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Liberty of Thought #2

With the rubric Liberty of Thought we intend to share with you our opinion about many contents.

In this edition, we talk about the game Katana: Samurai Action Card Game which had a Kickstarter campaign last year, being predicted a second edition of the game.

We were directly contacted by the game designer, Tracy Alan, who sent us a physical copy of his game so we could try out and give our opinion.

Katana: Samurai Action Card Game

Official Image - Katana

Game: Katana: Samurai Action Card Game

Designer: Tracy Alan

Players: 2

Time: 15-30 m

Language dependency: Yes

Official page:

The first battle

The game was sent to us from the other side of the ocean, taking only five days to arrive at Portugal. All the way from the United States, it made a quiet trip. What we wasn't expecting was that after arriving at Portugal, it would take twice that time to leave the warehouse and get to our table. It stopped at customs services and surprised because in the content wasn't a real Katana in small size but yet a card game with the same name! Then, it was finally released from the facilities. They didn't have any reason to detain it after all...

The story behind the scenes

Being the designer passionate about Japanese culture and history, Katana reflects the path of two samurais in battle and with the wish to become shōgun (supreme military commander in chief of Japan). The play ends when a player is able to remove all the Armor and Health of the opponent samurai.

Official Image - Katana on the table

Talking about the components

The game version sent to us is the retail version of it, being about that version that we will evaluate. During the Kickstarter campaign the game was also available in other versions.


The game cards have a beautiful art and a simplistic iconography, making visually perceptive which is the objective of each one of them. They are pleasant to the touch, being what we consider high quality. The card finishing is also of good quality, allowing the cards to slide well (both at the table and between themselves). That makes them very easy to shuffle.

Action (50) | Kami (12) | Shrine (24) | Health (10) | Armor (12)

Additional tokens

There are additional game tokens representing Pollution and Attack, not included in the game or mandatory to play. We really enjoy these tokens, being much more practical to use them in replacement of the cards that exist for that effect. Nevertheless, they could have been from a thicker card or wood.

Pollution (5) | Attack Bonuses (5)

Game box

For us the game box is an element that deserves so much attention as the other components. The box presentation regarding illustration and information is equally good. However, it is made of a fragile material, making the box flaps easy to damage. After a couple of plays, our box starts to show signs of use on the central flap – and we can ensure that we treat the games always carefully. Other aspect that could be improved is the box size, considering the rule books and the additional pieces don't fit inside.

Front | Back | Top

Breaking the rules

In addition to the rule book, Katana also has a game-play book with an extensive example of play, both with good quality. In general, the rules are well explained, specially because they can be complemented by the example of play that helps to visualize how to put them in practice. Nevertheless, we decided to question the designer with a doubt or two on our first play and he promptly clarified them.

Rulebook | Gameplay Example

Game setup

The game setup is simple and quick, each player will have access to five Action cards from the top of the deck and one Kami card (that is chosen between three). In accordance to the diagram on the Kami card, each player displays their Health and correspondent Armor.

Game Setup


The game is played on alternate turns composed by three steps: reset the number of Action cards at hand to five, choose and perform one Action and, optionally, designate a stance card that can be used in the opponent next turn. This card is only used for benefit of the player if the opponent attacks on the next turn, otherwise it will be discarded.

Attack the opponent

To attack we select a card from our hand and present it to our opponent. On the other hand the opponent can select and present a card for defense. For each Defense card that the opponent plays, we can present a new Attack card.

The opponent can choose not to play a Defense card, then being a succeeded Attack that results in damage on the totality of the Attack. On that moment, the turn ends and it is not possible to continue the Attack. Instead of presenting a Defense card, the opponent can play a Pollution card and perform its effect.

Despite the fact that can exist multiple attacks to the opponent on the same turn, it is not possible to attack with multiple cards at the same time. In the same way it is not possible to defend with multiple cards at once.

