Publisher: Greenbrier Games
Designer: Rocco Privetera
Players: Two to five
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Retail Price: $14.95
Category: Push your luck dice game
• 15 dice: 6 House dice, 5 Skill dice, and 4 Threat dice
• 35 Plastic coins: 21 copper, 7 silver, and 7 gold
• Two sided rules sheet
• A ninja themed fabric box to carry the dice and rules
One of the more interesting looking light wind up/wind down games to hit recently was Ninja Dice, what with its ninja themed fabric box and custom cut dice. While I first heard about the game at the GAMA Trade Show in Vegas, and got my hands on the game at Origins, it’s taken some time to get the review out there. That’s more due to the fact I’ve spent about 90% of the last couple months on the road more than anything else.
Ninja Dice is one of those quick playing titles you can pop out on those nights when you’re waiting for the rest of your gaming gang to show up or maybe as something to cap off an evening filled with heavier fare. I’d even go as far to say you could break out Ninja Dice at parties where tossing around some bones would be a welcome distraction.
Right off the bat you’ll find the components included with Ninja Dice are top notch with a fun little box to store the dice and rules as well as a slew of unique dice which will be used by the players during the game. The dice are especially noteworthy because the symbols are cut into the dice so we’re not talking about printed faces or stickers but nice recessed symbols which mean the dice will hold up to lots of play.
In a nutshell each of the players will, in turn, represent a ninja who is looking to infiltrate three houses in order to steal away with some treasure. Each house will be different as you’ll roll a set number of dice to determine the challenge a player will face. Lasting three rounds, the houses in Ninja Dice will consist of four, five, and six dice respectively. These dice will be rolled at the beginning of each player’s turn to determine what symbols will need to be overcome in order to get into the house and back out again with the treasure in tow.
The dice included with Ninja Dice are broken into House dice, Skill dice, and Threat dice for a total of fifteen dice. House dice are rolled by the person who is to the right of the active player to create the house which will be broken into. The Skill dice are rolled by the active player to try and overcome the challenges presented by the House dice. Finally, the Threat dice are rolled by the inactive players as a way to shorten the number of rolls available to the active player while also trying to steal treasure from other players as well.
The challenges and the corresponding skill rolls to overcome them are as follows: Guards/Fight or Stealth, Residents/Fight or Stealth, and Locks/Lock Picks. The challenges also include a face for two guards and two residents. The Skill Dice also show a Fortune symbol which will multiply any die which falls within the facing arrow by four. As an example if you roll a Fortune symbol and a Stealth die is within the facing then you can count that single die as four Stealth results. There’s also a Block facing which protects you from attacks coming from the other players rolling their Threat dice.
The active player needs to match the symbols rolled on the House dice in order to snag the treasure. While they roll the Skill dice the other players will roll the Threat dice which can steal treasure from any player as well as bring about an hourglass symbol. Once four hourglasses have been rolled the active player’s turn ends and they’ll gain nothing if they haven’t called it quits before what is in effect the night coming to an end. Since this is a push your luck sort of game, the active player can continue to reroll dice, hoping to overcome the challenges, until the four hourglasses come into play. Quitting early gains the player one coin for each die they overcome. Successfully defeating a house gains the player that number of dice in treasure plus a bonus depending on the number of dice. If you complete the mission without having to fight you score an extra coin as well.
An interesting aspect of Ninja dice are those Threat dice other players roll each time the active player rolls Skill dice. Not only are the other players staying involved in the game but if they roll an arrow pointing at any of the other players dice, they’ll steal a coin if the target haven’t rolled a block. It’s this little wrinkle which keeps everyone involved.
I will mention the arrows on the dice can lead to some disputes on whether someone’s die is within the area to steal treasure another’s coin. This doesn’t happen all too often, and will probably depend on the sort of gamers you play with, but I’ll recommend you sit at a smaller table so it’s not only easier to determine if an arrow is correctly pointing but also allow for more opportunity for the dice to fall out of the area a Threat die may cover; if you’re at a big table it’s pretty easy for players to be picking each other’s pockets nearly every roll.
Ninja Dice is a fun bit of distraction that should keep most gamers entertained. While it’s simply a push your luck sort of dice game the addition of the Threat dice goes a long way in preventing players spacing out when it isn’t their turn to break into a house. While you can easily introduce more than five players, in a party situation, you might have to rotate who gets to roll the Threat dice each turn. The game should really appeal to those who dig classic push your luck dice games like Yahtzee. I will point out playing with only two players lacks much excitement but with four or five players you should have a good time.