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How to play Top Trumps

This guide will fill you in on how to play Top Trumps - as well as some variant rules for the fast, fun, simple card game from your childhood.

How to play Top Trumps - an image of three packs of Top Trumps on the Wargamer background

Need to know how to play Top Trumps? Our simple guide will fill you in on how this fun, fast card game functions. Top Trumps is a flexible game that anyone can enjoy – especially as there are so many different sets of Top Trumps cards, from Marvel superheroes to cute dog breeds.

You may well already know the basics of how to play Top Trumps, but if there’s a particular aspect of this easy card game you’ve forgotten, we’ll soon jog your memory. You might also like these classic playing card games, or these fun, light family board games.

How to play top trumps - bug top trumps cards

How to win Top Trumps

To win Top Trumps, you need to take all of your opponents’ cards until you end up with every card in the Top Trumps deck. You do this by pitting one of your cards against one of your opponents’, and choosing a category your card is best at. You’ll then win the cards used in that round.

Top Trumps set up

First shuffle the Top Trumps deck and deal out all of the cards to the players. Players should hold their cards with the stack face up so that only the top card is visible to them. If the Top Trump pack does not divide evenly, you may choose to leave a few cards out of the game.

Then choose the starting player. Going first in Top Trumps can give you a massive advantage, especially if you know the cards well. Therefore, it’s usually a good idea to let the player least familiar with the Top Trumps pack kick things off.

how to play top trumps - three packs of top trumps cards

Playing Top Trumps rounds

The first player looks at their card and picks a stat. The categories on the cards will vary depending on the Top Trumps pack being uses. For instance, they might depict the height of an animal, the date of a movie release, or the top speed of a vehicle. More subjective stats or also common, like a dinosaur’s intelligence, or a dog’s cuteness.

Each player reads out the value on their card for the stat chosen, and compares them. The player with the highest number wins, and takes all the cards used for that round, placing them on the bottom of their deck.

In the next round, the winning player will select the stat, and continue to do so until one of their cards is bested. Play continues like this until one person, the winner, has all of the Top Trumps cards. If you run out of cards, you are out!

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Top Trumps ties

In Top Trumps, it’s not uncommon to encounter a tie, where two or more players call out a stat with the same value. When a Top Trumps tie occurs, place all the cards used in that round into a pile in the middle. Then play continues. However, the winner of the next round will get all the cards from that round, and all the cards from the tie.

Tying in Top Trumps doesn’t actually confer much benefit to those in joint first place. It’s not just those who tied who compete for the bonus pile. Everyone in the game gets the chance to win the extra cards.

How to play top trumps - a pack of YouTube trends Top Trumps cards, next to three of its cards

Optional Top Trumps rules

A commonly used optional Top Trumps rule is the ‘three cards’ rule. This rule states that, once you only have three cards left, you get to look at all of them, and choose which one you’ll use once the category is picked.

Like Monopoly’s ‘Free Parking’ rule, what’s intended to be a merciful bonus for the losing player, actually ends up drawing the game out a considerable amount.

There’s plenty of other ways you can mix up the Top Trumps rules. For instance, you could play ‘Bottom Trumps’, where the lowest value wins.

Like many games from the 80s and 90s, Top Trumps have become a collectible item in some circles. For more great collectibles, check out the best matchbox cars, best Nerf guns, or the most horribly expensive rare Pokémon cards.