top of page

The Art of War

The Baltic state of Latvia has suffered centuries of domination successively from its powerful regional near neighbours Germany, Sweden and Russia. It's not the setting for C&B Games' The Art of War card game but it's where the publishers are based and the game's fictional kingdom of Etlia sounds like its history has been influenced by the Latvian experience as much as by designer Sergey Aparin's love of Magic: the Gathering (Wizards of the Coast) and Yu-Gi-Oh! (Upper Deck).

In The Art of War, the 2-4 players each choose one of the four regional factions and they build the individual faction decks that they will play with. In addition, players all have access to a common deck. Even the common deck is customised for each game - you're not going to be using every card. This is a big plus for replayability - no two games are ever likely to involve the exact same decks - and a welcome slap in the face for those annoying souls whose idea of 'learning' a game is to memorise every possible card combination; in The Art of War, a combo that works this time might prove to be simply unavailable the next time you play.

Having put together your army, you'll be drawing a hand of 10 cards, comprising a leader, four faction cards and five common cards. Initially, only the players' leader cards are known to the other player(s). Each turn, you'll be deploying a card to the battlefield and following any special effects set out on the card: for example, to dish out damage to opposing forces and to draw more cards. Health and defence tokens on each card help to keep track of damage. Some cards will allow you to add beneficial Items to your own tableau or cursed Items to the battle formation of an opponent...

This is a player versus player (PvP) combat game that maintains a good balance between luck and strategy. Obviously, there's a strong luck factor over the cards you draw but you started off by seeding your faction deck, so you know many of the cards you are working with. There are tactical considerations in deciding on the best time to play your more powerful cards; especially as some cards are very situational (their effects are only applicable against other cards or card types in an opponent's battle ranks.

The rules offer several different options for play, but The Art of War is intended to be played over at least two rounds. You get a victory point for ending a round (when everyone has played all their cards or passed) with more health points than the other player(s). In the event of a tie, the tying players each get a victory point. If you're playing a 'standard length' game, then a player needs just two victory points to win: so a win in one round and a draw in the next can be enough to give you victory...

It's a huge plus that The Art of War offers the flexibility and variety of three- and four-player combat, tho' we've especially enjoyed the game as a two-player head-to-head duel and as a two-versus-two alliance duel. The designer has set out to create a collectible card game (CCG) experience without players needing to go through the trouble and expense of chasing cards in CCG packs: here everything is all in the box. There's a lot of variety in the cards on offer, yet C&B Games have achieved this without frontloading the game with complexity: this is a game that you can quickly learn and play, and one where everything you need to know is set out clearly right there on the cards. On your first plays, the most time-consuming element will be reading and choosing your cards, and even that is speeded up for you by including in the rules the option of suggested starting decks. In so many card games, you spend ages thumbing thro' rulebooks to decode icons: there's no need for that in The Art of War. The game's theme and faux history come thro' strongly in the text and artwork. Our only complaint is that the title of the game is unduly generic - and, because it's shared with Sun Tzu's ancient treatise, it's a title already taken by several other board and card games.

Shown here on Board's Eye View is a preview prototype of C&B's The Art of War produced ahead of the game's crowdfunding campaign launch on Indiegogo on 1 April. Tho' it's already a very good looking prototype, the publishers have announced further improvements to the artwork of the finished version. We'll therefore be following the crowdfunder with keen interest. We'll post a link to the campaign when it goes live...

3,854 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page