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 Robert Cantrell, the author, is a professional strategist and a client of Atchity Editorial/Entertainment International



User's Guide

How to win with the Art of War Sun Tzu Strategy Card Deck

User's Guide shown below in PDF


Content: 54 Winning Strategies - Additional Information

The Art of War: Sun Tzu Strategy Card Deck is both a comprehensive collection of 54 winning strategies used for real world strategic planning, and a series of games for those interested in learning how to apply these strategies in more controlled environs.  Each card has a title, a definition, and a basis all pertaining to a given strategy.  Its most powerful use is through the application of the StratEffects™ gaming method to real world problems.

The Art of War: Sun Tzu Strategy Card Deck is intended to both stimulate strategic thought and provide ideas for solving specific strategic problems.  When using the strategies in practice, it is best to think in terms of applying described strategies in parallel or sequential combinations.  One strategy may provide the means to make another strategy happen, and several strategies enacted at the appropriate times and places lead to the goal.   

Card Suites

Whether used as a strategy planning tool or as a game, the cards are arranged with a strategic logic intended to enhance their usefulness beyond the ideas printed on the faces.  This logic is found within the card suites.  Each card suite carries a common theme paramount to successful strategic planning when handling conflict.  These common themes follows: 

Spades – Spades involve the elimination of something.  That something may be an adversary, an option, an objective, time, etc.  You make something go away.

Diamonds – Diamonds involve the isolation of something.  This something may be an adversary, an option, an objective, time, etc.  You separate something from something else.

Clubs – Clubs involve shaping the field of contest.  You create the conditions, such as confusion on the part of your adversary, that better allow you to accomplish your goal.

Hearts – Hearts involve shaping yourself.  You set your disposition as best suited to reach your goal and present your adversary with appearances that favorably influence his actions.

These suite divisions are gray or fuzzy divisions.  In some circumstances, strategies in one suite may take on characteristics of strategies in another. 

Your strongest combinations of strategies will tend to have at least one member strategy from each of the four suites.  Case in point, demonstrating a willingness to bluff – a strategy of hearts, may cause your adversary to ignore a move that expands the scope of the engagement – a strategy of clubs, which leaves him isolated by new alliances that expansion brings – a strategy of diamonds, which forces his elimination from the engagement – a strategy of spades.

Card Values 

The suites are also roughly arranged by the strength of the strategies involved.  But again, the strength of a strategy very much depends upon the circumstances of its use.  Relative strength is a gray or fuzzy measure.  Case in point, eliminating an adversary, Ace of Spades, is ranked as stronger than eliminating his options, Ten of Spades, since the elimination of an adversary usually also eliminates his options; however, circumstances may make eliminating your adversary’s options and keeping that adversary around your strongest course of action. 

Deliberate Strategy Innovation™

There are three basic types of strategic problems.  The first step toward solving a strategic problem is to know which type of strategic problem you face.  These types are as follows: 

  1. To seek a benefit A you must choose to risk a harm B example, to eliminate an adversary (benefit) you must expose yourself to the possibility that your adversary could eliminate you (harm).
  2. You seek a benefit A because harm B has already manifest itself example, you must eliminate your adversary (benefit) because your adversary has already chosen to try to eliminate you (harm).
  3. You seek to be one way and also be another way example, you seek to be on the battlefield so you can strike your adversary yet you seek to not be on the battlefield where your adversary can strike you.

The primary purpose of the Art of War: Sun Tzu Strategy Card Deck is to maximize the probability of attaining a benefit A and minimize the probability of experiencing a harm B or any more of harm B than you already have when faced with strategic problems type 1 and 2, noting that strategic problems type 3 tend to be a part of type 1 and 2 problems.  This is why the combined product offering of the Art of War: Sun Tzu Strategy Card Deck and the book Understanding Sun Tzu on the Art of War is so powerful, since the former focuses on solving strategic problems type 1 and 2, and the later focuses on solving strategic problems type 3.  Understanding Sun Tzu on the Art of War teaches how to handle type 3 problems such as:

  1. How to put your force at risk yet succeed with your force intact
  2. How to lead yet allow your troops to find their own victory
  3. How to appear one way yet be another way ( Deception)
  4. How to maximize the use of force while minimizing effort
  5. How to turn a strength into a weakness
  6. How to control a situation despite chaos and uncertainty

The Art of War: Sun Tzu Strategy Card Deck provides 54 strategies to make the above conditions presented in Understanding Sun Tzu on the Art of War useful toward attaining benefits, avoiding harm, and ultimately reaching a goal. 

