Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hands on Impressions: Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan

One of the hot new games featured at AEG's booth this year was Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan.  Set in the world of L5R, this is the first in what the company hopes to be a series of lighter L5R board games.  Their hope is to create more titles, pitting different clans against one another.  I was personally excited to try this as I have been interested in L5R culture, but found breaking into the card game challenging to say the least.  With the lack of a good set of rules, it appears that only those who have friends already fluent in the language of L5R can really learn the ins and outs of the popular trading card game.  This new set of board games is perfect for entering the samurai world of L5R. 

I unfortunately did not have the opportunity to sit and play Ninja at Gen Con, but I had obtained a copy for review and I finally got it to the table during a recent Friday game night.  That evening Rob, our in-house expert on all things L5R, and I sat down to see what this game was all about.  Ninja is centered around the Lion and Scorpion Clans (both of which are Rob's preferred Clans).  The board features a map of a castle in the heart of the Lion Clan provinces.  It is a beautiful board, but I wish the walls were a bit more defined.  They tend to blend in with the surroundings making it a little confusing when trying to locate the boundaries.

The game supports 2-4 players.  One or two players can play as the Samurai Guards who stand, alert, around the grounds of the castle.  The other one or two players take on the role of the intruders who move secretly around the board.  One player plays as a Ninja and the other as a Traitor amongst the Lion Clan.  In a two or three player game one player handles both traitors.

The traitors are given different secret objectives that they must complete in order to win the game.  These could be anything from destroy the supplies to kill the honored guests.  Each intruder must navigate across the board, undetected, to locate their goals.  To do this, they chart their moves secretly on a map hidden from view.  While moving and searching around the grounds, the guard player(s) are given clues as to the where-a-bouts of the intruders.  The faster the intruders move, the more easily they are heard and possibly discovered.  Through deduction, and the help of some cards, the guards attempt to locate the intruders and remove the threat. 

The game suggests that play time is around an hour.  Do not expect this for your first game.  Like most games, expect to add at least an extra 1/2 hour, and in the case of our first game it was more like an extra hour.  We found the initial set up to be simple enough, but did have some trouble working out all the rules on our first run through.  We often found ourselves checking in with the rules for clarity and thought that some of the rules could have been clearer.  I do believe the game will run much quicker the next time we play though.  More in the realm of 60-75 minutes.

Despite the extra length of our initial game, I thought the game was enjoyable.  I am a fan of most deduction games and found great pleasure in sneaking around the board as a ninja.  Not so sure Rob was happy about the situation, though.  I lucked out and managed to find my two objectives rather quickly and escaped without a scratch by turn 11. Sorry Rob!  

Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan is set to reach your FLGS this October and would be a great holiday gift for anyone who loves deduction games. A beautiful game with solid game play, this is sure to to bring a smile to any Ninja fan!  

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