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 necessary.

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 ants.

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 color.

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 remaining ants.

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.

Return