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Ninjas Unleashed – Legend of the Celestial Stones Kickstarter Review

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Quick Look: Ninjas Unleashed – Legend of the Celestial Stones


Designer: Elton Cross
Artists: John Gleer Rodriguez, The Cross & Nogueira Families
Publisher: Gaia Gamez
Year Published: Currently on Kickstarter (Link at bottom of review)

No. of Players: 2-6 Players
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 60-120 minutes.
Rating: 7.7
Find more info HERE.
 
From the Publisher:
In Ninjas Unleashed, the fate of feudal Japan rests in your hands. Will you seek out the power of the celestial stones and rise as the ultimate Shogun? Train your students into apprentice ninjas to complete missions successfully and transform them into Elite ninjas with special unique abilities through the power of the celestial stones. If you dare to venture into the world of Ninjas Unleashed, you will need to use your house powers strategically, strengthen your house through enhance cards, all whilst playing tactic and sabotage cards on your rivals. Counter your rivals moves and outsmart them in calculated and cunning manoeuvres.

 

Disclaimer: The publisher provided the prototype copy of Ninjas Unleashed. The opinions expressed in the review are completely my own.
 

Review:

Late circa 1980s and the excitement of the mailman delivering my camo ninja outfit bought through Black Belt Magazine was one of those special moments as a kid. My kick and punch needed a lot of work but boy did I look the part… I was a ninja! 

Ninja Unleashed-Legend of the Celestial Stones is a game that caught my eye, not from the mechanics, but the sheer beauty of the artwork. It is a cross between Mortal Kombat and Magic the Gathering with a hint of Saturday morning Kung Fu Theater, you know those movies where their mouths were saying something in Japanese, while a poor out of synch english dub over gave you the narrative before that one old gray haired master took on 18 young strapping kung fu opponents ….now to the game:

 

The game consist of so many cards. It probably could line the walkway of the Great Wall of China. Am I crossing the Asia cultural stream? Apologies.  Unless I miscounted there are over 213 cards in the box. Actually, there should be 214 with this little gem they made for me as a reviewer:



There’s tons of tokens, a beautifully displayed front and back game board , player boards, and a book of lore which was some actually pleasant bedtime reading.

 

 

The rulebook has wonderful illustrations and starts off with important terms, which I do appreciate when just learning how to play the game. Each type of card is then discussed and demonstrated as well to reduce confusion with the number of cards and options there are.

The main board is very large, large enough to meditate on AND allowing you to place all of the set up decks in corresponding areas to make it clean and neat. Your player boards also provide a similar design for ease of use. 

Play happens in typical round style and requires you to take specific phases in order per turn. Each turn consists of each player ( SHOGUN ) taking those phases all together in sequence before moving to the next phase. The system is comprised of the hierarchy often seen within the martial arts and schools systems of old. There is the the traditional pecking order from the top: sensei, elite, ninjas, apprentices and new student trainees. Throughout the game, you work to train them up to be a formidable force representing your school and taking on missions to level up their abilities.


Start of round Phase: Replacing your Sensei if lost and giving you the ability to adjust your higher powered strategies with bad guys that offer different abilities throughout the game is the numero uno or numero ICHI of this phase. The tableau building elements continue as you work to move up the ranks of your student cards to apprentice which then allows you to go on special missions.

The Action phase:  You can perform up to 3 actions per Shogun turn.  The action tokens are flipped to help us aging players remember how many attempts at an action we have made during our turn. Shoguns draw a card , play a card, trigger an effect in your house of a card played, or that Shogun’s special ability. Note that the designers use the standard terms like BURN, STRIKE, and PICK which are often highlighted with special cards played or abilities performed.

A unique mechanic is the challenges portion that takes place within the next

MISSION Phase: if you and an opponent both have an apprentice card representing your house on that mission row, each Shogun rolls a die and the highest roller gets the HONOR of finishing the mission. If any Apprentice rolls a one or lower they are removed from the game board and out of play.  The die rolls are manipulated by the other apprentice card’s plus or minus numbers in the upper right corner of the card and are applied in a clockwise manor so that the actual roll result can be altered by the opposing Shoguns.  This is a nice way to represent combat within a card based system and believe it to be a highlight of the thought that went into the design of the game.

Whichever Shogun has an apprentice on the mission rolls two dice to determine if they succeed based on the varying roll result requirements for each card.  Harder missions have smaller windows of success.   If an apprentice succeeds in the roll they transform into an ELITE ninja moving up the ranks and abilities in the game. This upgrading mechanic leads to more victory points at the end of the game reworded for thematic reasons as Celestial Points.

 

 

Missions are replaced with new missions at the start of each round as part of the clean up or

End of Round Phase: Flip the fore-mentioned reminder tokens back to ready and pass the 1st player marker clockwise.

Among the mammoth collection of cards contains special counter, sabotage and enhancements that change the outcomes of either yours or your opponents actions and plans.  These are played as noted on the card and can instantly crush your opponents concentration and strategy, like sweeping the leg of your high school bully as he shifts his weight to throw the first punch. “Have a seat son!”  This game gives you all of that feeling when playing MINUS the physical violence. Just good friendly competition by masked men and women prowling along the game table edge, shadowed only by the amazing art work that went into the overall look of the game.

 

Winning Conditions:

The first Shogun to hit the celestial point requirement based on the number of Shoguns sparring for ultimate honor of top house at the END of the round of play wins.  This can be verified by what cards exist in that player’s house when the winning condition is triggered. Each card denoted in the rulebook, from -3 points for an elite ninja leaving your house up to 3 points for an elite ninja joining your house, with all card types and values in between calculated to deliver the final tally.

 

I recommend putting on any soundtrack of Taiko Drumming and cranking it up to ELEVEN while suiting up for this one on game night.   The designers offer up something that I think is becoming more of the norm and a true estimate to the replay-ability that a game can offer,  the option to HOUSE Rule your own winning conditions. A fitting addition to the theme of building up your HOUSE and a perfect plan to keep it in the rotation for any gaming group’s schedule.   So Daniel-son – Wax ON, Wax OFF, and learn the ninja way with Ninja Unleashed!

 

After reading Bogue’s review, if this sounds like a game for you at the time of this posting Ninjas Unleashed – Legend of the Celestial Stones will be live on KICKSTARTER until Thu, February 29 2024 4:01 AM PST, and has surpassed its funding goal of $4,945. Check it out and back it HERE.

 

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Check out Ninjas Unleashed – Legend of the Celestial Stones and Gaia Gamez on:

           

 

 

 

 

 

Shane “Bogue” Bogardus- Reviewer

Born and discarded to the wolves of the great Northern Planes, Bogue grew up a nomad. His recluse behavior landed him in the penitentiary of the Witchic County Municipality with a population 2 -A man and his dog. Life was always a game set on hardcore until he met a mild mannered digital publisher who took him under his wing and showed him the miracles of game design and play testing.  Now he is a thriving member of the Everything Board Games review team and lives with his long lost mother and his pet ferret named Meeple in Austin, TX. (Translation: A retired broadcast television and radio broadcaster turned financial planner.  Bogue is an entrepreneur at heart owning multiple businesses including the latest www.Meepology.com dedicated to growing and maximizing the gaming experience 

for current and new gamers to the hobby. He and his son hosts the monthly joystickshow.compodcast on video game reviews heard anywhere you get your downloads. Bogue lives with his wife, two teenage boys and his dog “Pepper Potts” in Austin, TX.)

See Shane “Bogue” Bogardus reviews HERE.

 


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