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born from an egg on a mountain top

Boardgames - Ninja All-Stars

Disclaimer: The following is written by an opinionated oaf and should not be taken particularly seriously. If you get offended, it's your own fault for reading it and taking shit seriously. No facts were considered, opinions withheld, spelling checked, and certainly no proof reading occured. Read at your own risk.

Saturday morning, a quick look in Dice Saloon after taking the kids to Ninja School.

"Hi Matt, you're going to love this new game we've just got in, it's perfect for you!" Some £60 later and I'm walking out with Ninja All-Stars....

We're ninja crazy in the household (there are Turtles everywhere) so it seemed a good fit. 

Each player fields a Clan of ninjas; like X-Wing, you have 100 points to build your team / Clan. I played with the pre-set teams, which gives you one of each starter ninja type. From what I could work out in that one game, there's a deathmatch video game feel to it all, as you have to Injure an opponent to get a point. Once injured, that character goes to a Healing Room, and after a turn moves to the Training Room where you can move them back on to the board. At least that's how we played it.

Every figure has a set number of moves they can do, and each the map has different symbols to show if you're moving over normal terrain or rough terrain (movement penalties apply), climbing up to elevated terrain (3 movement points), etc. You move, then your Action turn - Attack or Run, which is move again. There is a shuriken rule somewhere but I skipped that this time.

You attack next to the opponent (except the ranged guy), rolling dice with elemental symbols. I like this. You both roll at the same time, and then eliminate opposing elements - Fire eliminates Water, for example. Once done, look at the remaining dice. The player with the most dice left has won that little battle. Again, I really liked this, it's simulating hand to hand combat and the flow of it, so you can defend and still come out on top of the battle. It's a nice system I've not encountered before. The winner of the encounter chooses one of their remaining dice and performs that action - a Void dice injures the defender, Air moves the opponent 3 spaces in any direction you choose, Fire stuns the enemy and everyone around it (including you) etc. One of the elements damages the attacker! As I keep saying, I liked it.

You get modifiers if you have a team mate next to you, an extra dice for attacking behind someone, that kind of thing. It took me a while to get the flow of this, I really would have liked the dice elemental symbols to be colour coded to help - I'll probably paint mine soon.

There are also cards you can collect to play to modify proceedings, which improve if they are played in the same elemental cycle as the ever changing moon.

There's quite a bit going on really. I liked the theme, the elemental style attacks drew Avatar / Korra comparisons. The dice combat was great. A few games I can see it all gelling and I get the impression the game offers a good amount of strategy. There are rules to play in a league with characters upgrading over time. As a family game though, having played it once, it wasn't the smartest purchasing decision I have made recently.

I had a few issues with the game, though. The minis look amazing, but I've never seen minis that so demand being played. On a gaming table, I was having a lot of trouble tracking which one of my characters was which, and also what direction they are facing - very important as combat orientation makes a difference with the dice you roll and who you can attack. The detail is lost in the base colours, and the key difference between the figures is Old Man, Bow Guy, Guy with Katana in Left Hand, Katana is Right Hand, Two Katanas. I really want to paint them in an anime style, but that will be a job and a half....

Also, the game has 6 elemental Clans to choose from, but you only get 4 colours. Yes you can use say the Blue (Water) figures for the Earth Clan, but that kind of misses the point. A lot of the huge manual is spent showing the characters you can have, but you'd need to buy seperately. You get basic characters here, the manual is showing nice exotic characters, massive Hero characters, monsters, etc. You kind of feel you're missing out on a lot. If the painting is enjoyable and goes well I could see myself grabbing a few of these to have fun with, but I'm not sure how often the game itself will get played Sad

None of this is helped by the fact I saw the Kick Starter set in Dice Saloon and it looked very, very nice, full of more minis and lots of little goodies. Things only got worse when I was asked if I'd seen the Ninja Turtles board game Kick Starter. I've never done a Kick Starter before, I've always intentionally stayed away....