Quick Look: Martial Art and Martial Art: Battlefields
Designers: Jonathan Ruland, Adrian Marrs
Graphic Designer: Danielle Barnett
Publisher: Spider-Goat Games
Year Published: 2016
No. of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 15 minutes
There can only be a single Shogun ruling the land. War has begun and only one will come out on top and become Shogun. This isn’t about clashing against your rivals in a single combat to the death, it is about managing your troops and their abilities to gain control of key positions. To claim the title, you must be able to demonstrate your skills in leadership and cunning.
Marital Art from Spider Goat Games is an easy to learn, fast paced game. With a single deck, two players can face off against each other. With a second deck, 3 or 4 people can play.
Martial Art Battlefields Expansion provides additional alterations to the basic game without creating more burden to the mechanics or the rules of the game. In addition, the expansion provides some updated cards for owners of the first printing. The cards were already included with the second printing.
I had the opportunity of playing and reviewing the original release of Martial Art. I pulled out the expansion when a friend and I were waiting for the rest of our gaming group.
Starting a game of Martial Art (with or without the Battlefields Expansion) is quick. The cards are divided into a War deck and a Land deck. There are also a few special cards placed face up on the side for easy access.
Each player starts with 4 War cards and a Supply card. You then turn over a Land card and let the battle begin.
Anyone who has played War with a deck of regular playing cards will catch on to the basic play of Martial Art. You play a War card with a strength value and at the end of the battle whoever has the highest strength in play wins control of the Land card.
The difference with Martial Art is cards also have other abilities.
Some of the Land cards can change what happens before, during, or after the battle. For example, Asakusa allows all players to discard and replace any number of cards in their hand before the battle begins. Battlefields Expansion also add features to the Land that can impact the battle. One is Fog which requires that when a player plays a support card during the battle they must also discard another card.
War cards also have different abilities that come into play. Again, they can influence the round before, during, or after the battle. Two examples here are Geisha (during battle discard this from your hand to cancel the effect of an opponent’s battle card), and Apprentice (after battle, take a legend card).
Players decide which initial strength is played and the support cards as the battle is engaged. Once the battle outcome has been determined, the winner collects the land card, played cards are discarded, each player draws a card from the battle deck, and then a new land is fought for.
The person to gain 12 points in land or 3 bridges become the Shogun.
Theme and Mechanics
Along with being an expanded version of the card game War, there are additional mechanisms in play during Martial Art.
When the first War card is played in a round it is placed face down. Players reveal their choice at the same time. This adds the opportunity for players to bluff. Players are then allowed to react with the play of support cards from their hand.
You also need to manage your hand. You have to plan ahead for future fights. There are times when you have the chance of knowing some of the cards others are holding and you might want to plan for them. The Land cards remain visible in front of the players, so you can tell how close to the end game anyone is. You need to think ahead about capturing the needed land at the right time to delay your opponent or claim the title.
Artwork and Components
Martial Art consists of 72 cards of standard playing size. Martial Art Battlefields Expansion is 24 additional cards.
The artwork is taken from traditional Japanese art. During our playtesting, the artwork caught the attention of others who wanted to see more about the game.
Quick to set up, play, and clean up.
Plays in a limited space.
Easy and fast to learn.
A single deck is a 2-player game. Two deck can play up to 4. We usually have 5 or 6 players at a game.
Martial Art is a good filler game to have on hand when there are just two of you waiting for others to arrive. It can also be a game that can be kept in the camper, trailer, backpack, etc. because it is a deck of cards that only needs a flat surface.
Martial Art works well for younger players who might have some experience with card games and getting bored with just turning the next card over. They can also quickly take up the game on their own and continue playing without guidance.
Players Who Like
Quick play and lighter strategy games.
Games that can be easily interrupted during play.