Night of the Ninja is a fast-paced game of deadly secrets, midnight assassinations, and paper-thin alliances. In Night of the Ninja, your mission is to defeat a rival ninja House …if you can figure out who they are! Each round, you choose your ninja role: a Spy or Fortune Teller gains valuable information, but only a Shinobi or Blind Assassin can cut down an opponent. To win, you’ll have to trick your opponents, figure out who can’t be trusted, and fight for your House!
Night of the Ninja supports 4-11 players, and a single round can play out within 5 minutes. Created by Justin Gary (Ascension, Shards of Infinity), it’s designed to appeal to anyone from novice gamers to social deduction enthusiasts. Every card features papercraft art by Ben Charman, intricately hand-cut and photographed to create a unique, evocative visual style.
Night of the Ninja offers several twists on the social deduction genre. The team-based play means you can win Honor even if you die, as long as your House prevails. Each round begins by drafting Ninja cards, and no role is strictly better than others. The deadliest cards are also the last to be played, and gathering information can be as valuable as assassinating another player.
Night of the Ninja contains everything needed for up eleven players: 33 Ninja cards, 11 House cards, 11 Player standees, and 35 Honor tokens.
Disclaimer: The publisher provided the copy of Night of the Ninja. The opinions expressed in the review are completely my own.
Night of the Ninja has begun, we’re starting our first round. We have 4 players, so there is Crane 1, Crane 2, Lotus 1, and Lotus 2 in play. I have been dealt the highest ranking card for my house, the Crane house, I am a level 1 ninja. I know I’ll need to covertly find out who else is in my house, so my ally can help protect me and we don’t blindly assassinate one another!
There are 5 parts to each round played, “The Start”, “Ninja Draft,” “The Night,” “The House Reveal” and “The End.”
The draft is next, I am dealt 3 ninja cards, out of these 3 cards I choose one, the “Mystic (2)” which states: “look at the HOUSE and one NINJA card of another player.” Ranked as a two, I’ll be second in line to resolve this card in the next phase or first if no one else holds “Mystic (1)” in their hand. I pass my other two cards to my left, and am handed two more cards from my right. I pick “Shinobi (4)” which allows me to “choose another player. Look at their House card. You may choose to Kill them”. The last card I’m holding is a “spy (6)” this card would allow me to look at another player’s house card. I can only keep two cards though, so I must discard this “spy” facedown in the middle. Each player has selected their two ninja cards and it’s time for “The Night” phase! “The Night” is categorized into 5 phases.
4. Blind Assassin
We call out all “spy’s,” anyone wishing to play their spy card reveals it. All 3 of the other players reveal a spy, it goes from first (1) to last (6) for turn play. Next we call out “Mystic’s” I reveal my card, as does the player across from me, they are ranked (3) though so my (2) beats then and I go first. I choose to look at the house and ninja card of the player on my left. They have a blind Assassin card, and they’re also my ally, holding the Crane 2 house card. My enemy looked at my house card using their “Mystic” card, but they have no other Ninja cards to play and attack… So maybe I’ll be safe.
“Tricksters” are called out next. The player on my right reveals “Shapeshifter (1)”, no other tricksters are revealed. The shapeshifter allows the player to look at the house cards of two players and secretly swap them, they may no longer look at their house cards! I am selected as is my known enemy across from me. I don’t know who I am now, I might still be Crane 1, or I may now be Lotus 1 or 2…
Blind Assassin’s are called out, the player on my left kills the player on my right, their ninja standee is knocked down, they’re out of this round but if their house wins they could still win an honor token. Finally we call Shinobi, I reveal my Shinobi card, and even though my card is ranked fourth no one else has revealed one, so I take my turn. I choose to play it on myself so I can learn who I am. My card was not swapped, I am still Crane 1. That ends my turn as I don’t want to kill myself. I’m hoping that my ally knew from playing their spy card earlier that the player assassinated was Lotus 1. All cards have been played and we turn over our house cards. Crane 1, Crane 2 and Lotus 2 survived! I am the highest ranking survivor so my team wins. We each get to choose an honor token, keeping the points face down so it stays a secret to all other players.
Then we prepare for the next round. This continues until one player has reached 10 points total in their honor tokens. They claim victory!
This is an exciting, fast paced game, requiring that you find your enemies, and strike them down before they kill you! It’s imperative to stay a step ahead of your opponents be it by manipulation (table talk is encouraged in this game), stealth or misdirection. It’s a neat concept of needing to work together as a team and find your ally/allies to support and protect one another, but ultimately only 1 player can emerge victorious! In Night of the Ninja you’ve got to be cunning and deduce wisely as to who you’ll attack, if all Ninja cards in a hand are knowledge cards but no kill component, then hopefully you’ve got some strong allies to help out, or that you can manipulate things to go your way. This was enjoyable and amusing to play with 4 players, but I think it’d be even more entertaining with a larger group. I like that up to 11 people can play, and with an odd number of players the “Ronin” gets dealt in. The Ronin just wants to survive the round by any means necessary in order to gain an honor token.
This game is easy to learn and to teach, so I do think the minimum age recommendation should be lowered. As long as all players are literate, I don’t see why they can’t play the game. The artwork is phenomenal, the colors and shading are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The artist, Ben Charman, did an amazing job with his layer technique and silhouettes on each card. To continue with the ninja theme, the victory points are found on shuriken (ninja star) tokens, which is a fun added element.
Night of the Ninja can be played within 30 minutes, but for my group there were a couple of rounds that took about 10-15 minutes just on their own. It all depends on how quick each player can strategize and make their decisions, from which Ninja cards to hold onto, who to target and/or assassinate, and calculating the risk of eliminating an opponent from the game. There are cards that can be held onto until right before revealing the house cards. The “Martyr”, and ” Mirror Monk” are reaction cards that protect the player holding it from being assassinated by the Blind Assassin or Shinobi, with some other added benefits. The “Mastermind” is a reveal card that allows that player’s house to win the round (so long as they’re still alive).
Night of the Ninja is a game of cunning and wit in order to bring honor to your house! If you think you’re sly, that ninjas are badass, you enjoy large group games, and like to have fun. This game is definitely worth checking out!