Are You Ninja Enough? Ninja All-Stars Reviewed

March 16, 2016 by stvitusdancern

Say that three times fast! Ninja All-Stars is a new game from Ninja Division and Soda Pop Miniatures, that was a successful Kickstarter last year. This is a new chibi style game where you take control of one of six factions on the fantasy island of Kagejima in the Kingdom of the Moon. This is not a cooperative board game, you are actually competing against the other players in challenges that are set by the Moon Princess.

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In this game you will use unique symbol dice that take on one ofsix attributes Spirit, Void, Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. Each character in the game has unique attributes to include movement, attack, defense, Koban (cost), and affinity.

The basic game it includes six different colored factions that you can play through the scenarios with. If you were a lucky Kickstarter backer you also received up to six additional factions. You can also upgrade to some of the other unique factions that will be available, so you can customize your team and choose the right team based on the scenario.

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In the basic game you will choose your team based on the point total that you have agreed upon  and then you will then choose your challenge, and then choose the board as per the scenario instructions. When you are setting up your board you will place a certain number of shrines and lanterns upon spaces on the board.

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These shrines and Lanterns have unique characteristics that do effect game play. Shrines for example have certain abilities attached to them that can affect your characters when you’re within their range. Sometimes the effect is good for your character’s additional attributes. At other times the shrine may carry a negative effect that can affect your character’s ability to perform certain actions.

It should be noted that both players will be taking turns placing shrines and lanterns, there has to be a minimum of four lanterns on the board at any one time. The lanterns affect how a character who is in stealth mode can be seen by the other players due to the light from the lantern.

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Deploying your ninjas on the board at the beginning of the game is very simple, there are designated spaces with a square with a circle inside and these are the places you can place your ninjas. The boards themselves very colorful and beautifully illustrated and have no lines on them.

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The spaces on the board are designated by dots, these dots are what signifies where to move your ninjas, you place your ninja over one dot for each space of movement. The last few items to place on the table so you can begin playing is the tracker token for each player to track scores, the moon phase token to track the phase of the moon because this can affect certain abilities that the characters have.

To begin a new game you have to determine initiative. This is done by playing Janken (rock, paper, and scissors). Of course you could do it the old fashion way and just roll the dice but what fun is that?

Activation

Activation is done be alternating between the players until all units are activated.  This is done by a move and then a do actions, it must be noted that once a character has done an action they cannot move again.

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Some models may have special abilities that allow them more than two actions. Once activation is complete they move on to the upkeep phase.

Upkeep

During upkeep the player that has initiative can perform one of the following steps…

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  1. Move a friendly character from the healing house to the training ground.
  2. Chose on the the three following…
  • Draw 1 moon card.
  • Move 1 additional friendly model from the healing house to the training ground.
  • Remove all stun tokens from 1 friendly model.

A player then can deploy any friendly models that are in the training grounds on to their deployment zone up to the maximum allowed by the scenario.

Once this is completed by both players, you advance the moon tracker token 1 space clockwise and then you advance the round tracker on space. A new round begins.

Movement

Movement in Ninja All-Stars is very simple, you just move from one point to the next up to the maximum allowed by that character’s movement trait. Of course you must take into account the terrain and other characters on the board.

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You can attempt to dodge other enemies models influence zones to do this you must take your affinity test,  an affinity test is completed by rolling three dice and if one symbol among the three dice is your faction symbol then you successfully passed the affinity test. If you fail an affinity test then your model receives a stun token and their turn immediately ends.

Combat

In combat you take the attacker’s attack stat and compare it to the defender’s defense statistics, this determines how many dice that each player will roll. Then you compare the results against each other and then cancel out those as opposing elements and then any remaining are the results of the combat.

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Each symbol on the die signify different results. Yes, it is possible to kill your own character. Personally, I think the combat system is the hardest part of the game and could use some tweaking. I am hoping that in future updates we will see a more streamlined combat system. I have found myself during game play getting frustrated at the negative results that I was having even when my character was more powerful than the defender.

Another interesting aspect of the game is that you can do assists with other characters on your team during combat. However, if another player is stunned they cannot assist during combat.

An attacker gains +1 attack for friendly miniature in the Defenders influence Zone. A Defender games plus one for each friendly model that is in the attackers influence Zone. Also, if an attacker is in the back zone of the defender they get a +1 attack die.

NAS (16 of 18)

In range combat there’s a number listed that tells the character’s maximum range and you must also have line of sight. Not all characters have ranged weapons, but all characters do have throwing stars! To use your throwing stars you must be three spaces to your target and you roll one die to attack.

Phases Of The Moon

The game is based on phases of the moon…

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During each phase you may have cards in your hand that allow use special abilities based on that phase. Once a player uses a moon phase card they must discard it and also you can never have more than three moon phase cards in your hand.

Stealth

Of course like any good ninja you need to be stealthy, this game allows players to make characters go into stealth mode when they’re out of line of sight of enemy model. A miniature that is in stealth mode cannot be targeted or attacked by enemy player. However, if the character gets within one space of the influence zone of a lantern they lose stealth.

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An additional advantage to being in stealth is that if you attack an enemy character you get +1. However, you lose stealth after the attack.

Summary

Ninja All-Stars is a really good game other than a few hiccups but what new game doesn’t have them? Once we can get the combat system smoother and balanced I think this game will be even better. Where this game really shines is in competitive play, There are rules on how to setup your own team using the unique factions that you can get.

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The game even came with the Golden Ninja trophy to award the tournament winner! As always the quality of the material is top notch, the miniature themselves are crisp and clean.  I think they will be a joy to paint and we are already seeing painting tutorials on the internet.One idea that we are looking at is to make the train 3D.

We think by adding the extra dimension it will make the game play even more cinematic. As with all Ninja Division and Soda Pop Miniatures you get a reallyreally nice quality game that has a ton of replay ability.

Are you ready to face other ninjas?

"To begin a new game you have to determine initiative. This is done by playing Janken (rock, paper, and scissors). Of course you could do it the old fashion way and just roll the dice but what fun is that?"

"Where this game really shines is in competitive play, There are rules on how to setup your own team using the unique factions that you can get..."