Pol Michiels
Belgium
Ottenburg
Vlaams brabant
flag msg tools
badge
Of all people who have nothing to say, those who say nothing are the wisest.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
NOTE: This will not be an in-depth rules review, since that's already been done in excellent fashion for this game. I will just tell you the impressions I have walked away with after a couple of 4-player, and a bunch of 2 player games.

A few months ago, after reading about it a bit on BGG, and vaguely noting interest, I got my hands on a copy of Ninjato. I feel ninjas are a very underused theme for boardgames, and as such am always glad to see some recognition for our black pyjama clad heroes of popular culture. I read the rules, and brought it out at the next game night.

The first thing I noticed is that the game is pretty. The board is dark, but has plenty of little details you start to notice after a while. The cards have beautiful images on them, that bring home the theme of the game. Round about this time my attention was diverted by the wooden throwing stars hitting my head. People loved those, and i think it was a good move including them. Sure, they're too big for the board. Sure, cubes or tokens would have worked. But dammit, we're being ninjas, and those shuriken draw people in from the start.

Rules explanation is quick and painless. It helps to follow the order of the rulebook (dojo, houses, sensei, envoys, rumors), since it follows the flow of the game perfectly. No need to go into detail on every card, but it helps people to know there are rumors for pretty much every card (envoys, rumors, skills, and elite guards) and that there are three styles, one for stealth, one for strength, and one that swings both ways. A quick summary of scoring rounds and end game scoring, and off you go ninjing people.

So how does it play? The flow of the game is very much a cycle of getting dojo cards, then making making a run on a house for treasures, then using those treasures to buy either envoys or rumors. The strategy and tactics in the game come from the when, how, where and what of these actions.

Determining which house to attack, you have to take into account a few factors: the sentry, the treasures, the clan mon, and maybe the presence of elite guards. Ideally, you want to attack a house with a sentry who is weak to your style of attack (strength (high cards) or stealth (low cards)), with high value treasures, and a clan Mon of high value for your opponents. Presence of elite guards can be good or bad, depending on your cards and skills. They are tougher to beat, but they give honor when beaten, and you can get even more honor with the right rumor cards. You are unlikely to always find your ideal house, however, and so will often have to choose. Will you attack your opponent's clan house to take it for your clan, accepting the meagre crappy fans on it, or attack your own house for high value jade and gold? If you spend your best cards and skills beating the sentry, will you be able to continue to the juicy treasures further in? These choices, and the push-your-luck behind them form the core of a game of Ninjato.

So now you've got some treasures, it's time to start spending. Envoys, especially early in the game, can get you plenty of points. If, that is, you manage to keep their clans influential in the houses. If your opponents remove all their influence from the boards, however, they can still talk about you in court, giving you juicy rumor cards that give bonuses at the end of the game for something you have accumulated (rumors, envoys, skills, elite guards beaten, ...). Controlling the three clans of the game with envoys, and controlling their presence on the board, is the second, strategic layer of the game. The sheer enjoyment of buying a crucial emissary, wresting control from another player after he has spent all his efforts to bring that clan to glory is a wonderful feeling. And if you are on the losing side, there is always the consolation prize (a clan can give either its influence on the board in honor or a rumor, highest influence picks first, second highest picks second).

Of course, what would a ninja game be without a wise old sensei who makes you wash his car to learn the wisdom of the ancients? Ninjato has three fighting styles, with three different techniques to learn for each.

Tiger style is the strong style, it helps you beat enemies down with brute strength. It teaches pyrotechnics (gives +2 to a played dojo card), Kenjutsu (changes the value of a card to 6), and Spirit (recharges another technique for use).

Snake style is the sneaky style, used for stealth. It teaches Infiltration (-2 to a dojo card), concealment (change value to 0) and espionage (after a run, succesful or not, you can swap a treasure you stole for another in the house, great for getting high value treasure if you fail to complete a house).

Crane style is the in-between style. It teaches unarmed combat (+/-1 to a dojo card), tactics (counts as you playing a 2 or 4 card), and harmony (switch from strength to stealth, or the other way, during a run).

You can freely mix and match techniques from different styles, which allows for some interesting combinations, but each new style you want to start will cost you a dojo card (techniques from styles you already have are free).

