Japanese themed games always appeal to me and after all, who doesn`t like Ninjas in our time?! Also, Japanese designers always deliver fresh and quirky experiences, making me intrigued and eager to try them every time. Let’s see what “Ninja Taisen” has to offer as a 2-player micro game.
Goal of the game and gameplay overview
Two opposing Ninja Villages, Monkeys and Wolves, battle for dominance. All equipped with skillful fighters of three different arts. The art of rock, paper & scissors! You may have trained one or more of these when you were young, so you know the pros and cons of each.
The whole game unfolds on an eleven-space row, with a Village on each end. Your goal is to either capture the enemy Village-space or eliminate all enemy warriors. Will you choose violence or silent Ninja tactics? It’s up to you!
Let’s take a look on the gameplay itself. Each player starts with an identical set of Ninjas, randomly set in a standard distribution among the first four spaces of each side. To make things clear, as shown on the pictures, each player lays their cards on their corresponding side of the row, creating a 2D effect, so your opponent’s cards will never touch with yours. Each fighter has one of the three symbols on their card, along with a number from 1 to 3, defining their strength in case of a tie (going against the same symbol). There are also three dice on the game, each with a color that represents the corresponding symbol (Blue-Rock, Red-Scissors, Green-Paper) and the following numbers on their faces: 1,1,1,2,2,3.
Your turn is quite simple, just roll the dice and then you may use one, two or all three dice, one by one, to move a fighter of the same symbol-color that many spaces towards the enemy Village. Ninja cards can only move forward and because cards on the same space stack upon each other, you may only move a card along with up two other cards on top of it.
Up until now we have some tactical movement, some choices and little randomness. But here is the most interesting part, where the fight takes place, of course. When you land on a space with enemies with one or more cards, a battle takes place. The topmost card of each pile battles each other, following the well-known circle of Paper beats Rock, which beats Scissors, which beats Paper. The losing card gets discarded, the Fighter is dead and won`t be used in the game again, and the fight goes one with the topmost cards battling until there are no cards on one or both sides. I say “or both sides” because, as mentioned, when two cards with the same symbol battle, the one with the highest number wins (3 beats 1), but if they also have the same number they both retreat, moving one space backwards.
The game goes on until your opponent has no more Ninjas available or you have one or more Ninja cards on their Village. The last element of the game I have to mention is your Boss card. A veteran Fighter, boss of your clan, that has all three colors on its card along with the only number 4 in the game. That means you can move him once per turn, using whichever die you wish. In battle, he is the color of his opponent, so it’s essentially a tie that he always wins as he is the only 4. But, during a battle, his value gets decreased by the number depicted on the Ninja he just annihilated, making durable on a battle with many cards. It’s a very powerful card, as his power grows back to 4 after each battle, if not beaten.
“Ninja Taisen” is quick, exciting and somewhat thinky. I would totally recommend it as it feels fresh, yet familiar for even non-gamers thanks to its basic mechanic of R-P-S. I like the combination of luck and tactics in the game, making it more fun than a total information abstract, as you can have some unexpected moments. If you like probabilities, you are going to use them and bet on them as you make your combined moves to place your fighters on the most beneficial order.
IELLO always make high quality components and their art is my favourite element on their aesthetics. On this game, they chose to stick with the original Japanese art, giving the game a more authentic feel regardless the fact that I personally didn`t like it so much on my first plays. Overall, it’s a very safe choice in my opinion and will surely find a spot in your 2-player games collection.
The right mood to play the game
For starters, the game can be only played with two, so that’s a precondition, or you may want to make a little tournament as the game is that fast! If you want a game that is light but at the same time it will make you think and take choices, all in a very short amount of time, that’s the one. The game is colorful, even being essentially an abstract you can experience the theme, the immediate face to face conflict. Lastly, if you want an introductory and easy to learn game for someone new to the hobby, this is a perfect candidate!
PROS & CONS
- Quick & Fresh
- Puzzle-like battle
- High quality package
- Easy to learn
- Can feel repetitive