- For ages 8 and up
- For 1 to 2 players
- Approximately 15 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme and Narrative:
- Determine who is the deadliest and cutest ninja, once and for all…
- Gamer Geek mixed!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
The ninja is stealthy and deadly. They have spent countless hours practicing, making their body a weapon. They are living shadows, dissolving into the dark just as quickly as they jump out of it. They are also adorable. In this game, take control of a ninja clan and battle against your opponent to determine whose tiniest ninja is the biggest of them all.
Tiny Ninjas, designed by Ryan Leininger and published by 2niverse Games, is comprised of 60 Ninja cards, one Shuriken die, one Kunai die, two Connector walls, two Health dials, and four Sensei markers. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card and the dice are the larger custom six-sided variety. Excellent quality throughout. The artwork, by Yela Gatchalian-David and Paola Tuazon, is bright and colorful, giving these tiny little ninjas visual flare, but also a high level of cuteness that will give you a sugar high as they are so sweet looking. And yet dangerous. An interesting mix that works.
Welcome to the Dojo
To set up the game, first empty the contents of the box. The box is not only used to store the game but also opens up to be the board in which the game can be played on. The two Connector walls are placed to either side of the top box flap, securing it in place, creating a space to roll the dice.
Second, shuffle the Ninja cards (being sure to remove the Reference cards) and place the deck face-down in one of the spaces found in the box insert. This deck is referred to as the Dojo. The space next to the Dojo is reserved for discarded cards. The discard pile is referred to as the Arena.
Third, give each player a Health dial and set the starting value to “10”.
Fourth, deal five Ninja cards from the Dojo to each player, face-down. Players should keep their cards hidden until played. Place the remaining deck of Ninja cards back into the Dojo.
Fifth, place the Kunai and Shuriken die in the box.
That’s it for the game set up. Determine who will go first and begin. The player who is going first gets to determine if they want to be the Attacker of Defender for the first round.
Tiny Ninjas is played in rounds and turns with no set number of rounds per game. A round of gameplay is summarized here.
Step One: Attack!
The player starting the round reviews their cards and selects one to play. Only one card is played by each player each turn. The card, once selected, is placed face-up in front of the Attacking player for their opponent to see. Feel free to make an attack sound. The Ninja card is then resolved, providing the Defender the amount of damage that will be dealt to them unless they take action to block it.
Note that some Ninja cards have special abilities. When played, the card is immediately resolved. The resolution of the Ninja card may or may not result in combat. For example, the Attacker might play a Ninja card that heals their tiny ninja. In which case, no damage is dealt to the Defender.
Step Two: Defend!
The player who is defending now reviews the card played against them and damage that might be dealt (per the roll of the die from the Attacker). At which point the player can CHOOSE to select a card from their hand to defend. Again, this is a choice. Sometimes the Defender might not have a card that can counter the attack, sometimes no damage is dealt (meaning no card needs to be played), or it might be in the Defender’s best tactical interest to hold their cards.
Step Three: Resolve Combat
Combat is now resolved with any damage dealt reducing the Defender’s Health dial value.
Step Four: Continue or Switch
The Attacker may now continue to attack following the steps above, taking another turn. The Attacker does NOT draw more cards.
The Attacker may also decide to stop. The players now switch roles (the Attacker becomes the Defender and vice versa). The new Attacker now draws their hand back up to five cards and presses the attack using the above steps.
Ending the Round
The round can end one of two ways.
If the current Attacker of the round (who was previously the Defender) decides to stop pressing their attack, the round ends. Players again switch rolls but only the Attacker draws back up to five cards.
If one of the two players reduce their Health dial to zero, they are knocked out and their opponent wins the game.
The Basics of Combat
Ninja cards display attack and defending information, as well as the dice to be rolled with the corresponding results. Consider the following Ninja card…
The Attack Value of a Ninja card could be a single number or a range of numbers. They correspond to the Roll Icons and Roll Values found on the opposite side of the card. The Attack Values are shown for easy reference when the Ninja cards are held in the player’s hand and “fanned out”.
There are two types of damage in the game. These are Red damage and Blue damage. There is no inherent difference between the two other than Blue damage is not as common in the Ninja deck of cards making it more difficult to defend against. The damage type in the above card is Red.
There are three types of shields in the game. These are Red shield, Blue shield, and Yellow shield. Red shields defend against Red damage, Blue shields defend against Blue damage, and Yellow shields defend against both Red and Blue damage.
The Defend Value of a Ninja card could be a single number or a range of numbers. They correspond to the Roll Icons and Roll Values found on the opposite side of the card. The Defend Values are shown for easy reference when the Ninja cards are held in the player’s hand and “fanned out”.
Roll Icons and Roll Values
The Roll Icons identify which of the two dice (Shuriken or Kunai) should be rolled when attacking or defending. Players WILL NEED the Reference cards the first couple of times they play Tiny Ninjas as the Roll Icons can be difficult to remember. When rolling, the Roll Icon will identify the die type to use via its color. The Shuriken die is used when the Roll Icon is blue, orange, green, or purple. The Kunai die is used when the Roll Icon is red, white, or black.
The Roll Values indicate the damage inflicted or reflected based on the die roll results. Sometimes no roll value is needed, in which case the value is fixed.
