Gamers love to try out new concepts and ideas, partly due to the newness factor, and partly because we are currently in an era of unmitigated game design expansion. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have only added to this rapid pace, letting game creators produce their wares independently from traditional vetting processes. And we’re seeing a lot of new and repurposed ideas alike. When you have that level of volume of games on the market, trends emerge. It’s why we occasionally end up with twelve pirate / zombie / Cthulhu games all coming out within months of each other, and it’s how we end up with mechanically similar games.
When we say that it seems everyone wants to do a Press Your Luck dice game lately, this is what we mean.
It’s understandable: press your luck games are very portable, quick to play, and fairly easy to learn. They are also cheaper and faster to produce than larger games, have better margins, and they reach a wider customer base by being accessible to gamers and non-gamers alike. Because there is this incentive for companies to produce them, though, there’s been a deluge of new dice games to hit the market of late.
To ensure that they catch your attention, dice games try very hard to come up with some aspect of gameplay setting them apart with lots of custom dice, player abilities, special actions, etc. One we haven’t seen, however, is one that cares about precisely where the dice land on the table. Well, until now – with Ninja Dice.
Ninja Dice is designed to be a quick affair, with most sessions under 30 minutes. Players are rival ninjas looking to amass treasure by looting houses. The game is played out over three rounds, and the objective is to have the most treasure at the end of the game. There are only three types of dice: House Dice, Skill Dice, and Threat Dice. Each turn, the House Dice are rolled, showing the turn’s challenge. This would be one such house:
House Dice have three different symbols: Guards, Residents, and Locks. The goal is to succeed against as many of the symbols as possible. For each House die players beat, they will get one treasure at the end of the turn. If can bypass all of the challenges of the House, they receive a bonus. Houses have four dice in the first round, five in the second, and six in the third, making the house in each round more difficult.
Players attempt to defeat the House by rolling a set of five Skill dice, each with upwards of six different symbols. These symbols, in fact:
This is done by matching the correct symbols to the challenge. A Pick beats a Lock, and you can either Fight or Stealth your way through a particular group in the House. Either usage is fine, though you are awarded an additional treasure for not killing anyone if you succeed. The Wild symbol lets you choose one of those three to switch the die to.
It is the final two dice symbols that makes Ninja Dice unique for a dice game – press your luck or otherwise. When you roll your Skill dice, pause, as their location determines their usefulness:
As you can see, the Fortune die creates an invisible plane that stretches out from it. The player chooses one other die that’s at least partially in its zone and pairs them together. The Fortune die turns one symbol into four of the same. For example, the above Pick could become four.
And then there’s those arrows. The Skill die shows a blocked Arrow attempt thrown at the player. But the house doesn’t generate Arrows – the other players do.
Whenever Skill dice are rolled, the other players roll the Threat dice. Threat dice Arrows work similarly to the Fortune dice, except instead of multiplying another die, you’re trying to hit a player. A player hitting another player with an Arrow gets to steal a treasure from them. Blocks prevent that. This not only helps push the unique mechanic of Ninja Dice further, but it avoids an issue that a lot of other dice games have: what to do when it’s not your turn. The Threat dice provide an active stake in what’s going on even if it isn’t their turn.
Of course, no press your luck game is adequate without a chance of losing it all. A player working a House can stop at any time, but the lure for further success is strong. You may reroll as many dice as often as you want. However, every Skill roll causes a Threat roll, so it can be dangerous. Any Threat die result of an Hourglass symbol is placed in the center of the table and not rerolled. If four Hourglass symbols appear, the player ends their turn with nothing. And so it goes until, after three rounds, one ninja is the victor.
Ninja Dice is not a complicated game by any stretch, but it is amusing as a short impromptu ninja battle. It succeeds at taking a different angle to press your luck games, and it does it in a way that’s innovative, entertaining, and brief. One player gets to focus on the House while the other players will surely be stealing from one another. Ninja Dice is a fun little exercise in controlled chaos, and it’s over faster than a smoke bomb. If you’d like to try your luck at some light thievery, grab your mask and dash on over to their Kickstarter.