The Civil Four: Playing Cards for New & Traditional Games
Back to Games Menu

Don't Struggle

Seat switching social warfare party!

Players: 5 to 10 players
Game Time: 30 min.
Order of play: Player left of dealer, then clockwise
Materials: Civil Four Deck

Refresher on Dalmuti
The Great Dalmuti is an affordable game designed by Richard Garfield and published by Wizards of the Coast (and incidentally illustrated by the great Margaret Organ-Kean). It is a fast paced class warfare game, whose object is to quickly teach us both the value and the futility of changing social status. Players change seats constantly to reflect a changing social order, and even the lazy might learn staying in one place may not be all it's cracked up to be. Our game is quite different but it's worth nodding to the inspiration behind the dance. Don't Struggle is still playful but it pits those playing evil and those playing good against one another (though it's not always really clear who is who, and it lets us wonder if that's a good thing).

Suits, Ranks & Values

Suits and Ranks are important to the game, so it's best to understand them before starting. Each team has two types of cards: Generals and Logistics

♣ Gray Generals are Clubs ♣
♠ Gray Logistics are Spades ♠
♥ Blue Generals are Hearts ♥
♦ Blue Logistics are Diamonds ♦

The game is about changing seats between two sides of a culture, with Greater and Lesser roles on each side (but no escape). Everyone not on the extremes are in the middle. You may call these sides whatever you wish but one uses Blue cards and one uses Gray cards:

Greater and Lesser Gray vs. Greater and Lesser Blue
Greater and Lesser Confederate vs. Greater and Lesser Unionist (a historical spin)
Greater and Lesser Evil vs. Greater and Lesser Good
Greater and Lesser Fascists vs. Greater and Lesser Commies
or perhaps
Greater and Lesser Bigot vs. Greater and Lesser Snowflake (a contemporary twist)

Let's use the default in our seating instructions and you'll be sure to get the idea:
Start with the venerated position of Greater Gray Leader
To their right is seated the Lesser Gray Leader
To their right is seated the Civilian(s)
To their right is seated the Lesser Blue Leader
And finally we have the most laudible Greater Blue Leader

(Part of the comedy, as the game unfolds, may come from the fact that color-based titles lose meaning and become little more than that. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.)

The value of each card is on its face, with 2's being the least and 10's being the most worthwhile. The goal is to rid yourself of the most cards, and higher cards enable you to do so.

Game Setup

1. Each player draws a random card from the deck and seats themselves according to the color. Gray cards gain the rightmost available seat and Blue cards gain the leftmost available seat, until all seats are filled. (That means the extremes are more likely to be picked first). Minions count as Gray cards here. All cards are given to the Greater Gray Leader.

2. Greater Gray Leader now removes all the gray cards from the deck (but not the Minions) giving them to Lesser Gray Leader, and the remainder of the deck to Greater Blue Leader.

3. The Lesser Gray Leader's job is to retrieve all the gray generals from the gray cards and form the Gray Generals deck, which they are in charge of.

4. The Greater Blue Leader's job is to retrieve all the blue generals from the blue cards and form the Blue Generals deck, which they are in charge of.

5. The Lesser Blue General gathers the remainings cards (which will be the Logistics cards and the Minions) and shuffles them into a single Logistics pile (given to Civilians if any).

Let's see the starting arrangement, by seat and the deck they are in charge of:

Greater BlueLesser BlueCivilian(s)Lesser GrayGreater Gray

Blue Generals (Hearts)

--> half dealt here


Gray Generals (Clubs)

--> half dealt here

If a player leaves, Leadership roles must be filled first. Lesser Leaders become Greater Leaders, and Civilians become Lesser Leader positions that need to exist. If a new player joins, they join as a Civilian and are only dealt the number of cards appropriate to the new total of Civilians.


At the start of each round, Greater Blue deals out all the cards between themselves and Lesser Blue, starting with Lesser Blue. Lesser Gray deals out all the cards between themselves and Greater Gray, starting with Lesser Gray. The Greater Gray must take their lowest value card and exchange it for the highest card of the Lesser Gray. And Lesser Blue, conversely, takes their lowest card and exchanges it for the highest card of Greater Blue. (Face cards J, Q, K & A do not change hands). Civilians just deal to themselves based on their population and hold tight by the seat of their pants:

Just 1 Civilian by themselves will draw 8 cards in hand
If 2 Civilians play : they receive 5 cards each
If 3 Civilians play : they receive 4 cards each
4 or more Civilians : receive 3 cards each

The remaining Logistics cards go to the middle of the Civilian area.