When solving strategic problems, note that type 1 and type 2 strategic problems are similar in nature except that in type 1 strategic problems, you have the choice to act or not act, and in type 2 strategic problems you must act because you have no choice.  You seek to approximate an ideal strategic solution, an ideal strategic solution being a 100% probability of attaining benefit A and a 0% probability of experiencing harm B.  As you select strategies from the Art of War: Sun Tzu Strategy Card Deck to use in your plan, you incorporate those strategies that will increase your probability of attaining benefit A, decrease your probability of experiencing harm B, or both.  You refer back to Understanding Sun Tzu on the Art of War and Sun Tzu’s Art of War contained within that book to further explore conditions that make the intended strategies work.  Then you communicate your plan and put it into action.

Training Games

This Web site includes the rules of three games specifically designed for the Art of War: Sun Tzu Strategy Card Deck to include:

You may also use these cards to play any other card game suitable to a standard strategy card deck.  Often times this is the best way to use the cards to solve difficult problems.  You will see strategy combinations throughout the play of an ordinary card game that could solve problems your mind continues to work on in the background. 

Strategy Brainstorming

Conduct Preliminary Planning

To brainstorm using the Art of War: Sun Tzu Strategy Card Deck, first define the goal you seek to address during the brainstorming session and your parameters of success.  A goal should address the desired outcome of the challenge at hand.  Be specific.  The following questions will serve as a guide.

  • What is your call to action?

Specify your opportunity or challenge and put it in context with the nature of the situation.

  • What do you want to have happen?

What is it you want to have happen?  Do you want to eliminate or isolate your adversary?  Are you trying to bring someone into the fold?  Are you trying to extract yourself from a difficult situation?  Be specific.

  • How should the above happen?

Put an adjective to your intended result if it will help you specify how you will define success.  Do you seek an outcome to occur faster, with greater efficiency, with less harmful impact?  Be specific.

  • What are your limits?

Specify you limitations to include people, time, resources, knowledge, etc.

  • How will you know if you succeeded?

This is where you lay out your parameters for success.

Build a strategy with the Art of War: Sun Tzu Strategy Card Deck as a guide

Start from the end result you defined in your preliminary planning and work your way back to the beginning.  For example, if your goal is to eliminate your adversary, as described by the Ace of Spades, place that card on the table.  That is your end result.

Any or all the strategies in the Art of War: Sun Tzu Strategy Card Deck, executed in sequence or in parallel, may assist you in accomplishing the above goal/end result.  Browse through the cards and set aside those that you wish to enact.  Incorporate those into your plan.  For example, you might determine that expanding the scope of the engagement, a strategy described by the Jack of Spades, might help you eliminate your adversary because expanding the scope of the engagement will cause your adversary to surrender, effectively eliminating him.  Specify what, in the example, expanding the scope of the engagement means to you.  Perhaps it brings to the table another nation’s military power, perhaps it brings to the table another investor, or perhaps it brings into play the legal power of a partner corporation.  Put into your plan the actions necessary to increase the scope of the engagement as desired.

To continue with the above example in more depth, consider all aspects of physical, psychological, and moral power in your planning.  As you continue to review the cards in the above example, perhaps you realize that just threatening to increase the scope of the engagement above will likely produce the same desired result as the actual expansion, this derived from the card Create Something from Nothing, Queen of Hearts, which involves bluffing.  This being so, you incorporate the element of bluff into your planning along with any elements required to make your bluffing credible.  Bluffing is a common way to leave an adversary guessing about the nature and extent of your actual power, and brings into play competitive psychology. 

The combinations of cards as exemplified above are infinite, just like the combinations of musical notes from a musical instrument.  In actual practice, producing a total strategy is and always will be an art.  The Art of War: Sun Tzu Strategy Card Deck serves as your guide so that you have ideas already proved to work readily available for both deliberate and crisis planning.   

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