After each player has rolled, and only if damage was dealt, the Defend Value is subtracted from the Attack Value resulting in the total amount of damage which is subtracted from the Defender’s Health dial. If this result is zero or less, no damage is taken.
What was described so far is the basic game of Tiny Ninjas. The game comes with several different variants that can be enjoyed or ignored. Each is summarized here.
Become a Sensei
During game set up, each player selects one of the four Sensei markers. The notches in the Connector walls are used to hold the Sensei marker and indicate how many times it has been used. A player may activate their Sensei only once per round (referred to as “phase” in the game instructions) and only for a maximum of three times per game. Senseis can add damage to a particular die or heal a ninja, depending on their type.
Keeping it Simple
A number of the Ninja cards include attack abilities that challenge the player to make additional choices around the card’s use and timing. If this is a bit too advanced for first-time players or a simpler game is required, some Ninja cards have a small icon on them that identifies the Ninja card as “Advanced”. Remove these cards during game set up and do not use them during gameplay.
Players are dealt 15 Ninja cards at the start of the game. From the 15, each player can discard up to five, drawing new Ninja cards to replace them. Each round is a mandatory single attack from each player, but defending is always optional. After all fifteen cards are played, the winner of the game is the player with the most Health.
Black Belt Survivor
Players start the game with only eight Health and can never go over this maximum value. The “Grim” Ninja card is added to each player’s hand and does not count towards the player’s hand size. Since this is the only Ninja card available to the players that can heal their ninja in this game variant, the players can choose to keep it for its ability or use it to heal their ninja. The winner is the last ninja standing.
Martial Arts Champion
Players engage in an epic battle where the winner is the player with the first of three victories out of five games. Each player’s health value starts at six. When a player loses a battle, their Health maximum increases by two.
Kicking it Solo
Try your hand against random card plays, as you enter into combat as the only player at the table. Three modes of difficulty are available (easy to hard).
While not a game variant, there is a list of difficult game plays to pull off. For example, winning a battle without healing or winning ten battles in a row against a single opponent. A nice checklist is provided if you want to keep track.
To learn more about Tiny Ninjas, visit the game’s website.
The Child Geeks had a great time. The rules to the game are not difficult to grasp and the Reference cards make it easy to quickly decipher what needs to happen for combat. According to one Child Geek, “The game is just fast enough to make it exciting and just slow enough to give me time to think about my next move. I really like it.” Another Child Geek said, “I really like the ninjas. They are cute and deadly! I also like the game and think it is fun.” The Child Geeks enjoyed the game with their peers and with an adult. In both cases, games were evenly matched and the outcome was always unclear until the very last punch or kick. The Child Geeks voted to approve Tiny Ninjas.
The Parent Geeks found the game to be a good deal of fun for their family. According to one Parent Geek, “An entertaining combat game where you duel as ninja children. At least I think they are children. Either way, it was fun playing with my son and watching him cheer as he kicked his father’s butt. So proud.” Another Parent Geek said, “I thought this was going to be like War, where all you do is draw a card, reveal it, and look at the numbers, but there is more to it. You have to manage your hand, do some light math, and take some risks. You have control over your cards, but not necessarily the outcome. Kept each attack exciting!” The Parent Geeks voted to fully approve Tiny Ninjas.
The Gamer Geeks loved the box and the high production value but found the gameplay to be mediocre. According to one Gamer Geek, “The game looks great and the rules are tight as far as gameplay goes. I like how you have to manage your cards, keeping a player continually thinking if they should press their luck. But the battles are little more than pick a card and then roll a dice for the random outcome. I wanted the game to be deeper. For what it is, I’d say it is perfect for families, but not for me.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A fun little game that isn’t clever enough to be a game I’d want to play with serious gamers. Of course, if I was with family and friends who don’t play games as I do, this would be perfect.” The result was a mixed review from the Gamer Geeks. They couldn’t find any flaws, but nor could they say the game was for them.
For what it’s worth, this game has now gone around the world. It was sent to us some time ago and just recently (as in the last week) returned to my beloved Minnesota. It went all the way to Australia and back, circumnavigating the globe. Throughout it all, it was played on tables around the world and in airplanes. The reports we received back were very positive, which is reflected in the review statements above.
Make no mistake, this is not a difficult game. It’s not full of strategic depth and tactical avenues to explore. Nor is it fluff. It fits nicely into that category of “casual” with combat action being slightly less than intense and nowhere near boring. Each card played represents a possible outcome, but nothing is ever for certain. This keeps the players engaged throughout, even when victory seems assured. Nothing in this game comes easy but the gameplay.
Of course, the game box was gushed over. Great production value here. However, the game box is not necessary unless you are using the Sensei markers. This is not a game that requires its fancy packaging, but there is no reason not to use it. The game is fully contained when packed away and unfolds to be played wherever you can find a relatively flat surface. I applaud the game designers creating this game with this much thought. Highly portable and easy to manage.
Do try this entertaining game of dueling deadly cuties. It’s light, engaging, and fast. It’ll keep you on the edge of your seat while you block kicks and throw punches, using mystical ninja arts. A fun one for the family or for anyone who likes to kick a tiny butt from time to time.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.