Each round corresponds to a cycle of just one of the four character cards: King, Queen, Jack or Ace

Each round is played in suit order:
1. Clubs (Gray)
2. Spades & Diamonds (Civilians)
3. Hearts (Blue)

The first round begins when a Gray Leader plays a character of Clubs. It will be the Greater Leader unless they have one or zero character cards, in which case the Lesser Gray Leader chooses the character.

Then a Civilian with a character in Spades may play it.
Then a Civilian with a character in Diamonds may play it.

Then a Blue Leader plays the same character in Hearts.

When a Leader plays a character corresponding to that round, everyone with that color of cards may attempt to rid themselves of those cards through actions. This is done different ways depending on your present role.

If a Gray character is played, the Greater Gray Leader acts first (four times) followed by the actions of the Lesser Gray Leader (three actions), then play passes to the Civilians. If a Blue character is played, play starts with the Civilians, then the Lesser Blue Leader acts (three times) followed at last by the Greater Blue Leader (who acts four times).

When the character of Hearts has been played, and each player has had a chance to take their actions, the round is over and points are tallied based on how well each player did to rid themselves of cards of their concern.

Leader Lays a Character

When a Gray or Blue Leader lays a character, the one who placed it picks just one of the three powers (Intel, Might or Magic) to make available from all characters played in the round. They may say, "This shall be a battle of intelligence." Then Greater Leader of that color takes four actions in a row, Lesser Leader of that color takes three actions in a row, and Leaders of the other side take a single action. A Leader may elect to use the chosen power as many times as the number of that selected power instead of taking the default action.

The actions available to Leaders:

Leader Default
Lay a number card from your hand to the table, face up. Each card must be lower than the last number card laid or this action is taken but fails.

Special actions available if that power is "active" are:

Spy on one other player's full hand; they must show you all their cards. You may select one card (if it's your color) and place it in your hand.

Target a player of your choice; they must take one the number cards that are presently in front of them back into their own hand.

Lay a number card that ignores the default order limitation.

e.g.; You are Greater Leader and you choose Might level 2, so you can lay down one card, then use Might once, then lay down two more cards. OR Intel level 0 is chosen so no special powers are used/allowed by subsequent players.

However, each time play passes between Civilians, they play from rightmost to leftmost.

The action available to Civilians:

Civilian Default Lay a number card that's the same color and value as a Leader's number card you are matching it to. Draw a card from the top of the Logistics deck and place it in your hand.

Civilians may do this as many times as they are able, as long as the card they lay is of lower value than the previous card. If a Civilian is able to complete this action at least as many times as the number value of the character's power, (exclusively on the last character that was played) then they may use the power once.

Civilian plays a character

If a Civilian ever holds a character card, they may play it instead of a number card as long as it follows the order of suits (Spades then Diamonds). The character type (J,Q,K or A) of the round immediately changes to that character type for the duration of the round. If it's a Spades (Gray Logistics) it is treated as if played by the Gray Leader that did not lay a character. If it's a Diamonds (Blue Logistics) it is treated as if played by Greater Blue Leader. NOTE: The power chosen for the starting character applies to the new character played.

Civilian plays a Minion

If a Civilian ever holds a Minion card, they may play it instead of a number card on the targeted Leader, and that Leader must draw up to five available cards they laid back into their hand (Logistics cards played on their Generals stay in place and are not effected). Both Minions can be held and used by the same Civilian.


Leaders' scores are equivalent to their highest number General that has not been matched with a Logistics card.

Civilians' scores are equivalent to the highest total number of cards they were able to play in a single color, including characters. Players now are ranked in order, depending on these scores. The player highest in Blue points becomes the new Greater Blue and the second highest scorer becomes the new Lesser Blue Leader. Same with the highest scores in Gray. All other players are Civilians seated according to their proximity to a high score in one color or another.

Logistics cards are reshuffled by the lowest scoring player. The new Greater Blue and Lesser Gray Leaders regather and shuffle their respective General decks.


There are different ways you can design the game to have a winner. One suggestion is the "stay seated" rule: If a player keeps their seat a designated number of rounds – say, three – then they win, no matter what seat they're in! (But changing the inner order of the Civilians counts as changing seats)

Another way to have players win is to tabulate the total number of points over several rounds and whomever has the highest score after four rounds is the winner.

However, the true silliness of the game is that no matter how many winners and losers there are, the only way to win a game like war may be to get up and offer drinks to everyone else.


Back to Games Menu