Calvin’s Commentaries: Martial Art Battlefields

It was just a year ago April that Martial Art from designers Adrian Marrs, and Jonathan Ruland was reviewed here.

At the time it was noted Martial Art was a game which essentially fights above their weight class as they say.

Well the ‘little game that could’ now has a ‘Battlefields Expansion’.

The card game and its expansion, initially attracted because of the art, which I noted last April was outstanding, at least if you like historic Japanese artwork.

“The medieval-themed art is outstanding. I could frankly sit down and enjoy thumbing through the deck simply to enjoy the art. It drew me, which I am sure was the goal, but it is good that it did, because the game is more than good looks,” I wrote back then.

The same sentiment remains for the expansion.

Martial Art is a card game of factions warring for dominance of feudal Japan, which I admit I am a fan of.

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.

This game reminds a bit of War. You have a hand of cards, select one, put it face down while the other players do the same. On the reveal of the played cards the highest winning.

But there are some options here. Various cards played are more than a raw number, having text which influences the results of the round.

So “as clan leader, command your armies and muster forces to find the tools to conquer places of economic and cultural importance such as the capital Kyoto or the rising city of Edo. But to win takes more than foot soldiers. Provoke a peasant rebellion, influence the emperor to support your claim, or even distract the enemy commanders with lovely Geisha,” details the company website (

A single deck is needed for two players, and you can combine two decks for three and four player games.

As you might expect the expansion adds a few new twists to the game, but never goes as far as over-complicating things.

There are two major new card types; terrain and weather.

The terrain cards generally influence your own play.

“Before the battle, you may play one terrain card by placing it face up in front of you (you will also play your battle card face down as normal). Terrain cards take effect during or after the battle, as described on each card. At the end of the battle, discard all terrain cards that were played,” details the rules.

Weather cards have a more universal effect.

“When you draw a weather card from the land deck, place it in the play area face up and draw again. If you draw a second weather, place it face up on top and so on to form a stack. The topmost weather card in the stack remains in effect until it is replaced by a new weather card. Note that because a weather card will stay in effect until a new one replaces it, a single weather card may affect multiple battles,” details the rules.

The additions do not overpower the base game, avoiding ‘power-creep’ that often infects a game when an expansion is added, which it a huge positive here.

Overall Martial Art grew on me after a couple of plays unveiled strategies involving both card combinations, and perhaps, more importantly, the timing in terms of when to throw a ‘bigger’ card into battle, or maybe sluff off a lower card has given the rewards available the game became far more enjoyable.

The addition from Battlefield freshen up this solid little filler game and is a definite purchase if you have the fine base game.

Thanks to fellow gamers Trevor Lyons and Adam Daniels for their help in running through this game for review.+

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