WarDecks is a game modification in the tradition of Fluxus. To create the piece, I re-sorted fifty-two decks of playing cards so that each deck contained only one type of card (e.g., a deck with fifty-two queens of hearts). I handed out decks to art students and asked them play War, a card game for two or more players. The rules are simple and widely known: the cards in the deck are shuffled and dealt to the players; each player has the same number of cards; to play a hand, players simultaneously reveal a card, and the highest card captures the hand. The object of the game is to capture all cards in the deck. I did not change the rules of the game, but I did modify the code.

No one, of course, can ever win a hand because every card in the deck is the same. But the modification makes a point: no one can win the game of war. Those who played the game reported that the modification took all of the fun out of the game. The experience also makes a point: the game of war is not fun. At best, the game and its real-world counterpart are tedious and pointless. The work succeeds in some ways, but fails in others. Players enjoy discovering that all of the cards in the deck are identical, and they are amused by the realization that no one can win a hand or the game. But interest quickly fades into frustration, irritation, and abandonment. The game is interactive, but does not sustain interest, and players do not necessarily associate the game of War with the realities of war.


  • warDecks & Kick the Can a short talk on making unplayable games, University of Denver, School of Art and Art History, ARTD 4375 Graduate eMAD Critique 3/27/07
52 Aces
52 WarDecks