I would like to identify the name of a certain gameplay mechanism. It is fairly commonly seen but probably best illustrated with card games:

A game played with a pack of cards usually has card values ordered in the following way:

A > K > Q > J > 10 > 9 > 8 > 7 > 6 > 5 > 4 > 3 > 2

Sometimes the lowest-ranked card (in this case 2) is specially ruled to trump the highest-ranked card (in this case A). Is there a proper name for such a mechanism?


2 Answers 2


It sounds like you are describing an extension of the rock-paper-scissors mechanic whereby every piece/card/token can defeat at least one other piece/card/token.

(Your question made me think of Stratego, and specifically of the few pieces like the low-ranked Spy who can defeat the otherwise-top-ranked Marshal and the Miner who can defuse bombs.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ yes, I believe you described something similiar as featured in Stratego, but I did not consider what I had in mind as an extension of that (rock-paper-scissors). An interesting perspective however. \$\endgroup\$
    – prusswan
    Jul 26, 2011 at 16:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Exception" might be the word you're looking for; I'm not aware of any game-specific term that describes this particular situation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bill
    Jul 26, 2011 at 23:17
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The mathematical term for this is a "non-transitive" relation. If the "beats" relation was transitive, then "Ace beats King" and "King beats 2" would give "Ace also beats 2" which we don't want here. So if one player beats another according to a non-transitive rule, you might call the mechanic a "non-transitive victory condition" (See other games like en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nontransitive_dice ) \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Dec 2, 2013 at 18:46

It may be that it really is just referred to as trumping, and that the mechanism would simply be "having a trump", or trump rule variation as AttackingHobo suggested.

This Wikipedia article discusses the idea, but it seems to usually refer to suit trumping.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "Trump" usually refers to a card that beats everything that is not that card - So 2 is not a trump in the proposed rule of "A>K>Q>J>10>9>8>7>6>5>4>3 and K>Q>J>10>9>8>7>6>5>4>3>2 and 2>A". \$\endgroup\$
    – user744
    Jul 26, 2011 at 19:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .