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Nak Muay: Sharing ideas for a Muay Thai card game

I wonder how this is best done? Aside from the rather interesting way that MT bouts are scored (but that should, I think, be part of the game) my feeling is this would be a bidding fest.

Rounds perhaps divided into 10 sections.

Choose your attack for the first section (body kick, elbows, etc). Present attack with a bid.
Best bid succeeds and scores/ damages

Attacks have 2 different ranges: outside or clinch. E.g. Kicks would be outside, knees would be clinch range.
A reversible card on the table reminds players what the present range is.
Attacks with that range gain a bonus on top of the bid.
Winning attack defines range for next bid.

Punches don't get a bonus based on range, but instead they have their own inherent efficacy bonuses. Winning a punch attack allows you to choose the range for the next bid.

Bids come in different types
Low bids (1-3) can be retrieved if the bid fails. [A Naga design reminds us which cards are considered to be of this type]
High bids (4-6) cannot [A Garuda design]

2 bid cards are played together in one bidding round

It's possible to use a special bid as your second bid card. These are:

Tiger - holds the same value as the accompanying bid card. However, it invites an exchange of blows rather than exclusive success (if that makes sense?)

Hanuman - gives an extra 2 points to the bid, but must be played with a Garuda card. It upgrades the quality of the attack...they hurt more if successful.

Managing stamina and gassing out:

Garuda bids and successful Naga bids are spent from the players hand and must be retrieved if they are to be reused.

A player cannot retrieve a bid card the value of which is greater than the total number of bid cards left in his hand.

Hence, careful management of power is important.

My feeling is there needs to be another core mechanic at work in this game. Possibly an imaginative use of the score sheet might be important. I'm trying to avoid the game becoming too sprawling. Clash of Steel for example attempts a similar kind of strategic battle, but I don't think the layout and pace gives the feel I want. On the other hand, Yomi doesn't quite give the sense of the fight as a gruelling campaign - which it should be if it's MT!

Thoughts, comments, criticisms all welcome. I would dearly value some experience to go along with my inexperienced trial and error approach!

Thanks. :)


Perhaps an essential extra

Perhaps an essential extra dimension could come from something akin to a deck of 'event' cards where before each round of bidding, a card is turned which gives some extra outcome to a successful bid.

For example:
"If you win this bid with a Hanuman card and head kick, you'll get instant KO"
"A successful elbow this bid will open a cut"

This would add some luck and chaos into preceding - which I had been working hard to avoid, but which I now suspect might be a very good thing.

It would also allow a whole variety of thematically appropriate outcomes to be represented in the game without making the rules complex. This has been the main issue I've wrestled with. How to get the essential features of a MT bout into a game with only minimal rules.

Thirdly, it would act as a timer for the round. When we've been through 10 cards, the round is over.

Perhaps the composition of the deck could also be player directed - each player chooses X number of cards which get shuffled together. Or maybe even something less for thought.

I'm excited about exploring this mechanic feels right.

Muay Thai's interesting scoring system

Unlike boxing or American kickboxing, MT doesn't work by simply winning or losing rounds. How you win the rounds and WHICH rounds are a factor. Tony Myers has written some fascinating pieces on the 'narrative' nature of MT scoring.

It would be a pitty not to have that reflected in this game.

At present, the smoothest way I have devised of reflecting how MT judges work is this:

First 2 rounds....rounds drawn unless knock down (successful strikes are recorded but not used at this point)

Round 3...most and best strikes scores 10:9 or 10:8 with KD, etc...(like a normal boxing round essentially)

Round 4...number of hits from round 3 carries over, so loser of round 3 might work hard to win round 4!

Round 5...hit count doesn't carry over. If there is a loser by total ROUND points so far (10:9 + 8:10 for example) he must get KO. If result so far is a draw, round 5 score decides the fight. If round 5 also a draw, hit count from ALL the rounds (including 1 + 2) are added to find the winner.

I was very excited to learn about genuine MT scoring. It deepened my appreciation of the theme and has given a whole extra strategic dimension to the game...without adding complexity to the actual mechanics of play.


I should add, the system I

I should add, the system I have described is not "genuine MT scoring", but an attempt to capture its essence in an easily calculable way.

The bidding mechanism

Have revised, refreshed, reformed the bidding mechanic so that it has less cognitive weight but more fun decisions. (Also have completely dispensed with the system of Vedic characters as suits with different qualities. I've replaced that whole system with something much simpler and cleaner which I'll jot down in a post following this one.)

The bidding system

The issue has been to create a system where players could try to outbid one another to land shots whilst dealing with the ideas that
- the attacker should have a significant advantage, yet
- going second in a bid tends to be advantageous
- allowing the attacker to bid second feels weird
- purely simultaneous bidding doesn't capture the right feel either

I've been dwelling on all kinds of well known mechanisms for inspiration: everything from Top Trumps to Cribbage!

As it stand now, the bidding works like this:

Player with initiative (attacker) lays down a technique card face-up along with a bid of 2 Power Cards face down.

The defender's choices are
A) absorb the attack - ouch! But they get the opportunity to improve their hand
B) attempt to block the attack - guess a suit in the attacker's bid (different techniques can take different combinations of suit)
C) try to counter the attack with an attack of their own

Countering - defender lays a technique card + bid cards in the same way as the attacker

Then, the attacker chooses the winning condition for the bid - and the winner is resolved

Bid winning conditions -
1) highest total
2) highest card
3) pair (only a pair will win. Best pair wins)

In this way, although the bids are simultaneous, the attacker has a significant advantage (other than giving an arbitrary bonus) which permits deductive and tactical play on both sides.

I'm about to put together the first presentable prototype soon so any comments, questions or criticisms would be greatly appreciated. Cheers!

The suits

Power cards are 1-9 and come in 4 suits.
Suits are relevant in that different techniques can take bids with different suits.
Most techniques take 2 or 3 suits.
Techniques that can take all 4 suits tend to be the hardest to block since there's a wider range of possibilities from which your opponent has to correctly guess.
Likewise, bids of a single suits are harder to block.

So, when you are creating your fighter, you should choose suits that complement your chosen techniques. However, you also don't want your bids to be predictable as they will be more easily blocked. A variety of suits can make your bids harder to anticipate.

The suits are:

Ayy - associated with punches and elbows
Tee - associated with knees
Owayy - associated with kicks
Aish - goes with most techniques

Thus, a head kick can be executed with Owayy and/or Aish
A knee in the clinch can be executed with Ayy and/or Tee and/or Aish

To complete my update on the bidding system, I ought to mention also that a bid containing a Power Card 4 will produced an enhanced effect - as detailed on the technique card.

The decision to make 4 the 'magic' card was based on the reasoning that it's a difficult card to use because
- it's too low to make a strong 'Pair' bid
- or a very strong 'High Total' bid
- but it's not a good card for supporting a 'High Card' bid; efficient High Card bids contain one high card and one very low card. 4 is just awkward.

A good bidding system with opportunities for interesting and varied strategies is important for this game, so any thoughts would be gratefully received.


Prototype time at last

After a good 18 months of 'mental iterations' and play testing aspects of the game, I'm ready to produce the first version prototype for this game concept.

There have been some significant changes to several of the ideas in the above posts.

Power Card suits: Just 4 different colours.
It's simpler, cleaner and sufficiently abstract to not confuse or distract.

No "magic card": Enhanced damage comes through playing a bid total of 10.
This provides much more in the way of exciting tactical play.

Blocking no longer involves having to guess a suit in your opponent's bid. Blocks are now always successful - but they don't prevent damage; they only reduce it.
This simplifies play whilst raising the attritional nature of the battle. It's more fun.

The next step is to work out the effects of each successful strike. I expect this is the part that will undergo lots of changes with proper playtesting.
Each strike card will describe 3 potential effects:
Normal damage - opponent failed to counter or chose to absorb
Blocked damage - opponent chose to block
Enhanced effect - your strike landed with bid cards totalling 10 in value (this can mean more damage than normal, or it negates an attempt to block, or a few other things depending on the strike.)

Thanks for taking to time to follow this naive diary! :)

Further improvements/ simplifications

NO FIGHTER CUSTOMISATION (in the rules at least)

Previously- The game set up involved choosing cards to create your own customised fighter.

Now - None of this. Much more important to be able to shuffle, draw and start playing right away. Customising your own fighter deck might be cool for people who are into the game, but it's not going to be in the rules. You get the experience without it so it's extraneous as far as I'm concerned.


Previously - there was a system where players could choose to discard and draw cards to try to improve their hand as an alternative to playing attacks. They could also use their turn to add more technique cards to their hand. I felt this would provide lots of strategy. It did but the strategy felt somewhat buried beneath the variety of choices available. I wanted a more streamlined solution.

Now - You start each round by drawing 12 Power Cards, then choosing one to get rid of and replace with a single technique card. This will be your hand for the round. Since you can't change the makeup of your hand, the hand you draw and the way you respond to it with your choice of discard and technique becomes a critical decision. There is more urgency in your decisions now than previously and, I believe, more strategy and fun. Also, your choice of technique card becomes more critical. I'm actually having lots of fun just dealing myself hands and thinking about which card I should discard and which technique I should go into the round with.


Previously - When your opponent attacked you, a range of responses were available: absorb it (improve your hand but suffer the results of the attack), block it (ameliorate the results of the attack), try to counter (place an attack of your own and hopefully win).

Now - Still 3 choices but more interesting and appropriate given the other changes made. There's also something thematically satisfying about the third choice. It wouldn't be Muay Thai without it, I reckon.

When attacked you can
A) do nothing. You get hit, hurt, your opponent scores points.
B) attempt to counter. You play your technique and a bid. Winning bid hits.
C) "answer" the attack. You place a bid, but you don't place your technique card. Instead you use your opponent's technique. You will get hit but, if your bid is successful, you will also hit your opponent with their own technique. Only the "answering" bid will score points.

The "answering" option adds quite a bit of scope for strategy and there's something really satisfying about being able to outbid your opponent for his own technique. That will make more sense once I have said a bit more about how bids the next post. :)

How to fight

Each player has:

A deck of Power Cards. 4 colours 1-9 x2 (Uno as it happens!)
About 15 different technique cards - some good for scoring points, others good for various types of damage. Technique Cards are also one of 4 colours.

Start round
Both players draw 12 Power Cards from their own shuffled deck

Players take turns developing their hand: discard a Power Card (face up) and choose a technique card to take into their hand
A player may use their turn not to develop but to attack. This ends the development phase and starts the fight proper. The attacking player starts the fight as the 'commanding' player.
Once the fight has started, not further technique cards can be added.

Commanding player may
A) play technique card with hidden "bid" of 2 power cards
B) pass command (when doing this, may recover used power cards up to value of total number of cards in hand)

When attacked Responding player may
A) absorb the attack, with relevant damage, scores, etc
B) "answer" the attack: plays own bid. Takes damage from attack but scores if successful
C) contest the attack with attack of his own

Bidding (whether attacking, answering, or contesting)
Bids consist of 2 power cards
At least one power card must be same COLOUR as the technique
If both power cards are same colour as technique a bonus is gained (according to technique card)
Bids of total 10 have double effect and cannot be answered

If responding player lays a bid to answer or contest, commanding player chooses winning criteria
Highest total
Highest card
Highest pair (requires both bid cards to be of same value)

Remember: if both bid cards are of same colour as technique a bonus will be added to the bid value

Damage - 4 kinds. Depends on technique. Body damage cards, head damage cards (stars), cut cards

Body damage: if more than 5 body damage cards, player is paralysed and may not lay bids. A commanding player may free himself of 3 body damage cards by throwing away (permanent loss) a power card from his hand

Head: if more than 5 star cards, KO. 3 star cards are removed between rounds as you recover.

Cuts: more than 5 = referee stops fight. Cannot get rid of cuts!

Leg damage: ........still working on this.....


Forgot to mention range.

There are two ranges: kicking distance and clinch range

A reversible card reminds us what range we are at.

Range is significant because you only get the "pure bid" bonus (let's call it Range Bonus) if the chosen technique corresponds to the current range. E.g. At clinch range you could get the bonus for knees and elbows, at kicking distance...kicks. When a technique lands, the range changes to match that technique.

Punches: have no associated range, but allow the player to choose the range instead. A pure bid provides a small bonus, so punches can be good for changing the range.

Thus the following cards would provide the range bonus

Kicking distance range
Body kick (range bonus +6) [yellow]
Yellow Power card 6
Yellow Power card 8

If the colours on the range card match the techniques, it should be more intuitive than this rambling exposition suggests.

Basically, all the cards in play are yellow, so I get the bonus on the Body Kick card

A problem and a solution

Contemplating the bidding mechanic has revealed an imbalance that probably would have been obvious from the get go to an experienced game designer. It's taken me about a year for it to dawn on me.

That is -

The Highest Pair bid is too dominant.

Since it trumps all other bid types (only a better Pair can beat it) it's almost always not worth trying to counter attacks unless you have a very high pair of your own to play. And even then, unless there happens to be a critical issue - like you're about to be KOed - there isn't much incentive to risk wasting that high pair. Better (usually) to keep it, and wait for your chance to use it when you're in Command.

I think a solution would be to give an extra incentive for ATTEMPTING to counter. In other words, you get some credit for placing a counter bid, even if it's not successful.

The immediately obvious idea would be to say:

If you don't meet your opponent's attack with a bid of your own (either to counter or to answer/ exchange) then all damage+points are doubled.

That feels right. Spending cards against the Commanding player is about damage limitation. If you manage to actually BEAT the bid - all the better.