Each Attack is directed only for the top line on the Health and Armor diagram of the opponent and it removes an item for each Attack point that is not defended. It can only be removed Health when all the Armor above that Health is removed. Once blood is spilled out it is considered that the Kami is polluted and needs to purify itself, gaining a Pollution token and ending the turn.

Attack the opponent

Purify a Kami

Each Kami card has two abilities: one passive that can be used continuously and another active that can only be used when activated explicitly by a Purification card.

The act of Purification can be used for three effects: activate the ability of a Kami, remove a Pollution token from a Kami or invoke a new Kami in case that player doesn't have one on the play area.

Every time that a Purification card is played, it is necessary to draw and apply the effect of a Shrine card.

Purify a Kami

Initiating a Kamikaze

A Kami can be sacrificed in order to Attack the opponent with the indicated value on the card. Other Attack bonuses can be added. Reflected abilities used by the opponent don't reflect a Kamikaze just like in a normal Attack but it cancels its effect. A huge different from the Kamikaze to the traditional Attack is that other subsequent Attacks are not allowed once the opponent reacts.

When it is used a Purification card to invoke a new Kami, it should be sacrificed an Armor as a part of the action. If you can't break an Armor you can't invoke a new Kami. If a new Kami is invoked successfully, the Health and Armor of the samurai needs to be reorganized according to the diagram on its card.

According to what happens to the Purification cards, it is necessary to draw and apply the effect of a Shrine card after attacking with a Kamikaze.

Initiating a Kamikaze

Pollute a Kami

The Pollution cards have the opposite effect of the Purification cards. During our turn we can use these cards to negate the opponent an Attack bonus or to Pollute their Kami card.

A Pollution card can be used when we are being attacked but it doesn't suit as defense. However, it helps to weaken the opponent Kami and forces the end of the battle.

The first Pollution card disable the active ability of the Kami while the second disable its passive ability. As soon as a Kami card has three Pollution cards (or tokens) it is destroyed and removed from the game.

Pollute a Kami

Draw a Shrine card

Every time a player plays a Purification card or initiate a Kamikaze, the player has to draw and apply the effect of a Shrine card.

It is also possible to draw and perform the effect of a Shrine card as a deliberate action of a player in a turn. These cards allow additional effects that can either be good or bad for the affected player.

Draw a Shrine card

Discard Action cards

Instead of performing the action of a card, the player can choose to discard how many Action cards as wanted from the hand and then draw that many cards again to be with five cards in hand when the turn ends.

Discard Action cards

General review

In general, we can state that the game concept is interesting and different than what we are used to regarding card games. This is a two player exclusive game and, considering we play mostly at two players, this is an aspect that we value.

The game setup is quick and the game itself is thought to be played on a short time frame, being perfect for when we have less time to play or to get on the table between two heavier games. It is also a game that can be taken on a trip for being compact, and it was already one of our choices to take with us recently on a weekend "out".

We can recommend it for players who like short games and with asymmetric powers, considering that each Kami has its own special abilities. That makes each game partially different because the samurais make use of these abilities to their own benefit during the turns. Another thing we like on Kamis are the personal values that they have associated (wisdom, agility, …) and that integrate completely on the theme and history of the game.

The fact that the same card can have multiple functions it is well thought, allowing the capacity for attack, defense and preparation of the next turn. Just like in any battle it can exist lucky strikes or bad luck, and the introduction of Shrine cards makes it a great representation of it.

Regarding the components, we should mention the high quality of the cards have surprised us positively, considering them really good. No doubt that the components quality is one of the aspects that we must value in a game and we would really love to have in our collection a version of Katana: Samurai Action Card Game with a stronger box and wooden tokens.

About the box, there were available on Kickstarter other versions of the game which material is apparently stronger. There were also wooden tokens representing the Health and Armor points for the samurais. Existing again that possibility for sale, we would have the pleasure of acquire one copy of a more sophisticated version, considering we enjoyed the game.

From now on we will keep an eye on this designer's work that we knew through Katana. Let's wait for new games from Tracy Alan, knowing already that there exist new projects currently in development.










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