Martial Arts Game Design – Part 1: Tokens

A few weeks ago I posted an update on staying sane during quarantine, which included additional solo training tips. In addition to martial arts tips, it also included ways to explore your love of the martial arts that didn’t involve physical training. So, in an effort to practice what I preach, I’ve been revisiting the idea of designing a martial arts board game.

With that in mind, I’m starting a series of posts outlining my creative process, and how I tie in each game element to the real aspects of martial arts that inspired me. Today we’ll be starting with:

Part One: The Tokens

The basic premise of my game is training for an upcoming tournament. When you train, you gain fitness tokens which you can either spend to learn more difficult martial arts techniques, or you save up enough to have a bonus during the tournament. During the tournament you roll dice for each attack technique you’ve learned, and gain Attack Power (ATK) based on your results (the higher the roll, the better the outcome). You can also reduce your opponent’s ATK by playing blocking techniques.

So my first challenge became: how do I distill all the physical attributes of a martial artist into a handful of round, cardboard discs?

I looked towards role-playing games, a favorite video game genre of mine, and used a few examples for ideas. I took 5 “stats” commonly found in those games and decided to make those the basis for the fitness tokens of my game. I then had to find multiple uses for these tokens, giving them value as both a way to learn, and a bonus in battles. So I set out to integrate those tokens into the the game.

After some play-testing and tweaking, I wound up with these fitness tokens:


Equipment Bench

Probably the most obvious one! This token is used to learn offensive techniques, particularly punches. During battle you also gain ATK for every two leftover Strength tokens you didn’t spend on techniques while training.


Mastery Warrior's Agility

This became the defense-oriented token in the game. Because an agile martial artist is harder to hit, this token is used to learn blocking techniques. Additionally, during battle your opponent loses ATK for every two leftover Agility tokens you have. This symbolizes dodging some of their attacks.


Special Pad Drills

Every martial artist knows how important focus is. So often it can mean the difference between success and failure. In the game I’m designing, Focus is used to learn the most advanced and powerful techniques in the game. In battle, Focus can also be used to reroll your dice if you have a bad roll.


aikido sig centerlock

Since dexterity means being skilled with one’s hands, I decided to have Dexterity tokens be used in learning joint locks and throws. In lots of games, dexterity improves your chance to hit your opponent. To put that in my game without making it too complicated, I decided that you roll dice with more sides based on how much Dexterity you have. If you have none, you’re clumsy and inaccurate, so you roll a 4 sided die. If you’re very dexterous, you can roll up to a 12-sided die. Since higher numbers are better, this drastically increasing your chances for a good result.


Mastery Warrior's Endurance

After drilling on a bag in class, or sparring several rounds, you know how important stamina is in the martial arts. To symbolize that, I have Stamina tokens being used to learn the most physically demanding techniques, such as kicks. Also, the more Stamina you have, the more cards you can play during battle. Low Stamina? you can only play 3 or 4 techniques before you’re tired. If you have a lot of tokens, you can play up to 7 cards when you fight!

I Hope You Found This Interesting!

I’ll mix these updates in with my regular martial arts-themed updates. Whether you’re a gamer or not, I hope you’ll enjoy reading about how I’m trying to interpret martial arts ideas into a board game context! Stay tuned for the Game Development Update: Money and Buying Equipment.

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