The International Game of Justice

The International Game of Justice is an educational card game based on the case law of the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of International Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The IGJ is designed for law students and international legal enthusiasts who desire to engage with international case law in a playful manner. However, the card game can also be played by and with non-lawyers if one ignores the advanced rules.

You can order your IGJ below. For expedited or bulk orders, or if you would like to order a customized IGJ, please contact me.

The 2022 Jessup Edition of the IGJ is now available.

Select IGJ Edition: Each IGJ set consists of 54 cards (bridge size) and is delivered in its own paper box. The Jessup Editions differ from the General IGJ in design only. Please allow up to 10-20 business days for delivery.

More information about the IGJ is available here:

The International Game of Justice

The Rules

History of Legal Card Games

The International Game of Justice

The International Game of Justice consists of 54 cards. Fourty-seven of those cards contain details about a particular case of the ICJ, PCIJ or PCA (see below for the list of cases included). Two cards contain an image of an eminent publicist. There is also one cover card, one United Nations Security Council card and two cards containing the rules.

The Case Cards

Each Case Card consists of three parts. First, there is an image linked to the case at hand. Second, there are four categories containing numerical values related to the specific case. The first category displays the number of dissenting opinions. The second category provides information about the impact of a specific case. The impact of a case is measured by the frequency with which it was cited in the academic literature using academic databases (the actual number of citations is converted using a specific formula). The Jessup factor measures the importance of a case for Jessup competitors. This value was determined by the number of citations to specific cases in the award winning memorials of the past 20 years (again the number of citations is converted using a specific formula). The fourth category displays the number of paragraphs and the year in which the case was decided.

The third part consists of two pieces of information: the parties to a given case and an abridged summary (taken from the judgments (merits where applicable) of the ICJ) of the key issues disputed in that case. The information contained in this part will be of importance for Advanced Rules: A.

Eminent Publicists (ICJ Judges in the Jessup Editions)

The two Eminent Publicist cards contain an image of Hugo Grotius and Bertha von Suttner respectively. The eminent publicists are of importance for Advanced Rules: B.

United Nations Security Council Card (Second Edition onwards)

Each set of the IGJ contains one United Nations Security Council Card, which is of importance for Advanced Rules: C.

Cases included

The current set of cards includes the following 48 cases sourced from the jurisprudence of the ICJ, PCIJ and PCA. These cases were chosen because they scored highest on the impact and Jessup factor scale. The data of the cards was always gathered with respect to the merits judgment (where applicable). The case names of advisory opinions are followed by the abbreviation of AO.

LaGrand Nottebohm
Lockerbie Nuclear Tests
Monetary Gold Diallo
Western Sahara A.O. Atlantique Incident
Certain Phosphates Minquiers and Ecrehos
Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh Oil Platforms
East Timor Temple of Preah Vihear
Border/Transb. Actions (Nicaragua v. Honduras) Frontier Dispute (Burkina F. v. Mali)
Northern Cameroons Arrest Warant
Interhandel Corfu Channel
Jurisdictional Immunities Anglo Norwegian Fisheries
Reparations A.O. The Wall A.O.
Armed Activities (Congo) Elettronica Sicula (ELSI)
Barcelona Traction South West Africa A.O.
Military/Paramilitary Activities in/against Nicaragua Nuclear Weapons A.O.
Genocide Convention (Bosnia/Herzegovina v. Serbia/Montenegro) Gabčikovo-Nagymaros Project
SS Lotus
North Sea Continental Shelf
Mavrommatis Palestine Concessions Chorzów Factor
SS Wimbledon Island of Palmas
Whaling in the Antarctic Status of Eastern Carelia
Oscar Chinn
Status of Eastern Greenland
Certain German Interests in Polish Upper Silesia
Clipperton Island Arbitration
Kasikili/Sedudu Island Pulp Mills
Lighthouses in Crete and Samos The Chagos Island A.O.

The Rules

All cards (except the eminent publicists) are evenly distributed to the players. There must be at least two players and each player must have at least one card. All players hold their cards in a face up stack so that they can see their first card only and the other players cannot see their card. The youngest player starts by selecting a category (Diss. Op; Impact; Jessup; Paras/Year) from her/his topmost card and reads out its value. All other players then read out the value of the same category from their topmost cards. The player whose topmost card has the highest value in a given category wins the cards of his opponents and places them at the bottom of her/his stack. The winning player chooses the next category from her/his topmost card and the second round starts. Players are eliminated when they lose their last card. A player wins the game when she/he obtains all cards. In the event of a draw, the cards concerned are placed in the centre and a new category is chosen from the next card by the same person as in the previous round. The winner of that round obtains all cards in the centre. Once a player has three or fewer cards left, she/he may look at all cards and decide which one to play in a given round.

Advanced Rules: A (Parties and Issues)
The standard rules still apply, but the player whose card had the highest value only obtains her/his opponents’ cards if she/he is able to recall the key issues and/or the parties of the cases in question. The player wins only as many cards/cases as she/he remembers. The cases which the player cannot remember remain with their original owners and are placed at the bottom of their piles.

Advanced Rules: B (Eminent Publicists)
The standard rules still apply, but the two eminent publicists are also distributed. Given their eminence, eminent publicists can turn any card into a trump. The player who deals her/his eminent publicist together with a given card wins the round irrespective of the values of her/his opponents’ cards (if combined with Advanced Rules A the player still needs to the state parties and/or issues in order to get all cards). Eminent publicists can be used once and are taken out of the game once played.

Advanced Rules: C (Security Council)
The standard rules still apply, but the Security Council Card is also distributed (from Second Edition onwards only). Mirroring the unparalleled powers of the Security Council this card gives the player who possesses it the choice between two courses of action: a) The player who possesses the UNSC card can swap all of her/his cards with an opponent of her/his choice; b) All players swap cards (passing their sets of cards to the opponent to their left). Just like the eminent publicist cards, the UNSC card is taken out of the game once played. Note that just like with any other card, the player who happens to possess the UNSC card must play the card.

History of Legal Card Games

Playing cards have been used as legal study aids for at least 500 years. Most famously the German Theologian and Philosopher Thomas Murner (1475-1537) crafted the Chartiludium institute summarie – a set of 121 playing cards designed to facilitate the study of Justinian’s Institutes in 1502. Although the cards were not very well received by Murner’s colleagues at the time, his students not only appeared to love them, but reportedly outperformed other students not using the cards. Nonetheless, the use of playing cards as legal study aids is nowadays much less common and there are only very few contemporary examples (see eg. here).

The International Game of Justice aims to reintroduce card games as a tool to facilitate the study of law. There is no doubt that a game of cards cannot replace the detailed study of cases and textbooks. However, the International Game of Justice helps students to remember at least a few facts about a few key cases. More importantly, the card game brings international law to live allowing for the visualisation of the ICJ’s jurisprudence and introducing a playful, fun element to the study of law.

For all those fortunate enough to have completed their legal education, the International Game of Justice is an invitation to rediscover the most famous cases of the ICJ by playful means and to compete with others in this most geeky of games.

Finally, the card game can even be played by and with those who are completely ignorant of the ways of the world of law by treating it just like an ordinary game of top trumps (with or without the advanced rules).