Playtesting continues (can't believe I thought I was ready to prototype a few weeks ago. But at least the game 'engine' currently only requires Uno cards.)

Where it is now

Long time since the last update, so the game has undergone some fundamental changes. I believe this is the system complete - not withstanding minor tweaks.

Posting rules in note form for now but hopefully enough to give the gist of what it's all about. What I haven't included is anything about Special Counters. They are quite important to the tactics, so I'll include that in a later post. For now this is...

NAK MUAY: A Muay Thai Card Game

The Cards

Each player has 2 decks. A deck of Power Cards (33 cards) and a deck of Technique Cards (21)
Technique Cards are basically of 3 range types (kick, punch, clinch range)
Power Cards are of 3 corresponding range types.
Any attack requires the playing of a Technique Card along with an appropriate Power Card.

Getting Ready to Fight

Each player draws 10 Power cards
Take turns at swapping a card in hand for a Technique card (which you select)
When one player does not wish to swap anymore, the other player may continue swapping
When both players are ready, the fighting begins
The player who stopped swapping first, starts the round as 'Commanding' Player


Commanding Player must play an attack

Play a Technique Card face up, and a Power Card face down

The other 'Countering' player must either:

a) absorb the attack (damage done and points scores as detailed on Technique card. Countering Player must discard any power card). Attacking player retains Command
b) attempt a counter attack - play a technique card and power card. Highest attack score wins - points, damage. Winner has Command
c) use a Special Counter to take Command


The card box is used as a Range Indicator - range is either Kicking range or Clinch range
Techniques must match the current range (punches can be used at either range)
Commanding player may change current range before his playing his attack (this comes as some risk: i.e. Special Counters Teep and Plum)

One exception - Demons. These are very high value Power Cards with the extra ability of allowing you to play any attack at any range (But if changing range, the player's attack not receive technique attack bonus)


Maybe be used at any range
If a player wins with a punch, he may choose the new range

Rounds and Highlights

The game consists of 5 Rounds (unless the fight is stopped earlier, by KO for example)
A Round consists of 3 Highlights (hands, basically)

A highlight is over when:
Both players have exhausted their power cards, or
The Commanding player has declared “Sud! (end it)” while playing his attack. If his attack then wins, the highlight ends.

These are very high Power Cards
Nagas have a value of 100, so can only be beaten by another Demon
Garuda have a value of 1000, so can only be beaten by another Garuda or Hanuman
Hanuman has a value of 1 million! Nothing can beat him, except another Hanuman

Demons also allow a player to play to attempt a change range by playing any technique at any range. NB Technique bonuses are only available when the technique is of correct range

Once played, Demons are not shuffled back into the Power Deck!

Points and Damage

Points: Several techniques score points. Players must keep track of their points - with counters/ stones, etc

Damage - there are 4 types of damage.

KO damage: strike to head = KO damage. KO damage wears off (see end of highlight/ end of round). Keep track with counters.

Blood: When a player is cut, take a red counter. If a player accumulates 5 red stones, the referee stops the fight.

Body: When a player receives body damage, he must add a ZERO card into his Power Deck. Zero cards are useless. They can (and should) be swapped away for Technique Cards at the beginning of the Highlight.

Leg: When a player receives leg damage, he must add a VOID card into his Power Deck. Like Zero cards, Void cards are useless. However, they are worse because they cannot be swapped for Technique cards.


Recovery - 1 KO damage
return technique cards to Tech Deck
Return any unwanted power cards to power deck, and return used power cards to power deck (Remember: don’t return used Demons)
Shuffle and draw to make up a hand of 10 power cards again

After 3 highlights - ROUND ENDS
Recovery - 2 KO damage instead of 1
Same but all cards from hand are returned to power deck? Or allowed to keep (a limited number of?) cards from previous hand?

That's the game.

It's taken a good 3 years.

I shall write up the rules in a more readable (and complete) way some time.

On this journey, I discovered a few ways a Muay Thai card game might be imagined. This way is - I believe - complete. However, I might now start developing one of the alternative routes to find out which is the best.

Special Counters

Special cards that can be played by the Countering player. In all cases, the Countering player will become the Commanding player, since he has won the exchange:

1) Catch kick - defeats any body kick (Catching player may change range freely. Moreover, a successful leg kick after a Catch becomes a Sweep - scores and ends highlight)
2) Sway - defeats any head kick
3) Check - defeats any leg kick
4) Parry - defeats any punch

5) Teep - defeats an attempt to change range from kicking to clinch (does damage and scores)
6) Plum - defeats an attempt to change range from clinch to kicking (scores)

Special Counters can only be used once per Highlight.

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