Becoming a Shogun is no easy feat. To be the best, you have to show your worth, and what’s worth more than land and bridges in the early 1600s? In Martial Art, you are fighting your opponents for claim to the lands and bridges. Each land and bridge is worth points, and the first to twelve land points (or three bridge cards) wins Martial Art.
About the Game
Martial Art is a two player game (or up to four with two copies) in which players are battling for victory over lands. Players begin with a hand of four random Battle Cards drawn from a shuffled deck of Battle cards, plus one Supplies Battle card. An additional shuffled deck of Land cards is set near the players with one card revealed. This is the card player will battle for in the first round. Players will battle over a series of rounds until one player has won enough lands to reach 12 points or 3 bridges.
Players start each round by choosing a card from their hand to use in battle. Once all players have chosen, players simultaneously reveal their Battle cards. Some Battle and Land cards will have effects that might occur at certain points during battle such as upon card reveal, or after the battle has finished. Other cards might be what are called Support cards: they can be played out of order and provide aid. Once effects are resolved appropriately, players will compare their card’s strength. The strength is the number on their card plus any effects that may change the strength. The strongest player wins the land card.
After the round ends, players will draw a new card from the battle deck for their hand, will reveal a new land card to battle over, and will begin a new battle.
Martial Art is really focused around luck. Yes, there is some strategy to be had when using Support cards during battle, but that’s about it. Players begin the game with a totally random hand (except for the Supplies card) so you can’t really make an educated guess as to what your opponent has in hand. You’re going into battle blind. Some cards are really important because of this, like the Scout. The Scout Support card allows a player to discard the Scout to look at another player’s hand. This will give you a huge advantage and will allow you to form a real strategy with the hand you’re given.
I automatically give bonus points in my mind to games when I can read through the rules one time and get it. This game is one those. Zero ambiguity, every question I had was answered as I continued to read the rules. Many props to Spider-Goat Games for the excellent rules.
The art is all public domain, so you’ve most likely seen the art before, especially the back of the land cards, which is the famous The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai.
The game comes in a tuck box which can come apart much faster than a standard game box. The cards are linen finish, so they should last a good while, but I would suggest sleeving them to preserve the cards as the tuck box starts to develop dings.
Is It Fun?
Yep. Well…Ok here’s the thing. I enjoy playing Martial Art, and all those I’ve played with enjoyed it as well. The only potential issue is the luck aspect. Sometimes you just don’t do well, and after a few games it can become discouraging. It’s best as a filler (it’s also a filler time kinda game, about 15-20 minutes). The game doesn’t take up space so it travels well and can be played pretty much anywhere. I like that Spider-Goat accommodated for up to four players by making two decks able to merge, but I think I would have liked MORE so one box, 2-4 players ready, with a LOT more artwork. The amount of art in the public domain is practically endless, and this game would benefit from more art. Maybe an expansion in the future…?
Find more information about Martial Art on SpiderGoatGames.com.