Katana is a short filler-length two-player card game designed by Tracy Alan where the players are duelling samurai. Each has 4 armour and 4 health, and you win by whittling away at your opponent's armour and health before your own is fully depleted.
Players each have a hand of five action cards. These show an attack and/or defend value, but some cards replace one of these with an action that affects players' kami. That's a separate card, in addition to the five in your hand, that gives you a special ability provided your kami hasn't been 'polluted' by an opponent's action or by your own action whenever you eliminate an opponent's health.
On your turn, you can attack your opponent by playing a card for its attack value. The defending player needs to respond with a card that has a defence value that is at least equal to the attack or they will take damage. Cards cannot be combined, in that you can't add up attack or defence cards to play them together, but each turn you can launch as many individual attacks as you want. Beware tho': players replenish their hand up to five at the start of their turn, so if you use all your cards and are holding nothing back to defend with then your opponent is likely to be able to dish out a lot of damage to you on their next turn - possibly enough to reduce your health to zero and win the game.
Tho' luck inevitably plays a part, there's skill and strategy in determining the most effective way of utilising the cards you draw, bearing in mind that all action cards have three possible uses. Players can also throw their kami card into a kamikaze attack: sacrificing the card in order to dish out a high number of hits. In addition to using their attack, defence, purify and pollute effects, action cards can be played face down as a stance: their stance action is revealed and activated only in response to your opponent's attack. Stance cards can sometimes prove devastating where, for example, they redirect the attacker's damage against themself. That means you may find stance cards played in order to bluff an opponent into holding back from a more aggressive initial attack. If you place out a stance and your opponent does not play an attack card against you, your stance is discarded.
When you take a purify action, you draw a card from the shrine. These are the equivalent of Chance cards in Monopoly in that they grant an immediate boon or penalty. You won't know which till you draw it, although the ratio of positive to negative cards is 2:1. In our Board's Eye View Katana duels, some of our team felt that the shrine cards introduced too much blind luck into the contest: it was annoying to find victory in a closely fought duel could be swung by the bonus or handicap awarded from a 'Chance card' draw. We otherwise enjoyed going one to one with Katana in a lively, easily played 15 minute game. The layout of the cards is such that they don't readily lend themselves to being read while fanned in the hand. You never have a hand of more than five card, however, so you can probably manage; otherwise, use a card rack so that you can see at a glance the full content of all your cards.
The edition of Katana showed here on Board's Eye View came in a tuck box. We're not fans of tuck boxes for card games as they are often an overly tight fit (as is the case here), they don't allow for even the possibility of sleeving and they risk damaging cards when you tuck in the flaps. In fact the Katana tuck box isn't even big enough to house the gameplay example book that's been produced for game. The game was on Kickstarter a year or so ago and that included deluxe editions in lidded boxes. If you have the option to get a copy in a lidded box, we'd recommend that.
If you have difficulty tracking this game down at retail, you can order direct at www.katanacardgame.com. Shipping is free in the US, and there's free international shipping on orders of four or more copies, so it could be worth clubbing together with some friends...
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