Full disclosure: A review copy of Tiny Ninjas was provided by 2niverse Games.
Alright, more reviews coming down the pipeline today! Weirdly enough, I wrote this like, six weeks ahead of when I published it (backlog!) so I don’t actually have much to say about like, what else I’m reviewing or what’s coming down the pipe or what’s exciting right now. Oh well. I definitely am going for Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition, today, though, so that’s fun. Since that was published like, five weeks ago, that gives you a sense of my rough timetables. Let’s get into Tiny Ninjas!
In Tiny Ninjas, you are locked into a fight to the death against your diminutive counterparts. Thankfully, due to your questionable research on what constitutes ninjitsu, you’ve got a whole host of animals, small children, and mythical creatures lined up to fight! Will you be able to defeat your opponent in single combat? Or will you come up short?
To get the game started, take the box parts, and put them on the edges of the box so that they’re held in place, making the Arena:
Give each player a health tracker, at 10 Health:
And let each player choose a starting Ninja Power:
- Red: A Red Attack does +1 Damage.
- Blue: A Blue Attack does +1 Damage.
- Pink: Heal 1 Health.
- Green: An Attack made against you does -1 Damage.
Shuffle the cards and give each player 5:
Set the dice aside until they’re needed:
And you’re ready to start!
Gameplay is similarly straightforward. Once a player would hit 0 Health, the other player wins!
Each player takes turns as Attacker and Defender over a given round. During a round, you may use your player powers once to enhance an attack, boost a defense, or heal yourself.
Let’s take players A and B. A is currently the attacker, and they will play a card from their hand. It generally will deal damage to B of either Red or Blue type. Some cards don’t deal damage; they just happen. If it would deal damage, B can defend with a card from their hand of a similar type. Red blocks Red; Blue blocks Blue. Yellow can block either damage type. Any excess unblocked damage is taken by the player. If the card played doesn’t deal damage, B does nothing.
Now, A may continue to attack as long as they have cards in their hand. Once they’re done, B refills their hand to five cards (notably, A does not) and it’s B’s turn to attack! Play continues until one player’s health is exhausted. The other player wins!
Player Count Differences
None! It’s a two-player game.
- There are several cards worth keeping around, if you can get them. The Vampire (can steal health from your opponent), the Princess (one of the best healers in the game), the Legend (can potentially deal 10 damage), the Alien (can abduct an opponent’s attacker, making it yours), and a few others are definitely high-value, if you can get them into your hand. That said, if your opponent notices that you’ve been holding on to certain cards for long enough, Baby or Grim might be able to force you to discard some (or worse, give them to your opponent). Be thoughtful about your hoarding.
- Save the Angel to grab the Alien or the Legend from the discard. The Angel can revive cards from the discard, which is helpful, but they can’t be used this round. Generally, that makes grabbing the Alien kind of useful, since you can use it to defend on your next turn. Grabbing the Legend is awesome, granted, but since you can’t attack with it this round you risk not being able to capitalize on the opportunity you’re creating.
- Use the Legend as part of a lengthier combo. It can potentially deal 10 damage! That’s all of the damage. Your opponent can only play one card to block it, so if you can deal 10 they’re guaranteed to take 4 (unless they use their ability to defend, I suppose, so they’d only take 3 with a perfect roll). If you use some other decently high-powered cards first, though, you may exhaust your opponent’s defenses and they might accidentally leave themselves vulnerable to a final knockout attack from the Legend.
- You can only use your ability once per round. Make the most of it. I find that the attack boosters aren’t bad because they’ll successfully annoy your opponent, the defense booster is handy in a pinch, and unless you have healing cards in hand you should always use the health booster. If you do have healing cards, use those first and then use the health booster, if needed.
- Sometimes you just need to risk it in an all-out attack. You’re not going to get any more cards if you play them all in one round, sure, but if you can successfully defeat your opponent it won’t matter. Use the previous rounds to try and sift through your deck and wait for your opponent to get down to, like, two cards. If you do that, you might be able to take them out if your cards are solid enough. No Solos, and you’ll need to roll well, but it’s possible. Plus, it’s a short game; might as well go out in a blaze of glory.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Very colorful. The dice and cards are all super bright and colorful and upbeat; it’s a solid game for that. The saturation helps, as well. Generally speaking I have a pretty known tilt towards colorful games.
- Interesting box layout. Making the box itself into the playing area means you can pretty easily play this on the go, even if it’s two people in the backseat of a car. It’s a very smart travel game design; the added edges storing the extra tokens is just even better, in my opinion. I think a lot of games should look towards this as an example of an interesting portability solution. I’m not saying it’s perfect (the cardboard spacers aren’t the most durable), but they generally get the job done and for a component-light game that’s fine.
- The combat mechanics are decently interesting. I like that they’ve smartly used the dice to simulate different tiers of outcomes and damage types with only needing to use two. That’s the kind of high-quality multi-use tooling I expect to see in board games.
- Simple to learn. The core game, at least. Learning all the cards will take a bit longer.
- Plays quickly. Fight, fight, fight, fight, die. That’s kind of about it, as far as gameplay goes.
- Game is a bit better once you know all the cards. Naturally, that won’t happen until your second or third game, but, it’s a short game so it’s easy to get over that hump pretty quickly.
- I’d say about 80% of the time players forget to roll the dice in the box. I assume that doesn’t happen when you’re playing on the go, but it happens to us literally all the time. It’s a bit funny, honestly.
- Decently random in an occasionally unsatisfying way. As you’d expect from a game where you battle via die roll and draw a bunch of cards. That’s fine, but this is definitely not a game that’s going to appeal to everyone. If you’re worried about the “fairness” of playing a decently random 15-minute game (which, why), then just … play it best-of-three-rounds or something. Whatever makes you feel like you’ve earned the win is probably good enough.
- The whole primary strategy being “hit them with everything you have” doesn’t 100% appeal to me. I think I tend to like games with deeper synergies. This isn’t to say there are none (Angel + Alien is a solid combination), rather, I just don’t see enough to particularly excite me beyond “punch your opponent, but, really hard”. And that’ll be totally fine for plenty of people, but if I’m looking for a light two-player card game in this vein I’ll more likely tilt towards Cake Duel. It’s still combative, but the extra layer of bluffing on top of it really makes the game interesting for me.
Overall: 6.75 / 10
Overall, I think Tiny Ninjas is a fine little game. My general impression is that it’ll appeal to players who are looking for a light skirmish-esque game where you can gradually wear down each others’ defenses before striking the final blow, or you can attempt to risk it all to take out your opponent before ultimately coming up short (and paying the price for it). Only letting the defender replenish their hand is an interesting idea, and for the most part it works to create a tension between attacking and defending. Sometimes, annoyingly, it can intimidate attackers into avoiding any sort of aggression, meaning that they’ll cycle through their cards less frequently and the game can kind of drag, a bit. Generally this doesn’t happen that much, though it is a distinct possibility given that you’re just randomly drawing cards. Thankfully, the deck is varied enough that most draws are decent. Regardless, the box is a cool bit of design and the dice are very nice, so the production value of the game is solid, which I always appreciate. If you’re into the idea of a quick and light two-player combat game that’s give-and-take with some twists, turns, and a bunch of different card options, you may really enjoy Tiny Ninjas!