either an attack card / monster, or as energy to power an existing attack card / monster. I hadn’t tested the idea fully to work out the mathematics of play, however the concept did stay in the back of my mind until the last couple of days on a holiday with a friend where we were playing a lot of British Blackjack (my variation thereof that I’ve been refining for the last 20 years) and I explained that I had an idea for a new card game that I had been working on. Over the next couple of evenings, and some beer, we refined the concepts into a playable game.

The birthplace of Court Wars is The Square and Compass pub in Matlock, Derbyshire on Saturday the 6th August 2011, should you wish to pilgramage there :P

Initially we gave court cards a high value of 20, but found that it was becoming near impossible to defeat a court card and went around in circles just adding and removing guards. When we reduced this to 10, things played much better. We were also using a hand, where cards the player did not want to play could be kept, but it seemed arbitary and allowed a player to keep on to high value cards for a long time, making it a little fruitless to knocking out their guards. Once we had gotten rid of the hand things played much quicker, however we noticed at the beginning of the game that without any defence to start with we each lost a court card or two very quickly, so added in drawing three cards at the start.

Where as the Joker was decided to mimic a court card early on, before that we had a rule that any court card you picked up could replace a missing court card as long as it was the same type (King, Queen, Jack). Along with the other rule changes happening we found that we could never outright win a game as the pile cycled quickly and would keep drawing court cards.

The Ace rule came last (though we knew that the Ace card would have to be used as a special as it was mostly worthless otherwise) but it took some debate to decide exactly what it should do. It wasn’t as simple as “another turn” because of the attack / defend mechanic (early on you started every turn by taking a card and then attacking afterwards). By simplifying turns into attack or defend, the Ace fitted better. We ended up shedding a great deal from the design to hone it down to something far simpler and more consistent, and as a result the balance sort of worked itself out. We were surprised by how well it played and we knew immediately when we had a working game, rather than just messing around with a set of cards.

Thanks goes to Prenuntius for developing the game and John Drinkwater for play testing and feedback on these instructions.