Cute animals and ninjas blend together in Ninjitsu!, a family bluffing game where you play the head of a ninja house trying to collect more treasure than your opponents. This game is a simple introduction to sneaky maneuvers for the younger ones in your family, but entertaining enough that you’ll want to play with them, too.
Designer: Peter C Hayward
Illustrator: Kelly Jo
Publisher: Jellybean Games
Type: childrens, bluffing, take that
2-5 players, 5-10 minutes, ages 6+
2-5 players, 1-5 minutes, ages 8+ (could be played by 6+ if reading independently)
Deemed “amazing” by the 8-year-old, this is a very fast and fun game for kids and their adults. Extended variant recommended, playing regular game was much too quick.
On Kickstarter until August 25, 2017.
In the Box
- 54 cards
I am a sucker for good art, and these cards are just lovely. The watercolor pictures depict cute ninja animals and children doing sneaky ninja things or getting caught by other sneaky ninja things. We all had a good time studying each card and imagining the story behind them.
There are three different types of cards. Hidden treasures have a mask symbol on them (like the folding fan card above). Treasures have a number in the top left corner and no mask symbol. Abilities have no number and no mask.
On your turn you can choose one of the following three actions: draw two cards, play a card, or swipe a hidden treasure from another player. If you play a hidden treasure (with the mask symbol), it must be played face down in front of you. If you swipe a hidden treasure from another player it is revealed and placed face-up in front of you. It is now your treasure, but you suffer any effects from traps on the card.
To play an ability you discard either an ability card or a regular treasure card from your hand. This triggers the ability on the card, allowing you to do things like peek at hidden treasure, swipe a hidden treasure and ignore the trap, or destroy a revealed treasure.
As you play you keep track of the numbers on treasures you’ve played, hidden or not. These are your points. The first person to 21 points wins.
This games plays fast. I mean really fast. We had some 2-player games last less than a minute. It was quite common to have someone win on their third turn, even when we added in another player or two. This became less common at five players. To remedy this, Ninjitsu! has an extended variant pushing the victory condition to 30 points. This completely changed the game for us, allowing us to focus more on having fun with the game instead of preventing someone from winning right off the bat.
Once we started playing the extended variant we were able to see that this isn’t the simple children’s game that it appears to be. OK, it is simple, but it is a complex simplicity. There is some thinking involved, assessing risks and making choices of what to do on each turn. Do you chance swiping a hidden treasure? Do you play an ability or a treasure? Is your opponent close to winning, or are their hidden treasures just small numbers? For a children’s game I was impressed with the level of complexity in such a simple package. After a few rounds the kids were winning as often as the adults, and everyone was having fun.
As far as children’s games go, this was very good. My 8-year-old called it amazing, and he doesn’t say that about a lot of games. He really likes cute animals and his favorite games include Ice Cool, Warhammer Age of Sigmar, and Potion Explosion. The 10-year-old really liked it as well, and was eager to play more. As a parent I really appreciated the level of thinking involved in the game, and see it as a gentle introduction to more complex game mechanics. It was also fun. We laughed quite a bit as we tried to sabotage each other, and it is always a good time when a kid is able to get one over on Mom or Dad.
I feel the age recommendation of ages 6+ is accurate, as long as the child is reading. There is a decent amount of text on these cards, so if they aren’t independently reading it will be difficult.
This would make a great gift for kids already into games, as well as those who have not been exposed to them yet. It will definitely be added to my portable game stash. Because it is so quick to play, it will work well any place where we have a flat surface to play on.
Ninjitsu! is currently on Kickstarter (ending 8/25/17).
Disclaimer: I received a preview copy of this game in exchange for my honest review.