When we (p)reviewed Prometheus Game Labs' Micro Dojo two years ago on Board's Eye View, we described it as a micro game that packed a big punch. A Loyalty & Deceit expansion built on the original sliding puzzle-inspired game. It seems tho' that Prometheus Game Labs aren't done yet with Japanese dojo themed micro games, they're back with 99 Ninja!
Designed by Ivan Alexiev and Matt Ding, with art by David Grigoryan, 99 Ninja is a tile laying game for two players, but with an additional solitaire option. Players draw and place out transparent overlays on a modular board so that the ninjas on the overlay's 3 x 3 grid cover and surround the samurais. There are three clans of ninjas represented on the overlays and you don't necessarily control a specific clan of ninjas: you choose one at the start but on your turn you can swap it for the currently unclaimed clan.
This a challenging puzzle game where players will always be looking to optimise the placement of the overlay they've drawn. The overlays can be played either side up and rotated to any position, so although each turn you don't have any choice of overlay (it's always the one you drew at the end of your previous turn) you still have plenty of options. You need to place out your daimyo in order to score points equal to the number of adjacent ninja in your current clan but your opponent will also score for adjacent ninja in their current clan colour. As you might guess, this leads to much tactical positioning, and yet the game plays quickly. In our plays so far at Board's Eye View, we've yet to achieve the lower end of the '10-20 minutes' playing time indicated on the box but even at 20-30 minutes, 99 Ninja is no slouch.
We've been playing a preview prototype of 99 Ninja ahead of the game's release on Kickstarter on 2 October. 99 Ninja is not so much a duel as a competitive puzzle game. We've been particularly impressed with the quality of the transparent overlays, which are way beyond what we've otherwise come to expect from the components in a 'micro game'. In this case the 'micro game' epithet applies more to 99 Ninjas' low pledge price rather than the size of the game or the quality or number of components. This is one that's definitely worth checking out. Click here for an alert when the KS goes live.