This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Games of the Non-Electronic Type Have a Place
Gaming is a hobby that can be fun for the whole family. Sometimes when gamers are pursuing the best new game on the market, we fail to remember that there is a need for a set of games that will introduce people to strategy games while still staying simple enough for everyone to play. Games like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride and others are great “gateway” games to move people from monopoly to higher level games. This is important because in an age where kids, teens and even adults are getting more “screen time” than human time, we need something to reconnect people to each other in the world.
Enter Of Knights and Ninjas by Blue Fox games. This is a nifty little card game with a simple set of mechanics and an in-depth strategy that allows you to take different paths to victory. As always, we are going to start with the story for the game concept. The concept of this game is that you are a king and you are trying to control the realm by being the first king to control 10 gems (or all the gems in a two player game).
You will do this using your king, knights, soldiers and even your peasants to aid you in your quest. There are specialty cards, but most of the gem acquisition comes from the attack cards. At this level, the story is a classic gaming story. Blue Fox breaks the mold of the classic medieval game with the additions of ninjas to the story.
What it’s All About
Ninjas: these far-east killers bypass fortresses and eliminate archers. This creates a classic “what if” situation between the far east and Europe during the century where knights and ninjas co-existed a world apart. The story is classic, which would generally get a 5 out of 10 for story. However, with the addition of ninjas, we see a little better story, so Of Knights and Ninjas would earn a 6 out of 10 for its namesake.
Next, we look at the art. Since Of Knights and Ninjas is a game that can be played by the whole family, the art that appeals to children and teens really adds to the game. The cards are cartoonish, but the game play is also fun and lighthearted, so the play and the art really complement each other. One thing that I would have liked to see is instructions on the special cards. This would reduce reliance on the ability sheet and allow the game to flow more smoothly. The artwork is well drawn and well done, earning Of Knights and Ninjas one more point, for a 7 out of 10 for art.
The mechanics of this game are a little more complex than for a normal, non-text based card game. There are over a dozen cards that have different abilities, and they play well with each other. One of the more difficult things to do is remember what herald and merchants do, the rest of the cards are self-explanatory. This difficulty can be overcome by playing a few games or by putting the actions on the card.
Each turn the player has the ability to attack, fortify or do a special. These actions are simple with attacks being based on the cards strength, fortifications being based on the card and specials being based on the special ability. Blue Fox did not clutter the game by trying to double up abilities. Only the ninja and the barbarian (KS) can do two different things.
The mechanics are simple enough that children and teens can play, but as you will see in the next section, the strategy makes it a game that adults can really have fun at. For this Of Knights and Ninjas gets a score of 7 out of 10 for mechanics. Strategy is where this game really shines. Players have several avenues for defending their gems or even circumventing the actions of other players.
Strategy and Tactics
The main strategy for the game is to attack with your best cards to win gems. This is the bull rush strategy that seems to play quite well. However, players cannot become too aggressive with this because of cards such as traitor (which turns your army against you) and highwaymen (which allows another player to steal your earnings after you earn them). This helps hold back big attacks and the ability to be confident a strategy will work.
An additional level of strategy is added to the game with fortifications. Castles, archers and minstrels lower opponents’ ability to attack your kingdom. Of course, along with fortifications are cards that break the fortifications, such as dragons, catapults and even simple ladders. This creates a cat and mouse system which forces you to weigh whether you want to take a turn to establish a castle.
Finally, you have the princess, who can charm the dragon and keep the dragon from destroying your castle. Of Knights and Ninjas has a lot of depth for a simple game and earns an 8 out of 10 for strategy (simple). Also, we look at novelty. The medieval genre of games is flooded, and while Of Knights and Ninjas brings the far east element to the game, it is still a castle defense game.
Expansions and Wish-List for Future Versions
The first expansion added to the novelty and the Kickstarter elements (below) also added to the uniqueness of the game. One thing that I would like to see in a future expansion of this game is possibly some more of the Ninja and less of the European game. Ninjas are kind of hanging out as the only eastern thing. With Elephants, Samurais and other strong Eastern Elements to augment the already sterling cast, Of Knights and Ninjas could add up to two points to its score.
That being said, it is still a solid game and uses its mechanics to build strategy and play out the story. Thus, Of Knights and Ninjas earns a score of 6 for its novelty. One element that is worth noting in the game is the Kickstarter (KS) exclusives. Since the game is still in Kickstarter you still have time to get these cards. The barbarian adds a global effect to the game and the Cargo ship adds an engine to the game to draw cards (which really contributes to the strategy). Kickstarter components are not included in the base game, but in this case really add to the game. If you have a chance, get these two cards to add to your game play (+1 points to total score).
Overall, Of Knights and Ninjas is one of those games that anyone can play and is definitely safe for any crowd. This is a great game to introduce your kids or your friends to advanced gaming and should be on your shelf right beside the classic gateway games. The level of skill for this game is based on how you play. Kids can jump right in with brute force attacks and more advanced players can try to parry them with fortifications and special cards.
Who will win comes down to skill and a bit of luck. Always watch out for that sneaky player who is going to steal your gems or turn your army back at you. Of Knights and Ninjas is a fun game, and definitely one that you should check out when it goes into full production. For this Of Knights and Ninjas earns a final score of 35 out of 50 making it a great little card game that everyone can enjoy.