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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Simple
  • Excellent art
  • Small cleverly designed box, travel friendly
  • Plenty of ninja-related fun for all

Might Not Like

  • Cards could be better quality
  • Some people might find it too simple
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Tiny Ninjas Review

Tiny Ninjas

Who hasn’t dreamed of being a ninja? I’m nearly thirty years old and I still want to be one when I grow up. For the meantime though, I have settled with the next best thing: Tiny Ninjas, a two player game of card and dice duelling thrills.

The game itself is delightfully simple; players alternate between playing ninjas from their hand to attack their opponent, who then plays ninjas to defend, continuing the fun and games until someone gets poked in the eye. It is through its numerous clever systems and production ideas that this game truly shines.

The Gameplay

Players start the game with ten health points (HP) and five cards each, drawn from a single shared deck. One player starts as the attacker, playing cards from their hand for their attack power to try and whittle down their opponent’s HP, while the other player uses their ninja’s shield power to reduce or negate the damage taken. The attacker can dish out as many ninjas as they like until they decide they are done, while the defender does not have to respond if they choose not to.

When the attacker ends their assault, the roles reverse. However, they must be careful - when the defender becomes the attacker, they are able to train more ninjas (which is to say, replenish their hand to five cards). When the attacker becomes the defender, they are left with whatever ninjas they kept back to defend themselves.

This rule means you have to channel your inner Splinter and choose wisely when it’s best to press the attack, and when to protect yourself. As tempting as it may be to go gung-ho and pummell your opponent into submission, you risk leaving yourself wide open to retaliation.

Most of the ninja’s attack and shield abilities rely on dice rolls to determine how effective they are, with some having the potential to backfire and wound the attacker. To greatly increase the variety of potential outcomes, Tiny Ninjas uses two special dice, called the Kunai and Shuriken dice. Each die gives two possible values - the Kunai can give black and white, or 1, 2 and 3 (with three 1s and only one 3), while the Shuriken die gives 1 through 6 like a regular die, or one of orange, green or purple. Each ninja power will call for a different result.

In addition, each ninja deals either red or blue damage, which can only be blocked by red or blue shield powers respectively, although some ninjas have yellow shield powers which counter both (Side note: I find it irksome that this special shield isn’t purple, which is far more logical, but that’s just me).

Players can also choose to include optional Sensei powers, which can be used three times per game. These allow you to defend damage, increase attack power or heal HP, and can be used as a handicap to help level the playing field for less experienced players.

All of this leads to a cut-and-thrust style of game; you play a card, you roll a die, your opponent plays a card, they roll a die, HP is changed accordingly, rinse and repeat. But this simplicity belies a solid tactical duel of wits, with an element of push-your-luck gameplay. It is much deeper than it first appears.

The Production

2niverse Games has done an exemplary job putting Tiny Ninjas together. I have already lauded it for its simplicity, and one of the ways it achieves this is by making the game playable in the box itself.

The box is a magnetic clasp design which unfolds and, by connecting two wall pieces, becomes an enclosed arena for throwing the dice. The deck remains in position when in play, and there is space alongside it for a discard pile. HP trackers can be attached along with Sensei markers, to track special power usage. This means it is an ideal game for travel, be it a plane or the back seat of a car.

The artwork is nothing short of delightful, too. Everything is drawn in a cartoonish style, with the ninjas themselves resembling bobbleheads. This gives the game a very playful aesthetic, but it is fairly picturesque, too. The artwork in the box lid, which becomes the dice tray, depicts a scene with a temple next to a flowing river. It is, simply put, very nice to look at.

The layout of the cards is easy to make out, with numbers and symbols which are easy to see properly. Some cards contain text however, which is fairly small and can be hard for some players to make out. The card stock is of decent quality too; while it is quite thin and bends easily, my copy has seen many plays and the cards have suffered almost no damage. Thicker cards would be better, but if that was sacrificed to allow the box to remain as compact as it is then it is a reasonable trade-off.

The Verdict

As far as travel friendly two player small box games go, Tiny Ninjas is up there with the best. It plays fast enough to be whipped out anywhere and any time, and is great fun to boot. The artwork is family friendly and it requires enough strategy to be worth playing again and again. It is by no means tactically deep, but it is much more so than it first appears and is plenty to appease most gamers. This should be a part of your collection.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Simple
  • Excellent art
  • Small cleverly designed box, travel friendly
  • Plenty of ninja-related fun for all

Might not like

  • Cards could be better quality
  • Some people might find it too simple

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