Of Knights & Ninjas Review by David Lent
Of Knights & Ninjas is a strategy card game for 2 to 6 players. In this medieval themed game, the king is getting old and has promised his nobles that the first of them to acquire 10 gems will become the heir to his throne.
There are two sets of rules for this game depending on how many players are playing. Both the 2 player and 3-6 player game have similar rules, but the 2-player game uses drafting. This review will concentrate on the 3-6 player game, because most of the play testing I’ve done was with 3-4 players.
Of Knights & Ninjas sets up really quick. Each player gets 5 gems and 4 cards. The player who won the last game goes first.
On a player’s turn, he draws two cards and can choose to attack, fortify or use a special action. If it’s the first turn, the first player will only draw one card. There is no maximum hand size.
Attacking is done by playing an attack card and choosing which player is your target. The defender may play a response card to try and block it. You then subtract the defending cards value from the attackers. The result is the number of jewels the attacker gets. The attacker can attack again as long as no jewels changed hands. If the defender has an executioner, he can use it to immediately stop an attack and end the attacker’s turn. He can also play a traitor to cause the attacking card to attack its owner instead.
Fortifying is either playing a castle or an archer. A castle stops anyone from attacking you unless they have a ladder, catapult, dragon or ninja. An archer stops anyone from attacking you unless they have an archer or ninja. It’s good to fortify early in this game, because it forces your opponents to attack each other instead.
The special actions are herald and merchant. Heralds cause each of your opponents to place a card of theirs face up and you get to choose one and put it in your hand. Merchants allow you to pay an opponent one gem for half of their cards rounded down.
There are also some special response cards. The princess allows you to steal the heart of the knight or tame a dragon. This stops their attack and puts them into your hand. There is also the highwayman who can steal gems when they are changing hands.
Of Knights & Ninjas has some special attack cards also. Peasants can conduct a revolt by attacking with more than one peasant at once. Ninjas attack for 2 gems and can kill fortifying archers or climb a castle. The dragon can attack for 2 gems and burn down a castle. Ladders allow you to bypass an opponent’s castle and attack anyway. Catapults destroy a castle when played.
When this game goes to Kickstarter, it will have several new cards available as stretch goals. Some of them are the minstrel and monk. A minstrel keeps you safe until the next turn when it is discarded. Monks tax opponents with castles and they must give you two cards or one jewel.
Of Knights & Ninjas is very thematic for a card game. Often times in card games, the artwork is really the only thing that ties the theme to the game and the game play is merely an abstraction having little to do with the theme. Each card in this game fits into the theme perfectly and the mechanics make the game feel like a medieval conflict. The ladders allow you to bypass fortifications, which is a mechanic usually only seen in miniatures games. Speaking of fortifications, those are usually only seen in miniatures games also. It’s nice the author was able to use mechanics from other game types to enhance this game.
There is sufficient strategy in this game. Drafting is a big strategy in the 2-player game. However, what cards you play and when you play them is more important. Do you fortify to protect yourself in later turns, but lose out on an opportunity to attack your foes and get some quick gems? Do you just block the attacking knight or do you hold onto your princess in case a dragon attacks later? Do you play passively and just wait for other player’s to fight so you can steal the gems when they change hands with your highwayman?
There’s tons of theme and plenty of strategy in this easy to learn game and I definitely recommend it.
Buy your own copy of Of Knights & Ninjas with this Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bluefoxgames/of-knights-and-ninjas-medieval-party-strategy-card-game?ref=12fsat