Review: Ninja All Stars – the sharpest katana wins

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Becoming a ninja is not in itself not so difficult. You only need to be determined, have sufficient time to train and you suddenly merge with the shadows and you move faster, than the eye can see. But its still not, what you wanted to be. Someone special, who will not only stand in the background, whenever something important happens. You want to become a true all-star.

Now, this will be the subject of a new board game Ninja All Stars, published by company Soda Pop Miniatures in cooperation with creative . Three ninjas have completed the game: , David Freeman a Deke Stella, although we cannot be sure about level of their ninja abilites. But this is not the main concern today. Its the gameplay and illustrations, created by , Elmer Damasso, , and , that will interest us. Game was released in and distribution company is .

Already on the lid, we will meet with six ninjas, that all compete to be the best. And we get the chance to become one of them. Even before taking the box in our hands, we can look into the interior through a small window in the lower right corner and peek, how such ninjas in board game processing will actually look like.

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Anyway, it’s pretty big and heavy shiny box, that immediately reveals its two surprises – a very thick handbook of rules (a whopping eighty pages with detailed descriptions of the various parties and specific rules) and also a separate paper sheet for league play. Further, players will unfold double-sided game board, which is unseamingly divided into squares. They are not drawn on its surface, we only find in the center of each imaginary square a small circle, sometimes with symbols of terrain (such as roof, tree). Simultaneously, wheel is also used for movement and distance measurement.

But hard glossy cardboard is used also on two huge dojo boards folded in half: these are fully illustrated on the outside, while their inside offers an insight into several rooms, but above contains some scales. In first case, it is four numbered lines for monitoring points. In the case of the second board, there are places to put deck, together with round counter and monitor of current moon phase.

The game contains a number of round cardboard tokens, that will be used to indicate various states of characters (cursed, stunned, poisoned, faster or slower), but also serve to identify objects, goals, medals or to monitor points gathered. But there are also eight white and another eight black dice with icons indicating various elements. There is a deck of moon cards and mainly miniatures of all warring groups, separated by colors. Ninjas group is the same for everyone and includes a total of five kinds of fighters. Aside stand miniatures for gray patrol.

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At the beginning of the game, players put game board in the middle of the table. Before they begin with the actual selection of their clan, they have to battle for initiative (rock-paper-scissors). Only after that, the most successful player can choose his team (one of prepared or create his own). Players will get also their reference card for selected clan. After that, they have to together select their one objective for this match.

Then, dojo boards have to be placed above and below main board. Top one serves as round counter, with token placed on number one. Each player takes a scoring token and places it on zero of his scoring line on the bottom dojo board. Dice roll determines, which stage will moon start in and players put token on month dial to mark it. This board will also be equipped with shuffled moon cards and each of the opponents draws three of them. Plan is then finished by scenario-dependent features, such as lanterns, guards, medals or shrines. Players can then finally select their starting positions from all corners of the board and put their miniatures here. Not all ninjas, however, can be simultaneously in combat, so all remaining characters must wait for their chance in the training room of their master.

Players alternate in activation of individual pieces within one round. Each participant can choose one of his ninja warriors to move it in any direction within the battlefield, while some spaces are reachable at higher costs. But it is always mandatory to pay movement points up to the maximum printed on the help card for a given profession. After moving, ninja can also perform one of the possible actions. This it not only second movement option, but also possibility to activate special ability.

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But it would not be ninjas, if they could not hide in the shadows. As an action at the end of his turn is also choice to hide, so it is not possible for anyone to attack this character. But such a possibility can only be selected, if this ninja is out of sight for all enemy units. This stealth mode ability then is turned on, until someone reveals the character. Again, as a counteraction for this ability, it is possible to search for the hidden enemies.

Most important actions are attacks, whether close combat or ranged. They are decided by dice, where attacker rolls as many dice as is his attack number, while the defender is governed by the value of his character defense. Both players are trying to reach largest possible number of symbols related to their ninja (in can be air, fire, earth, water, spirituality or void). Dice opposing elements are discarded.

Only then can opponents compare their accomplishments. Owner of a large number of successes can then select winning element (out of his successful dice), which will affect the outcome of combat. It can lead to injury, stunning, forward movement or pushing backwards. Ranged attacks can be performed only by some ninjas, but otherwise are done similarly. Only impact on the outcome of elements is limited. Result of battle can be influenced by playing moon cards, that players got at start. It is possible to play them for a common effect or wait for the correct position of the moon and utilize their full capabilities.

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End of each round brings with it the possibility of reinforcements, but also option to treat the injured ninja or draw cards. Players have to choose. Everything is just a matter of priorities. Players should mark their ninjas with activation tokens, which are now taken back.

Game itself is played on a finite number of rounds, that are specific to each task. Players then in the course of their efforts always gain points for something a little different. They usually go straight at each other throats, but often is also something else going on on the board – for example one team may be trying to slip away with messenger from the besieged position, while other is trying to catch him. But at all times, winner is the team, that has the most points after given number of rounds has been played.

Ninja All Stars is uncompromisingly conflicting game, in which is everything exactly as you’d expect in a game with ninjas in the lead role. You will really be punching each other into nose! But that will not always be the right way to succeed, because the reasons or means always will be a little different. And still, fights are salt and pepper of this game.

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An essential element of the game is the ability to work well positionally, defend your interests, taking advantage of shadows (it plays a crucial role in hiding), but also support warriors of your own party by correct positioning. Miniatures of both sides alternate, so both opponents have a good chance to react to moves of the other.

