OPENING THE BOX
The plastic miniatures are also fairly well-crafted and are different colors for easy referencing, especially as the colors match up with the player screens.
There are 20 tan and brown guards (10 with spears, 10 with swords), 1 red Traitor, 1 black Ninja and 3 yellow Drunk Guards. There are also 2 silver Lanterns, 1 for placing on the current Turn Circle and current Alert Level.
NOTE: Whereas the Guard cards have a tan Lion symbol on them and use corresponding tan/brown miniatures, the deck colors for the Traitor and Ninja are altered. Thus, the Traitor miniature is red but uses the black Scorpion deck, and the Ninja miniature is black but uses the red Scorpion deck. I don't know if this was intentional, but thought it should be pointed out!
PLAYING THE GAME
Now that everything has been explained, let's discuss game play. As noted before, this can be a 2, 3 or 4 player game. If it is 2 player, 1 person controls the Guards and 1 person controls the Traitor and Ninja. For 3 player, 1 person controls the Guards, and the Traitor and Ninja are split. The Guards are split as well, if you play with 4 people.
First, set up your board and draw your cards. Ninja takes 8 of the 12 cards available, Traitor takes 7 of the 10, and Guards take 24 of the 36 for their hands. However, the remaining 12 Guard cards are kept out as a Draw deck. No cards are to be shared with enemy players, and each deck has cards that are specific to the character using them. For example, only Guards can play Listen cards, only the Traitor can use Potent Sake cards, and only the Ninja can play Shuriken cards.
Then, 8 individual Guards are posted as sentries, while the remaining Guards are grouped into patrols of 2. Due to the wording of the cards, it is very advantageous to mix patrols (aka have 1 sword Guard and 1 spear Guard per patrol). The Traitor and Ninja miniatures are NOT placed on the board, and won't be for most of the game, but keep them nearby for when the Guards do find them.
The Guard player takes her map and marks off the locations of 8 sleeping guards as well as 2 Traps, 2 Hidden Sentries, and the locations of the 6 Mission Goals (A thru F) that the Traitor and Ninja will be trying to find. They must ALWAYS be placed in their own zone. The Ninja and Traitor mark off their starting positions according to the rules, as well as the entrance and exit of the Secret Tunnel. Place 1 Lantern on the lowest Alert Level, and 1 on the first Turn Circle. Now you are completely set up!
The game gets more complicated as it progresses, and players attempt to stay 1 step ahead of each other, but the Turn Orders always remain the same;
1. Alert Phase- Guard player draws cards corresponding to the current level of alert. The alert level then drops by 1, and the Guard plays any of the drawn cards she wants.
2. Guards Card Phase- Guard player uses cards for special effects.
3. Guards Patrol Phase- All patrols that are able to be moved or changed are moved.
4. Intruders Phase- The Ninja and Traitor make their secret moves, play whichever cards they can, and searches for their Mission Goals.
Although there are many different cards to be played, strategies to use and decisions to make every time the game is played, the Phases must be completed in order. You cannot move onto the next Phase until the previous one is finished, no matter what. So, even though your friend is going to spring a Trap on your Ninja or Kenjutsu your Guard, at least you'll know they have to wait their turn...
And there you have it, another wonderful game by our friends at AEG! Ninja-Legend of the Scorpion Clan is a great game for more experienced players. On a gamer learning scale (1=extremely new to gaming, 10=gaming professional) I would rate Ninja as a solid 7. While not the most difficult of boardgames to learn, it does have several nuances that make it an inappropriate "first" for those who are new to board or card games.
Like most of the games I review, we do have a copy of Ninja in our game library, so if you're in the Poughkeepsie area stop by and play!
Stasi "Dengirl" King