Wednesday, January 7, 2015

GJJG Game Reviews - Ninja Versus Ninja - by Out of the Box Publishing

Ninja Versus Ninja
Designer: Tushar Gheewala
Publisher: Out of the Box Publishing
GJJG Game Reviews - Ninja Versus Ninja - by Out of the Box Publishing

Game Overview:
Ninja Versus Ninja is a children's strategy game from Out of the Box Publishing.  We bought this game for our sons a few years ago and it got a little bit of play right after they received it, but not a whole lot.  Then this past year, with our family's dive into serious board gaming Ninja Versus Ninja has sen a lot more gameplay.

The game is a 2 player strategy game for ages 8 and up, although my 5 year old has no trouble with it (and has been playing since he was 4, although without much strategy behind his moves back then).  A game plays in about 10 minutes, maybe even less sometimes.

In Ninja Versus Ninja each player controls a team of 6 ninjas in their dōjō.  On each turn a player must roll two custom D4 dice (they're rectangular prisms with katana swords sticking out of the two ends and numbers 1-4 on the other faces).  Then the player may move one ninja forward that many spaces with up to one turn to the left or right and/or one turn back toward the player's home dōjō.  The object is to make incursions into your opponent's dōjō and return without getting captured.  Only one ninja can be out of your dōjō at a time and it must return within three turns.  The farther into your opponent's dōjō your ninja progresses the more points it will score, provided it makes it back to your home dōjō within 3 moves and doesn't get captured by your opponent along the way.  Ninjas can be captured if the opponent moves and lands on the same space as your ninja as its last move.

A player wins when he reaches 7 points (tracked by ninja master and shadow ninja miniatures) or by capturing all of his opponent's ninjas.

Components & Packaging:
The components in this game are awesome.  The board is pretty basic.  It's not too big, but is thick enough and feels fairly sturdy.  But what really makes the game are the miniatures and dice.  There are 16 characters and two dice in the game and they're pre-painted on somewhat flexible plastic so there's no worry about the sword tips breaking or anything.  The paint seems pretty resilient - we haven't had any flake off or anything.  The characters are pretty awesome looking cartoonish ninjas.  The miniatures are definitely geared toward kids with their look and composition, but not to the point where adults won't be willing to play with them.  And the dice, as mentioned above, are great, thematic D4s.  The box and packaging are pretty standard, nothing special.  The insert is just a vacuum molded plastic insert with spaces for each die and each set of characters.  Nothing to write home about, but sufficient for the game.

These are the heart and soul of the game.

Score: 9/10 x1

Rules & Setup:
Since this is primarily a kids game the rules are simple and setup is a breeze.  There is only a small booklet (basically four letter sized pages) of rules and they are colorful with lots of graphics, examples, and tips.  Setup consists of placing ninjas in their home dōjōs on the marked spaces and place the ninja master and shadow ninja on their respective tracks.  Setup takes 2 minutes and explaining the rules to a ew player takes 5 or less.

Score: 9/10 x2

Despite being a kids game, Ninja Versus Ninja is surprisingly fun!  It's not the best strategy game in the world, but there are a number of options on each dice roll.  The back page of the instructions includes some strategic hints, including mentioning things like trying to capture an opponent's piece if a ninja out of the home dōjō isn't going to make it back anyway, paying attention to distances from opponent ninjas and staying in the locations you are least likely to be captured from (including immediately adjacent to an opponent's ninja since a 1 can never be rolled), and opting to block ninjas escaping from your dōjō if you can't capture them.

I've mostly played the game with my kids and they really enjoy it and I don't ever feel like I'm just going through the motions.  The dice rolling adds enough chance that they have opportunities to win, too, but I never have to 'throw' the game.

I've played a few times with adults and the gameplay doesn't really change much.  Yes, the decisions are a little more do-or-die critical, but the game was still fun and quick.  The dice rolling makes it a little too chancy to be a real strategy game, but it's not one to completely avoid around adults either.  And since it plays super quick (under 10 minutes) it's one I can grab and play with a friend real quick in between games, or one to have on hand when the main game has player elimination or really long downtime between turns.

Score: 6/10 x3

There's not much to this game, which is a strength.  Since it plays quickly, has a little bit of strategy and a little bit of chance, and looks incredible, it's a great game to play with the kids when they're begging for a game.  The only problem is it's a 2 player game and I usually have 2 asking me to play games with them.  But it's quick enough that we can take turns and everyone's happy.  And I don't mind playing 4 or 5 games in a row.

Score: 7/10 x1

General Fun:
Overall the game is pretty fun for what it is.  It's not a deep strategy game, or even a great  adult game, but for playing with the kids it's a blast.  So much better than many other kids games.  And who doesn't love ninjas?  My kids take the game out sometimes just to have ninja battles because the miniatures are just that awesome.  I've never not had fun while playing this game!

Score: 7/10 x2

Overall Value:
We bought this a little over 2 years ago for under $18 (MSRP is $28) and it's definitely been worth it.  Unfortunately it's currently out of print now, but you can still find it going for about $50 places.  $50 is high for this game, but anything under MSRP is worth it.  At MSRP I'd only recommend this for die hard ninja fans or someone looking for the perfect gift for the kid gamer.  Hopefully Out of the Box Publishing will reprint it because it's definitely worth adding to any gamer's collection if they have kid gamers (or love ninja themes).

Score: 8/10 x1

Final Thoughts:
Ninja Versus Ninja isn't the best strategy game in the world, but when it comes to kids games it's definitely a winner in our house.  The ease of play, quick games, and super fun miniatures make this a game my kids turn to frequently and I'm never apt to turn down.  In our house, ninjas rule!

Overall Score: 74/100

All set up and ready to stealthily attack, like a ninja!

A close game!  I snuck in with the last points!

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  A score of 1-10 (low-high) is given to each game in six categories: Components & Packaging, Rules & Setup, Gameplay, Replayability, Overall Value, and General Fun.  Rules & Setup and General Fun are weighted double and Gameplay is weighted triple.  Educational games have an extra category and Gameplay is only weighted double. Then the game is given a total score of x/100.

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