Very interesting are primarily results of battles. While comparing dice focusing on the number of hits is really the fundamental and not as different as seen in board games, there are other elements, that deserve attention. First of them is mutual elimination of elements. But only choice, what happens after is what can bewilder players. They always choose out of the icons, that remained active on their dice, and it may not always be good news for them. Sometimes, even the winner of the fight will have to put up with a result, that he did not intend.

Entire game is very focused on battles, although it’s not always your main goal. And fights are quite common. It’s just about who is better at fulfilling stuff. Rivals have same conditions. However, the actual tasks, that are available in the rules, are each very different and require a different strategy each time. Just that itself beautifully increases replayability of Ninja All Stars. Moreover, there is a great use of hiding in the shadows. Once a player enters „stealth“ mode, he can move and attack until he is revealed by someone.

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Game is very complex in terms of status and skills, resulting in the use of a large number of tokens and piles of texts. Often, therefore, you must be read not only yours, but also opponent’s skills, so you know, what you have to do. Sometimes, it needs to be repeated even during the game. And there could also be less jumbling with tokens, but it’s not so terrible.

On the other hand, it will not be enjoyed by anyone, who does not like luck. It governs the entire ninja world since the beginning of the game, where order is decided using rock-paper-scissors method. Then there is the random distribution of cards and there are dice, of course. But players still have movement under their control and can choose results of the battle. Luck is not everywhere and it is possible to fight it.

Individual turns are quickly going back and forth, so players do not spend too much time watching the other without a chance to intervene in the fight. Additionally, fight itself is pleasantly fast and nothing is too stretchy. Unfortunately, with higher number of opponents, time increases together with the overall impression being a little damaged and not so smooth. In two or three, everything works perfectly. But if you want to play in four, get ready for a game lasting more, than two hours.

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This ninja experience surprisingly includes the possibility to play league, which is other word for campaing with character levelling. It is ideal for players, who meet regularly, because it allows to have some developments in characters. They each have their own accumulated experience, which may allow them to rise on seven levels and with each new level, possibly gain some advantage decided again by dice roll.

Processing is quite great, as regards to appearance of the actual game. Beautiful pieces and amazing graphics everywhere you look makes Ninja All Stars game, which is a joy to watch. The only unfortunate element as such are rules, which are not ideally prepared. It offers important things and fluff in one brochure, rules themselves are scattered around.

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Ninja All Stars are despite some minor complaints great game, if you do not mind a big influence of chance. In this case, you get really fun, great-looking, extremely fresh and replayable fun. Ninja All Stars is a treat for all those, who love the world of ninjas or conflicting random games.

DesignerJohn Cadice, David Freeman, Deke Stella
ArtistJose David Lanza Cebrian, Collateral Damage Studios
PublisherEdge Entertainment, Heidelberger Spieleverlag, Ninja Division, Soda Pop Miniatures, Ulisses Spiele
Year Published2015
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 2, 3, 4 players
(10 voters)
Playing Time90
Mfg Suggested Ages13 and up
User Suggested Ages8 and up
(3 voters)
Language DependenceModerate in-game text - needs crib sheet or paste ups
(2 voters)
CategoryAdventure, Collectible Components, Fantasy, Fighting, Humor, Miniatures, Sports, Video Game Theme
MechanicDice Rolling, Grid Movement
ExpansionNinja All-Stars: Arashikage, Ninja All-Stars: Bakusho Mondai, Ninja All-Stars: Benkei, Ninja All-Stars: Clan Ijin, Ninja All-Stars: Clan Ika, Ninja All-Stars: Clan Kitsune, Ninja All-Stars: Clan Tanchyo, Ninja All-Stars: Clan Tora, Ninja All-Stars: Clan Yamazaru, Ninja All-Stars: Dark Kitsune, Ninja All-Stars: Hanzo, Ninja All-Stars: Howl & Yip, Ninja All-Stars: Inu Clan Kaiken, Ninja All-Stars: Jorogumo, Ninja All-Stars: Kappa, Ninja All-Stars: Karura, Ninja All-Stars: Komuso, Ninja All-Stars: Mizaru, Ninja All-Stars: Mizuchi, Ninja All-Stars: Mochizuki, Ninja All-Stars: Momotaro, Ninja All-Stars: Moon Princess, Ninja All-Stars: Musashi, Ninja All-Stars: Ondori Clan Kaiken, Ninja All-Stars: Onibaba, Ninja All-Stars: Ryu, Ninja All-Stars: Shojo, Ninja All-Stars: Sun Empire Wandering Samurai, Ninja All-Stars: Tengu, Ninja All-Stars: Uzumaki, Ninja All-Stars: X Super Dungeon Upgrade Deck 1, Ninja All-Stars: Yagyu Jubei, Ninja All-Stars: Yobuko, Ninja All-Stars: Yokozuna, Super Dungeon Explore: Super Ninja Ambush!
FamilyAdmin: Better Description Needed!, Crowdfunding: Kickstarter, Theme: Chibis, Theme: Ninjas
Primary Name

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: Ninja All Stars – the sharpest katana wins
Final word
Ninja All Stars is a dream come for any true ninja warrior. Throughout the battle, everything is set always on one common goal, through which all clans collect points. Game is dominated by fights, which are fast, but controlled by luck. And although classical dice are actually used to do so, it offers interesting new ideas to entertain you. Although the game was not spared some minor flaws, whether it is the slowness in more rivals, less clear rulebook or being too fiddly, everything gets trumped by gameplay, variability and appearance. Ninja All Stars has really sharpened its katana, that will cut your current favorite ninja game to shreds.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
awesome fighting system
excellent replayability
very conflicted
exciting game
possibility of playing campaign (= league)
precise processing
does not involve player elimination
common goal
Cons
too many tokens and their management
not easy to follow all the skills
length in four
poorly
planned handbook of rules
4.5
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