Shinobi is a game by Josep M. Allue, published by Japanime Games. It is for 4-6 players. In this game, players take on the role of the leader of a clan of ninjas following the mysterious death of the previous leader or Great Daimyo. Players will try to assassinate all of those that oppose their ascension to the role of Great Daimyo by sending out their ninjas to attack their opponents. They will need to be cunning though as their opponents will be trying to do the same thing. In the end, the player that survives the ninja war will be declared the winner.
To begin, each player chooses one of the six clans, taking the 4 matching colored attack cards for that clan. Players will also take 3 attack markers and 5 life counters. The first player is chosen and is given the start player pawn. Play now begins.
The game is played over several rounds. Each round is divided into 2 phases; assign attacks and resolve attacks/denounce attackers. The first phase is to assign attacks. On the player’s turn, they must attack the 3 players to their right by giving each one a face down attack card, in a 4 player game this consists of all the other players. When the player gives the attack card, they must declare which weapon they are attacking with. However, they don’t have to be truthful about it and may lie about which weapon they actually used. The player receiving the card must mark it with an attack marker, placing the marker on the weapon icon that they were told. It should be noted that if a player has already received 2 identical weapon attacks from other players, they can not be attacked with the same weapon for a third time. Once a player has assigned all 3 of their attacks that round, the next player in turn order follows the same process of assigning attacks. Once all players have assigned their attacks, each player should now have 3 attack cards face down in front of themself. Play moves to the next phase.
In the second phase, players will resolve attacks and denounce attackers. Starting with the first player, each player will resolve attacks by choosing and revealing 2 of the 3 attack cards in front of them. However, before choosing the player is allowed to question the players that attacked them about their attacks. The player may examine any attacks already revealed to check which weapons have already been used. If the two revealed attacks were made with the same kind of weapon, then the attack is successful and the player loses a life counter, placing it in the middle of the table. If the 2 attacks revealed used different weapons, then the attack missed and the player receives no damage. It should be noted, that before resolving the attack the player has the option of denouncing their attackers for either Incompetence or Plotting. If the player reveals 2 different weapons they can proclaim, “I denounce Incompetence!” revealing the third card. If all 3 cards are different, then the 3 attackers will now lose 1 life counter. However if the third card revealed matches one of the other attacks, then the player that denounced the attacks loses a life counter. In a very similar fashion, if a player reveals 2 identical weapons, before losing a life counter, they can proclaim, “I denounce Plotting!” revealing the third card. If all 3 cards are the same, then the victim does not lose a life counter, instead all 3 attackers lose a life counter. However if the third card revealed is different, then the player that denounced will lose 2 life counters instead of just the one they would have lost. Once a player finishes resolving attacks and denouncing attackers, then the next player in turn order will follow the same process. This continues until all players have completed the phase and all attacks have been resolved. At this time, players will take back their 3 attack cards. The start player pawn is passed to the next player in turn order and a new round begins. It should be noted that just because a player loses all of their life counters, that doesn’t mean they are out of the game. They will continue to attack and denounce other players attacks as before, they just will not be able to win the game.
The game continues until all but one player have lost all of their life counters. The player that remains with at least 1 life counter is the winner.
This small box game consists of only a couple of components; a deck of cards, some plastic cubes and a plastic start player pawn. The cards have a really nice glossy finish to them. Each player gets a set of 4 of these. The only differences in the sets are the colors and the clan symbols. Each card has the 4 weapons on a colored background on the back side with a clan symbol in the middle. Each symbol and clan color is different. The front of these cards has one of 4 ninjas using one of the 4 weapons. Like the back of the cards, the only differences are the colors for the ninja’s clothing and the clan symbol in the upper right corner. I have to say, I really like the artwork for these cards. I’m especially fond of the green frog clan. The colors of each card are rather bright and the ninja artwork is really fun. As for the cubes, there are two colors of cubes. There are the bright red see through cubes for Life and the black opaque cubes for Attacking. These are really thick and chunky and much bigger than normal board game cubes. I like these a lot. They’re just a lot of fun to handle. The final piece is the plastic start player pawn. This is just a simply red plastic meeple. Out of the whole game, I feel like this is the one piece that missed the mark. It really could have used a sticker or some screen printing or something to make it stand out more than just a plain plastic meeple. I will more than likely be updating this with a character meeple from Meeple Source just to make it more thematic and better looking. Still with only 1 bad looking piece for the entire game, I’d still call this a great looking game.
8 out of 10
The rulebook for this game consists of 2 pages folded and rules on the front and back of each page. There are rules on each page for one of 4 different languages. There’s English, French, German and Spanish. The background for each page highlights one of the 4 weapons used in the game. For the English version, it’s the blowgun. Other than the symbols for the 6 different clans, there’s no other artwork on the page. Simply put, it’s mainly just a whole bunch of text on a sheet. Thankfully, there’s not really any need for anything else here. All the rules are combined into 1 quick and easy to read sheet. Everything is explained really well. The rules are streamlined quite well which I like a lot. I honestly didn’t see any glaring mistakes or issues with the rules as written. Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to read over and you’re ready to play. While more art or examples of gameplay would have been nice, there’s not a lot of need for something that’s going to be read through so quickly anyway. As it is, I’m think the rules are well written and are fine the way they are.
8 out of 10
This is a really quick and simple game that’s a lot of fun. The main objective is to kill off all your opponents and be the last one standing. Of course it’s not quite that simple. You’re choosing a weapon to attack with but just because you choose one weapon doesn’t mean you have to declare that same weapon. You can always try and bluff your opponents. For the most part, that’s the game, knowing when to bluff and when not to. Of course you can also choose to claim incompetence or plotting if you think that your opponents have either placed different weapon types or have placed the same weapon. Thing is that you really have to be able to read your opponents pretty well to do this. It’s a big risk but can pay off big time if you’re able to get lucky with it. Normally these types of games aren’t all that interesting to me, but this one actually ended up being pretty enjoyable. I like the fast play and options that the game gives you for calling others out. These aspects make this a good game. Another good thing about this game is that it’s small enough to fit in your pocket or bag and be carried anywhere. I like having games that can easily be carried on a trip without taking up too much room in a bag or suitcase. I will mention that in some ways this game make me think of other bluffing games like Werewolf, Nessos and Wallet. The difference for me is that I like this one a lot better than the others. Personally I think if you like any of those games or you enjoy bluffing games of any type, then you will most definitely enjoy this one. This particular mechanic being one that I don’t normally enjoy that much, I was pleasantly pleased with this game. I actually did enjoy it and I feel that most players probably will too. I would recommend giving this one a try. I’m glad that I did.
8 out of 10
Shinobi is a small filler style card game of bluffing and player elimination. The game is quite fast and doesn’t take very long to play. Most game sessions last around 15 minutes or so. The components are quite nice for such a small game. The artwork is very good and the cubes are fun to handle. The rulebook is well written and easy to read through, just without any pictures or examples for flavor. The game itself is quite small and easy to play. This is one that is family friendly and simple enough that even the younger players can enjoy. This one plays well with 4 players up to 6, but of course the more the merrier. In some ways, this game reminds me of other bluffing games like Nessos, Wallet and Werewolf. The difference being that I actually enjoyed this one a lot more. I think fans of those games should really enjoy this one. The game is small enough that it can be carried anywhere, making it great for taking on trips. This is a game that I would recommend giving a try. Cowabunga says it all.
8 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Japanime Games at their site.