Updated: Oct 24
Designed by Ryan Leininger and published by 2niverse, there's a lot in this magnetically sealing box. Flip it open and you'll find the box itself serves as both playing mat, dice tray, card mat and score and special ability tracker. Cardboard struts slide on to hold the lid flat and on which players mount their health dials. They also hold cardboard Sensei tokens representing their special ability; with the tokens advancing along the strut every time the special ability is used (you get to use your Sensei ability a maximum of three times per game).
Also in the box are the 58 ninja cards that are used in the duelling combat. Players each start with a hand of five cards that can be played for either their attack or defence values. The player who takes on the role of the attacker plays a card and follows the instructions on the icons (or, for a small number of 'advanced' cards, their text). This determines how many points of damage the defender will take. The defender can play a card to mitigate the hit points dished out in the attack or possibly to negate altogether the impact of the attack, but the defence card has to match the blue or red colour of the attack or it must be yellow (which defends against both red and blue). The attacker can continue to play attack cards from their hand, one at a time and with the defender allowed to respond to each. Their attack ends when they either pass or run out of cards. They will probably want to pass before using all their cards because they will want to keep cards to use in defence. When the attacking player ends his attack, the defending player draws back up to five cards and they become the attacker. This means that, other than at the very start of the game, the attacker is likely to hold more cards than the defender.
What adds spice to this game are the varied ways in which the attack and defence powers work with regard to the two custom six-sided dice that also come in the magnetic box. The Shuriken die has numbers 1 through 6 represented as shuriken blades but is also used to roll for colour (two faces of the die are orange, two are green and two are purple). The Kunai die has three one-blade faces in white, two two-blade faces in black and one three-blade face in black. It too is used in two ways - for number and for colour. Some cards give automatic attacks or defence (ie: no dice are rolled) but most require one of the two dice to be rolled, with the effect determined by the specified result. For example, a card may dish out 3 damage if purple is showing on the Shuriken die.
Tiny Ninjas is played till you succeed in draining your opponent's health to zero or they drain yours. It's not just down to the luck of the dice and card draws; there's strategy involved in determining when best to press an attack and when to pass in order to defend effectively against your opponent. This all make for an exciting filler game, and you'll have fun working out the killer card combos to best play in succession. The game plays very quickly - expect a game to take no more than about 10 minutes - and its packaging makes it an ideal travel game.
There's more tho'. It may be a duelling game but the designer has incorporated a solitaire mode allowing you to go head to head against a bot. The game rules also include videogame-style achievements to be unlocked through multiple plays (for example, winning a battle without ever using a yellow defence card), so there's plenty here to keep you coming back for more.
(Review by Selwyn Ward)