the Art of War: rules

DON'T PANIC. The rules are very simple (and they give rise to a very rich gameplay) just create or join a new game and learn by playing! If you have any questions, post something on the forum.

Aim of the game

You have three objectives, in the following order:
  1. To win the game, by conquering two-thirds of the map or forcing all other players to surrender.
  2. If this is not possible, to share the win with other players in a draw through diplomacy.
  3. If even this is not possible, to eliminate the other non-winning players to be the only survivor.
In cases (1) and (2), eliminating players is not necessary, and it is considered elegant to let (or, in special cases, even help) a player who surrenders survive.

How to play (giving orders)

You start the game with a certain number of units and territories, depending on the game type (see below).
Giving orders
For every territory you own you can give one order, specifying which territory your armies should move to, and how many armies you are moving.
  • Ordering your armies to move to a territory you already own is considered a transfer, and can be useful in defense (see below): the units transferred will defend the new territory if it is attacked.
  • Ordering your armies to move to a territory owned by another player will result in a skirmish and/or in a invasion (see below).
You should also specify your diplomatic attitude towards the other players, choosing between no mercy (the default), offer mercy, propose draw and surrender. See the box below for more details on diplomacy.
Private messages
  • In no intrigue games you can only send and receive public messages.
  • In intrigue games, you can send and receive private messages too.

What happens next (how turns are adjudicated)

  • When all the players in a game have submitted their orders, all the following phases are solved one by one, in the order listed, automatically by the server.
  • Within a single phase, all the players' orders are executed simultaneously.
(0: Treaties) First of al, the system checks if the game can end through diplomacy, without war.
  • If all the surviving players agree, the game ends with a treaty signed, and the turn is not run.
  • Otherwise, the war rages on.
See the box below to learn more about diplomacy.
(1: Transfers) Transfers usually have a defensive purpose:
  • Units ordered to transfer to one's own territory do so at once.
  • Transferred units will be able to defend the territory they are moved to, if it is attacked in this turn.

USA transfers units to Alaska, Greenland transfers to Canada.
(2: Skirmishes) Skirmishes are fights on the border between two territories. They are solved before the invasions.
  • A skirmish occurs when two territories attack each other.
  • Each unit engaging in a skirmish has a 40% chance of destroying an enemy unit. (for example, a 10-units army will usually destroy about 4 enemy units).
  • There are two possible outcomes:
    • if someone destroys all the enemy's units, then his/her units break through the border and invade the enemy's territory, in the next phase; otherwise
    • all units retreat and defend the territory they started from, to defend against invasions.

A skirmish between the yellow and white players.
(3: Invasions) These are the major, bloodiest battles, which happen when a territory is invaded by another territory.
  • The defenders include:
    • all the remaining units (those that were already in the territory and were not ordered to attack or transfer to another territory),
    • PLUS all retreating units (the units that were ordered to attack, were involved in a skirmish at the border, and retreated in the skirmish phase),
    • PLUS any units transferred from friendly neighbouring territories.
  • Each attacking unit has a 60% probability of destroying an enemy unit.
  • Defenders are at an advantage, and have an 80% chance of destroying an enemy unit.
  • Sometimes, the same territory will be attacked by several enemies at the same time:
    • In this case, the defending units are distributed uniformly among the attackers, in proportion to the attacking units.
    • To partially simulate the difficulty of defending more borders, fractions of defending units are rounded down. For example, if a territory having 3 defending units is attacked by two different enemy territories with roughly the same number of armies, only 2 defending units will be able to inflict damage: 1 unit against each attacking territory.
    • The damage inflicted by all attackers is summed up and inflicted on the defenders. This means that one attacking group can destroy more units than the ones that were assigned against it.
    • Any damage inflicted by a group defenders in excess of the attacking units it was assigned against is lost.