Having played with all styles, I can say that they are pretty well balanced, with no plain overpowered cards. I personally fell in love with crane style, but have had good results from both tiger and snake as well. The reason I love crane is that it generally doesn't matter what dojo cards you get. Snake and Tiger are a little more dependent on this, since they focus on one type of approach. That being said, snake and tiger generally have it easier to defeat elite guards, who regularly have defense values of 0 or 6, hard to beat for crane style. Then again, tiger+snake doesn't combine so well, while a crane approach can easily incorporate techniques from both other styles.

The rumor deck gives you the opportunity to score extra points if you have a lot of a certain type of card. This is, in my opinion, the most luck-driven part of the game. Since you most likely will not see all the rumors come out in a game, and getting three of a kind in rumors is a big deal (a set of 3 rumors gives a big jump in value) it is entirely possible you will not see the rumors you need, and an opponent will. Denying them crucial rumors is an important tactic, but will cost you precious actions for sometimes little gain. All in all, I didn't find it bothersome, but I recognize that the rumor deck, much like the development cards in Stone Age, makes luck have an impact on final scoring.

So then the dust settles, and this reviewer is left with one big question: how was it? All the people I have played this with have liked or loved it. There was one comment on the luck factor of the rumors, and in another game a player would have liked more predictability in assaulting houses (he wanted the guards to stay on the house), but all the others had a good time. Even my wife liked it, which led to a bunch of 2-player games (see below).

I personally really liked the game. It's not overly long, scales well from 2-4, provides interesting choices with meaningful outcomes. You feel like you have control over how well you do, but there's an impact of variation and luck which means you can't just follow one strategy to victory. A solid game, easy to learn and teach, suitable for newbies, but meaty enough to entertain the average gamer.

As a 2-player game, it stands up really well. I find that many similar games devolve into blocking and counter blocking, until nobody is building anything because they're too busy stopping the other one from doing so. Not so in Ninjato. Blocking exists, blatantly in the changing of clan control of houses and envoys, less obviously in taking crucial rumors away from your opponent, but it always feels like you are building for yourself as well. Obviously, envoy control is less tense with fewer players, since you are competing with only one opponent, and will always get at least the consolation prize, but there's still plenty of infighting left there, especially with the disguise skills. I heartily recommend this game for couples, especially since it will also play well with children.
50 
 Thumb up
1.50
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jonathan Tullsen
United States
Tigard
Oregon
flag msg tools
The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet.
badge
Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Yeah, great review. I love this game and really want to buy it soon
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Leon van Klarenbosch
Netherlands
Maarssen
Utrecht
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for this great, clear review. It seriously helped me getting an idea of the game.

Thumbs up for the Karate Kid reference.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jonathan Tullsen
United States
Tigard
Oregon
flag msg tools
The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet.
badge
Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Yesssssss!!!!! Now I am buying it! I cant wait to get it!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
jonathan schleyer
United States
Manhattan Beach
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Fantastic review. It really describes the experience of playing the game. I received the game from Santa and I've played it twice. So far I really love it. The theme is awesome and the mechanics are really fun.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jean-Christophe Gareau
Canada
Rouyn-Noranda
Québec
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Boscrossos wrote:

I personally really liked the game. It's not overly long, scales well from 2-4, provides interesting choices with meaningful outcomes. You feel like you have control over how well you do, but there's an impact of variation and luck which means you can't just follow one strategy to victory. A solid game, easy to learn and teach, suitable for newbies, but meaty enough to entertain the average gamer.



Exactly what I thought of the game!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gregory Curtis
United States
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review.

I just ordered this game and expect it in the next day or so. I ended up ordering this after Draken's video components thing that I watched a few days ago.

The thing that really made me instantly order this was I have heard several references from people on similarities in some mechanics to Stone age and even Age of Empires 3.

Now...I have a collection of around 40+ games now but....my wife will only gladly play 2 games. You guessed them...Stone Age and AoE3. Those are her two favorite games by far. So hearing from the devs video that AoE3 was their original influence and then seeing the mechanics and the new twist of the push your luck mechanic....I was sold.

Cant wait.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Wade Nelson
United States
Golden Valley
Minnesota
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review! We've played with two and three players, and both games were fun. The end of your review captured the finer aspects of the two-player game very well. The game feels a little different with two, but it doesn't feel like lesser of a game with only two players.

Ninjato is a game that feels solid all around without being overly complex. The rules are light enough, but there are some tense moments throughout the game. I see this game getting a lot of play with us.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.