A strategic card game for two
By Thorin N. Tatge
EQUIPMENT: One deck of cards,
including the jokers. Ant War can be played without jokers if
SETUP: Choose a dealer for the
first round. The dealer shuffles the pack and deals twenty-five
cards face-up into a five by five square. The red cards represent
a colony of red ants and the black cards represent a colony of black
SETTING THE ODDS: At the
beginning of each round, after the cards are dealt into a square, the
dealer must set the odds for the round. This consists of deciding
which color will move first and how many turns that color will take
before the other color gets to move; e.g. “Black gets three turns
before Red moves.” The dealer may also declare a number of turns
ending in one half, such as “Red gets two and a half turns.” This
means that after Red takes two turns, the next player to move will be
randomly selected by cutting the deck. If a Joker is cut in this
way, cut again. It is also permitted to award no turns to either
color, meaning that the first player to take a turn will be randomly
selected as above. In any case, after this initial series of
moves, the two colors alternate taking turns.
The other player then decides which colony of ants he or she wishes to
control, and the dealer is given the other. Because of this
system, it is wise for the dealer to even the odds by giving more turns
to the colony with the worse position. If the position appears
even, the wisest course is for the dealer to award no turns to either
PLAY: One player will play the
red ants and one will play the black ants. A card or stack of
cards with a red card on top is a red ant, and a card or stack of cards
with a black ant on top is a black ant. Once covered, a card is
never uncovered, so whenever you move a card, you must move all cards
under it. A turn consists of picking up an ant of your color and
placing it on top of another ant adjacent to it. In this context,
adjacent means one square away in any direction, including
diagonally. You will usually want to cover an ant of your
opponent’s color, but it is legal to cover your own ants. You
must always cover an ant, however—you may not move into an empty
space. Note that some ants have special abilities—see
below. If you have no more moves or you wish not to make a move,
you may pass. When both players pass, the round is over.
Each player gets a score equal to the total value of his or her
TYPES OF ANTS: These are what
the cards of each type represent.
Workers: The Ace through 10 of
each suit are Workers. A Worker is worth an amount equal to its
number (Aces count 1). Workers have no special abilities.
Soldiers: The Jacks are
Soldiers. These ants are specially adapted to be
indestructible. They can cover ants as normal, but may never be
covered. Soldiers are worth 1 point each.
Queens: The Queen of each
suit is a Queen Ant. Queens can move either one or two spaces in
any direction. A Queen moving two spaces does not affect the
space it passes over, and may even move over an empty space, a Soldier,
or a Joker. Queens are worth 1 point each.
Drones: The King of each suit
is a Drone. Drones do not make the ordinary move of one square in
any direction. Instead, they move like a knight in chess: two
spaces in one orthogonal direction and one space at a right
angle. For example, a Drone may move two spaces back and one
space left, or two spaces left and one space forward. Like the
Queen, it may pass over anything, including empty space, and does not
affect spaces it passes over. It must make its full move,
however, which means it is quite possible for Drones to be left without
any moves early in a round. Drones are worth one point each.
Food sources: The Jokers
represent food sources. They may never be covered. At the
end of a round, each food source which is adjacent to at least one ant
of one color but not to any ants of the other color is worth 3 points
to the colony whose ant or ants it is adjacent to.
WINNING: The game consists of
two rounds, with each player taking a turn as dealer. The player
with the higher total score at the end wins.
VARIATIONS: For a more
analytical game, use a twenty-five card deck consisting only of the
aces through fives, the tens, and a single joker. For variety,
try using boards of different sizes and shapes, such as a four by four
square, a two by ten rectangle, a spiral, or a random layout consisting
of the entire deck.