Several invasions in South America.
(4: Advance)
After invasions have been carried out, the winners advance to the conquered territories.
  • If all the defenders in a given territory have been destroyed, the territory gives in and the attacker that used the greatest number of units advances and conquers the territory.
  • If two (or more) attackers are equally strong, a randomly selected one advances.
  • If no attacker has any units left, no-one advances.
  • Notice that if a player attacks a territory from different directions, his/her armies are not added up for advancement purposes.
(5: Return) Defeated units return home.
  • All the attackers which did not advance, bounce to their starting territories.
  • If the starting territory has been conquered in the meanwhile, the attacking units are disbanded: all the units are lost. This occurs rarely, but when it occurs, it can be disastrous... be very careful!!!
(6: Build) New units are built.
  • A territory is protected if it borders only on territories which are owned by the same player.
  • All protected territories build a number of units equal to the territory's population. (The population of a territory is indicated in parentheses in the image's title. Just hover the number of armies with the cursor, and you will see the population of that territory).
  • all unprotected territories build just one unit, regardless of their population.
  • The new units are assigned in one of two ways, depending on the game type.
    • With automatic placement, the new units are placed immediately in the territory which generates them.
    • With free units placement, the new units can be distributed at will among the owned territories. You should really use all of the units which you can build: you are not allowed to carry over unused builds.

Winning the game

A player who owns more than two-thirds of the territories is declared the winner. Another possibility is to end the game through diplomacy: see the box below.

Diplomacy options.

You may choose one of the following options.
No mercy. You will to fight to the end, no matter the cost or the outcome.
Offer mercy. You are willing to spare all other surviving players if and only if all of them surrender to you.
Propose draw. You submit a treaty to your opponents, stating that the game ends in a draw if they all sign the treaty or surrender. You can specify that you will only accept a draw with a certain number of players.
Surrender. You will surrender to your (hopefully) mercyful opponent(s) if they promise to spare you.
Important: your diplomacy intentions are visible to all players as soon as you submit them (see the interface features below).
  • Three surviving players:
    • No mercy!
    • I surrender!
    • I surrender!
    The game continues because when one player says "no mercy" the game cannot end by diplomacy.
  • Four surviving players:
    • Offer mercy,
    • I surrender!
    • I surrender!
    • I surrender!
    The game ends at once. The player offering mercy wins, the ones surrendering lose, but are not eliminated.
  • Two players:
    • Offer mercy.
    • Offer mercy.
    The game does not end because two players are offering mercy
  • Two players:
    • Offer mercy.
    • Propose 2-way draw.
    The game does not end because one player wants to win, and the other one wants to draw.
  • Four players:
    • Propose 2-way draw.
    • Propose 3-way draw.
    • Propose 4-way draw.
    • I surrender.
    The game does not end: one of the players will only settle for a two-way draw.
  • Four players:
    • Propose 3-way draw.
    • Propose 3-way draw.
    • Propose 4-way draw.
    • I surrender.
    The game ends. The three players proposing a draw share the win, the one surrendering loses, but is not eliminated.

Game options

Initial territories
There are two options:
  • with one, every player has one territory to start with, and the other territories start out as neutral.
  • in fill games, all the territories are distributed evenly among the players;
Initial armies
  • Every territory starts with 12 armies minus the territory's population (see below).
  • In games with free units placement some of these armies can be distributed at will among the territories. Unassigned units are lost.
Independent territories
All the other territories start out as independent (or neutral), and are displayed as grey on the map. Dependending on the setting they may
  • be unoccupied and helpless (no armies), or
  • fight in self-defense (starting with five armies).
There are two options here:
  • with free diplomacy, you can set your diplomacy settings at will;
  • in binding diplomacy games, you can loosen your diplomacy settings (for example, by proposing a draw if you said "no mercy", or by admitting a larger number of players in a draw), but you cannot tighten it (for example, if you proposed a draw, you cannot later switch to "offer mercy" or "no mercy", or reduce the number of players you will accept a draw with). Therefore, in such a game, the "I surrender" setting can never be changed.

Interface features

Active games: players who must move are in boldface. Eliminated players have their names struck through.
Ended games: winners are in boldface. Treaty signers (players participating in a draw) are indicated in italics. Players that surrendered and survived are written in normal characters. Eliminated players have their names struck through.
Titles: hover with your mouse on a territory's units. A title will appear, detailing the territory's events in the last turn. Also, if you hover with your mouse over a player's name, you will see that player's current diplomacy option. This is very important: a player's diplomacy option is visible to everyone as soon as it is chosen, unlike orders.
Submitting orders: if any players must still move, you are taken back to the Art of War main page. Otherwise, if you are the last player to move, the turn is run and you are taken back to the game's page to see what happened and submit your new orders.


If you activate system mails in your profile you will receive an e-mail whenever it's your turn to move, or when another player sends you a private message. This is extremly useful to sharpen your diplomacy knives!