Gameplay Mechanics


In a two player game, the goal is to get the opponent down to zero health points or less. There is no time limit so a balanced game can be played as quickly as 10 minutes or as drawn out as 30 minutes depending on your fighting strategies. Though the starter decks come pre-constructed with 54 cards, you can have as many cards in your deck as you want, though only 4 maximum of each card. A deck can not have less than 50 cards and there is no maximum hand size (meaning, you can have over 7 cards in your hand if you choose to.)

Martial Arts: The Trading Card Game‘s play mechanic is unique in that you don’t require resources to play cards from your hand (with the exception of Strategy Cards). So keep in mind that you can play moves directly from your hand to act or react to your opponent.


Here is how your side of the table will look. On the right you have your Main Deck. Next to it you have the Discard Area, a place to discard cards that have been discarded from your hand or Main deck.

In front of you is where you will play your cards, called the Battle Area. There is no special order or arrangements these cards need to be in. The cards just need to be face up when played so your opponent can see what card you just played. If you play an Event Card then you would place it just above your Main Deck.

The board looks like this:



When you begin the game, you and your opponent have 30 health points. You both have your Main deck and possibly a Sideboard (see weapons & illegal moves below.) You and your opponent must shuffle your Main deck then draw 7 cards. You and your opponent decide who goes first and initiates the fight. Keep in mind every player has the following Phases of their turn:

1. Draw Phase – At the start of your turn, you draw 3 cards from your Main Deck. At the same time, your opponent draws 2 cards. *(Note: If this is the start of the game, neither player draws until the next player’s turn begins.)

2. Prep Phase – You can play Event Cards or Strategy Cards during this time

3. Attack Phase – You declare your attack by playing Attack Cards

4. Block Phase – Your opponent has a chance to play their Defense Cards or Strategy Cards to react to your attack

4b. Continued Attack Phase – If it’s still your turn, you may declare another attack

5. Resolve Phase – You can play Event Cards or Strategy Cards during this time

6. End Turn – You are declaring it is the end of your turn and the beginning of your opponent’s turn.

*(Note that if you run out of cards in your Main Deck you will skip 1 turn and reshuffle your deck, giving your opponent a chance to attack you again. This is called the Recovery Phase. Think of it as if you lost all your stamina and are waiting for your second wind.)


There are Attack Cards, Defense Cards, Strategy Cards, and Event Cards you can play.



You’ll notice on the card, there is the name of the move on the upper left, the style of martial arts under it and the effect the move does described in the text. Most attacks will have a different effect that will change the direction of the game depending on how you play it. On the bottom, you see the ATK or attack value. This is how much damage this move does if it attacks your opponent unblocked.

The second is the DEF or defense value. Although there are specific Defense cards in the game, sometimes you’ll find that you don’t have one in your hand. Just like in martial arts, an attack can also be your block, though the amount of damage it absorbs is significantly lower than a normal Defense Card. If your opponent attacks you, you can choose to play an Attack Card from your hand as a block to defend from the attack. *(If someone attacks you with an attack of 3 and your defense value is 1, then you will defend for 1 damage and still have to take 2 damage against your total health point.)

Next we have a LNK or Linker value. When you successfully hit your opponent with an attack, you may follow up with another move that has a CPT (Connect Point) of equal or greater the Linker value. By hitting the opponent in succession without being blocked, you create what are called Combos. *(As long as you successfully hit someone more than once, it’s considered a combo.) This means that if your attack is successful then you can play another attack. You can keep playing attacks consecutively until it is successfully defended or the attack is neutralized. Although your combo is broken by your opponent defending, unless they counter-attack or take over the attack phase, you can choose to attack again, starting the ability to gain combos all over again.


Shin Block

The next type of card is the Defense Card. They absorb the normal amount of damage compared to using an attack card as a defense. Defense Cards most likely will have special abilities just like Attack Cards but if you notice, they only have Defense and Linker Values. If you your opponent attacks you, during the Block Phase you have the option to play a Defense Card (or Strategy Card) before the attack is considered “Successful” and damage is calculated against your health points. If you successfully play your defense card and choose not to do anything else, your Block Phase is over and your opponent can declare another attack since it is still their turn. *(If someone attacks you with an attack of 3 and your defense value is 1, then you will defend for 1 damage and still have to take 2 damage against your total health point.)

So why do defense cards have linker values? So you can do counter attacks! Just like with Attack Cards, you can play an attack following your defense while in the Block Phase if the CPT value of the attack is equal or less than the Linker value on the Defense card. This counter-attack interrupts your opponent’s turn, giving you the ability to continue attacking. *(If this happens, you continue at the Attack Phase and ignore the Draw and Prep Phases.)  Once you counter-attack, your opponent then enters their Block Phase and has a chance to counter-attack you and interrupt your turn. This can go on as many times until someone breaks the cycle.Whoever ends up controlling the turn last, continues to the Resolve and End Turn Phase. This means that if for example, you ended the turn by making the last moves, your opponent will then begin their turn and start with the Draw Phase.

*(Note: When counter-attacking, if the attack was successful, you are able to perform combos since it is considered an attack phase. Also, after you guard then successfully attack, you will earn 1 ADR point as it will start your combo.)



On the top right corner of all Strategy Cards are an ADR or Adrenaline point value. Every successful combo earns you one adrenaline point. You can save these points throughout the game to use on Strategy Cards. Once you use these points, they are gone and you have to earn them again through more combos. Strategy Cards are used in the Prep Phase, Attack Phase, Defense Phase, and/or the Resolve Phase.


