Set during the Japanese Sengoku period (the Age of the Country at War), Martial Art is a card game of factions warring for dominance of feudal Japan. The game consists of a series of battles in which players must anticipate their opponents' actions, build their hands, and manage their cards to acquire enough land and power to defeat the other clans and win the game. The cards feature historical Japanese artwork (Nihonga), from which the game derives its name.
What is great about this game is that, while the basic rules are incredibly simple, the diversity of the card effects and the necessity of anticipating your opponents' play work together to create a multitude of unique and intriguing situations.
The goal of the game is to accumulate enough points to win, and the way you get those points is to conquer land. Each turn you fight a battle to win one of 1-3 land cards (depending on the number of players). Battles are fought by each player placing a card from their hand face down, then revealing them simultaneously. The player whose card has the highest strength is the winner and gets to choose which land card to take, followed by the second highest strength and so on. Then you each draw a card and repeat.
That's it. You now know how to play the game. However, this game isn't High Card or War. Each card has a unique effect. For example, the Lord and Assassin cards below. These cards are prototypes we put together using Paperize, a program that creates card PDFs for use in testing. We were originally going to use European art, but artwork from the Middle Ages tends to be--well--bad. So we decided to theme the game around feudal Japan instead, and we are gathering the artwork now.
The Lord at strength 10 is a powerful card as strengths range from 0 to 12. However, as you can see, the Lord has a downside: if you win a land you must discard a card. And as mentioned already, hand management is a large part of the game.
Now the Assassin's strength is fairly low, but as you can see from the rules text, he is the bane of powerful cards like the Lord. If you think someone might have an Assassin, you may think twice about playing your highest strength card.
Below are a couple of interesting cards involving the card economy (hand management) aspect of Martial Art.
The Supply Wagon is your basic hand-building card. Instead of drawing the usual card after the battle, you get to draw 4. However, at strength 0 you are basically conceding the fight and accepting the fact that you will conquer no land this round with the expectation that the cards you draw will allow you to conquer lands in the future.
The Archer has a special keyword: Support. A Support card may be played as normal, or discarded for its effect at the specified phase of the game. In this case, the Archer is discarded before battle and its effect takes place after the battle. Because of this, your opponents don't know what you are going to play and they have to make an educated guess. Are you bluffing to get them to play low cards, or are you really just going to play a weak card and force them to discard?
This game was originally designed for just two players, however we began playing the game with 3, 4, and 5 people and found that it was even more fun when played multiplayer. Because of this the game can support up to 5 players, yet it truly works as a 2-player game that you can even play with casual gamers. For example my girlfriend, who is not a "gamer", greatly enjoys playing me one-on-one--possibly because she wins most of the time. ;)
The game design and development are almost fully complete at this point, and right now we are focusing on the production aspect. We still need graphic design for the cards, box, and rule booklet, and we still need to select the best artwork we can find for the cards. This process is moving along steadily.
Finally, we will need funding through Kickstarter to print the game. We are currently planning to launch the campaign in a couple of months. Because it is only a single deck of cards, the price per game will probably be in the $10-12 range. We really hope you will support our efforts to print this game! Everyone who has played it so far has had a great time. We believe you will too. :)