Board Game Review, Previews

Sir Shuriken of the Round Table (Of Knights and Ninjas Preview)

There’s something about take that games that many miss out. Something they forget to include which is always part of a good game. Ninjas. Everything is improved with ninjas, it’s just simple maths. Pirates, spacemen and dinosaurs can all help, but ninjas trump the lot. So when we got the chance to play Of Knights and Ninjas by Blue Fox Games, we’ve been pretty hyped. I mean, knights themselves are pretty hardcore. Flails, spears, armour, dragons… and ninjas too! The games got everything. The game plays in about 10-15 minutes and is for 2-6 players.

How To Play

Players each start with five gems and two cards. A play deck is set up in the centre of all players and play begins. On their turn, players can play cards which do specific things to either attack or fortify. React cards can be used out of turn to defend oneself – or make a sneaky play. Players must always have the number of cards and gems they have visible. If any player gains 10 gems, they win! However, if the deck expires and is refreshed, the number required decreases by one. Play starts with the first player only taking one card and all subsequent players taking two – this prevents an early lead for the starting player. Players always pick up on their turn but do not always have to play – however they must discard a card if they don’t!

Cards to attack are used on an attacking players turn only. These target one other player and will gain a player so many gems based on the card. If unchallenged, the player takes that many gems from the target. Other players can use react cards to lessen the loss or nullify the attack’s value, to which the attacking player can then continue their attack until they gain gems or quit the attack. However, some react cards impact the attacking player in other ways. For example, the executioner ends the attack immediately with no gain, but the traitor turns the attack around on the attacker.

Fortification cards are used to defend from specific attacks. Any player fortified with an archer, for example, can’t be attacked by a multitude of cards. Those with a castle are even more secure. That’s not to say they’re impenetrable, though! The cards in Of Knights and Ninjas are diverse and have a wide variety of uses, meaning cards can be used situationally instead of for a single purpose. Once a player gains the required number of gems, they win.

How It Handles

Despite how simple it sounds, there is a tonne of depth and tactics in this game. We are yet to play a game where a player takes the lead and steamrolls a win – it just doesn’t happen! We picked the game up relatively quickly and spent a fair amount of time discussing each card to ensure we knew the ins and outs of each. Remember! We were playing with the Print and Play (PnP) version of the game so the cards we used may have different iconographies to that in the final product.

Tactics

As a group we’re pretty diverse from the off, so our approaches to competitive games is different to one another. This is even more-so in take-that games and in Of Knights and Ninjas it showed! I was determined to go in, bull headed, and take gems. Show the strength of my rule and claim glory as quickly as possible. I didn’t. I rushed in with peasants and knights and was met with the likes in return. It didn’t take me long to start getting smart, but the game takes the credit for this.

Having the cards be multifunctional allowed me to consider what I’d do and how. The next time I wanted to rush in, I did so in a manner that guaranteed me some reward without wasting big hitting cards. Another of our group was big on maintaining a big hand of cards. They fortified when possible and always had another castle card ready. They became the target of a fair few special cards and had to ensure they were ready for making do with the scraps of their hand.

Aesthetics and Iconography

The artwork is incredibly fun and thought through. The different characters look to match their names so you could identify them without the titles on the cards. A king looks like a king, an executioner like an executioner, a ninja like a ninja etc. It’s charming! The cards’ iconography is also fairly easy to follow, but the rules take the lead on the explanations here. There’s nothing worse than a cluttered card and Of Knights and Ninjas takes heed of this.

You can see what you need and have a reference sheet for what you can’t. Much of the play is followed through using the rules and knowledge of the game, which is great when you know how to play. Until that point we were wanting some identifiers to show things like ninjas claim two cards and ignore archers. It’s only small stuff and we got it quickly, but that confusion could have been due to our own eagerness to play.

Depth

There is so much more to this game than gems and cards. Sure, everyone loves games! But there’s something special about certain actions… The order you play an attack is important. If you go all in at once you risk massive returns in wrath! In the same way, go in small and you may have small returns. There’s an art form to causing maximum impact here – and it’s down to how you read a player. You’ll have a natural play style, that’s a given, but being able to adapt on the fly will enable you to make massive strides in gains.

Several times I went all in and was struck back, only to gain a single gem. It was awful. But it built up a stone wall defence here my opposers always defended with maximum effort. So when I had a King card, I knew what to do! I went all in with everything but the King, then pulled him out last second! I felt like some sort of board game guru! It was a truly triumphant feeling… until some rapscallion played a Highwayman and stole the four gems and won! Now that was a power play.

Final Thoughts

We enjoyed Of Knights and Ninjas a lot. It was tremendously refined despite being a PnP version prototype – so much thought has gone into this! It was the blast of take-that, hand management we needed between far heavier or cooperative games. We also found ourselves choosing it when we needed to scratch the itch without an arduous setup. The depth the game provided made it a clear choice when compared against similar games with longer set ups. You shuffle, deal, and go. After that, you plan and play accordingly. We’ll certainly be watching out for the Kickstarter of this little gem, and will be hopefully collecting 10 gems for a win every game… Until a Highway Man rocks up and steals the game!