Sudden Rain

The last type of card are Event Cards. These are played at the beginning of your turn during the Prep Phase or right before the end of your turn during the Resolve Phase. Event Cards can be pretty powerful and definitely a game changer but they will always affect both you and your opponent no matter if the results are rewarding or punishing. There can be only one event card in play per player at a time. Once you play and Event Card, the only way to get rid of it is to replace it with another Event Card. If you have one in play, your opponent can also have one Event Card in play. Keep in mind that you can not replace your opponent’s Event Card with yours.


Weapon and Illegal Move cards consist of their own Attack and Defense cards. In “Normal Play”, you and your opponent do not use these cards because of the unfair advantage it might cause. Instead, we put these in a Sideboard where we only play them if the opponent and you mutually agree before the game begins that you will play with them. This type of game play is called “Anything Goes”. All the ruling is the same, except for the addition of these cards to your deck.


In addition to Normal Play and Anything Goes, here are the following extra modes of play:

1. Championship Play (Up to 20 Players): This is a bracket style play where players fight in pairs to eventually go for the champion title.

2. Round Robin (Up to 10 Players): This is where everyone will fight each other once and tally up how many wins they have. Any ties would be found Round Robin until there is 1 winner.

3. Two-on-Two (4 players): Alternate turns between each team. In this mode, you are able to defend for your teammate and or taking over the turn by counter-attacking using the linker. There can only be 1 Event Card in play per team, but you and your teammate can replace each others’ Event Card. Your Adrenaline points are pooled together but you can not use your Strategy Cards on each other.

4. Army of One (10 Players): This is a match where one “Hero” fights against 9 “Enemies”. The Enemies will declare their leader and that player will start the match. The goal is for the Hero to defeat the leader or all the enemies, depending on how you want to play. The Hero has 30 health points whereas all the leader has 15 Health and the other enemies have only 10 health. To balance the match, the Hero will draw 1 extra card during their draw phase and while drawing when an enemy draws to begin their offense. As well, the Hero is exhausted, after running out of cards to draw in their deck, every other turn.

On the Hero’s turn, the hero can declare an attack on any one enemy. That enemy can block or one of their teammates can defend and/or counter-attack for them with the chance of intercepting your attack.  The Hero has a unique gameplay mechanic in which the Hero can alternate attacks between enemies. The Hero starts attacking the first enemy and if no defense is declared, the Hero can switch to another enemy to continue the attack. This will also count as a combo and the Hero will get a +1 adrenaline point for every switch. *(So if I hit enemy 1 successfully, then switch to enemy 2 and hit them successfully, I would get my 1 adrenaline point +1 more for switching. If I switch again, I get another two making it a total of 4 ADR Points. Or I can switch once and continue attacking the same enemy and only get one +1 bonus for switching enemies.) If the Hero switches opponents and ends the turn with that enemy, it becomes that enemy’s turn. Try playing this mode with “Anything Goes” play for some really crazy fights.

If you have questions on specific cards, definitions, gameplay mechanics, or modes of play, please contact us and we’ll post the answer in our Card Questions and Errata area. But for now, let your fight begin!


7 comments on “Gameplay Mechanics

    • Hi Bob, yes absolutely! The combos can keep going until your opponent defends, you choose not to continue attacking, you run out of attacks or if there is an event or strategy card preventing you from attacking further. So if you’re pretty good at setting up an opponent, you can do a 4 hit combo and earn 3 adrenaline points in the process (this was the highest we’ve seen anyone doing through play testing last year but the sky’s the limit since there is no hand size limit)!

      Thanks for letting us know about the confusion in the rules! We’ll make necessary adjustments right away.

      Artistic Justice Games

      • I figured you could, but the writing in the rules wasn’t too clear to me on this particular point, thanks for clearing that up.

        I think my only other question is about adrenaline. Do you instantly get the ADR point once you play your second attack card, or do you only get all the ADR points once the attack phase ends? As in, could you hit with 2 attack cards, get one ADR point, and use it up right away to use, say, Absolute Focus for your next attack card in the same combo (thus getting another ADR point)?

      • Great question Bob. Yes, you can use Adrenaline points as soon as you acquire them without having to wait until the Attack Phase is over. So there are ways to kind of cheat the system if you can time it right. Of course on the other end of the stick, if you you play your Absolute Focus and your opponent plays a Strategy Card like “Divert their Attention” (Your Opponent’s next Attack, Defense or Strategy does nothing and is discarded) right before you resolve yours, then your Absolute Focus goes into the discard area and your Adrenaline point is still considered used.

  1. Hi there! Congrats on the beautiful game! Quick question: I am not sure on timing here: When I want to Link a second attack, but my opponent defended and wants to counterattack, which takes precedence? I am thinking the attacker has precedence unless the defender defended ALL damage, but I am likely just making that up! =) A little help!

    • Hi that’s a great question! In your example, you are correct. If the attacker is linking a combo, they get the timing advantage unless the defending player can defend all the damage of the first move. This also applies if the attacking player plays an attack, links, then follows with another link. In the rulebook, counterattacks are explained as if the attacker was playing a move without linking. Enter the Phoenix is awesome at shutting down your attacker’s linking combos by stacking defense. Tai Chi is also pretty good at completely nullifying attacks (keep an eye out on the full Tai Chi deck in our upcoming series 2!)

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