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AD 3017 -- In the Ninja Galaxy it has been discovered that the four main start systems are becoming unstable. The Ninja Elders have decided that only one star system can be saved. The other ones must be quickly neutralized! The four Ninja Clans will battle each other at the Galaxy Power Rings. The winner's star system will be saved. Advance Ring-Levels by going through Portals. Sabotage your opponents with Portal-Blockers and vaporize blockers in your way. Battle your opponents up close with Laser Swords or eliminate them with Light Stars. Finally, neutralize the other star systems with the very powerful Negative Energy Discs. You are the Ninja Master using ancient Arts and Strategies to direct your valiant ninjas! Save your star system, and your people...
This is a fun family game. Each player controls one of the four ninja clans trying to destroy the other clans' home star. You move your 3 ninjas around fighting other ninjas, sabotaging their path and collecting devices to destroy their home star. The last clan standing wins the game.
Movement is through a die roll but since you usually have a few ninjas on the board and there are several options of action with each ninja (fight with a laser sword, throw a star, sabotage a space or just move), there is usually quite a bit you could do and choices to be made. The components are outstanding including wooden pawns (ninjas), wooden ninja stars, wooden sabotage markers, high quality cards for laser swords.
The game plays quickly (30-45 min) and has a high fun factor. Certainly a game for the entire family. The expansion adds to the theme and strategy (it has specialized ninjas) still keeping the rules simple and adding very little to the duration.
Apparently, there is a huge love for ninjas on the internet, yet we see very few board games about them, especially ones that don't take them very seriously. Stein-Thompson Sportgames jumps into the nonsensical with the whimsically named game, Ninja Galaxy (Stein Thompson Sportgames, 2006 - Randy J. Thompson). With laser swords and light stars, the ninjas gallivant around the board, moving through portals and destroying other star systems with negative energy discs (NED). If this sounds silly and odd, it is; but realize that the game is essentially an abstract one with the theme pasted on.
With a roll-and-move style of play, the game would fit best in the Parcheesi style of games. While this won't please many gamers who don't like much luck in their games, I've found that the game is a simple, fun one - best played with teenagers. A colorful board, highly interactive play, and a silly theme combine to make a game that will have a high youth appeal and provide some fun for adults. The game plays best with a full compliment of four and makes for an enjoyable thirty minutes.
A board with four rings is placed on the table, each ring made up of several spaces in colors red, blue, green, and yellow. Players take three ninja pawns, three light stars, three laser sword "skill" cards, three portal blockers, and a die in their color. Players place their pawns on the sun of their "home system" in one corner of the board, and four black Negative Energy Discs are placed in the middle of the board. Players roll their dice, and the highest roller goes first.
On a player's turn, they roll a die to move one of their ninjas. To
come out into the first ring, a player must roll an odd number, moving
the pawn onto the "Sun Window" space - the entrance into the outermost
ring from their corner, rolling again and moving the pawn. When
moving a pawn, a player must move it that number exactly, in either
direction around the ring. Depending on where the player lands, they
may have another action.
- If a player lands on an empty space of another color, their turn is over.
- If a player lands on a space of their own color, they may go through the "portal" and come out in a space that is the same color on another ring. Once they come out through the portal, the player may roll again and move any pawn - not just the one that went through the portal. If another ninja is on the portal that the player is traveling to, they must "fight" that ninja.
- If a player lands on a space that has another player's ninja on it, they must fight the ninja.
In a fight both players must use one of their three laser skill cards, if they have one. They place it face down on the board, and then reveal them simultaneously. Players roll their die and add their skill card to it, with the player having the higher total winning the battle. The winner keeps their skill card, while the loser must discard theirs. The winner may immediately move, while the loser must stay in the contested spot. If a player has no skill card, and they lose, then their ninja is eliminated; UNLESS both players have no skill cards, then neither can be eliminated.
Players may also throw one of their light stars at another player. When moving to a spot with an enemy player, the ninja may "throw" one of their light stars at it before moving theirs. The thrower rolls an eight-sided Power die, while the target ninja rolls his normal six-sided die. If the thrower has the higher roll, then the targeted ninja is eliminated from the game, with the thrower also discarding the light star. Otherwise, the star is simply discarded, and the thrower loses their turn, while the target gets a free move.
Whenever a player lands on another player's color, they may leave one of their portal blockers there. From then on, that portal is blocked to that player; they can neither enter nor exit through it. However, a player can - if landing on the portal by exact count - vaporize the portal by discarding one of their light stars.
Players are attempting to get into the middle ring, at which point they immediately get one of the NEDs - if any are still in the middle of the board. That ninja then must take the NED by exact count to one of the opponent's Sun Window spaces and then "shoot" the NED (by rolling the Power die) into the opponent's sun. If they beat the ordinary die rolled by the defender, then they have destroyed that person's universe; and all of their pieces are out of the game. NEDs can be captured from ninjas if they are beaten in a fight or killed. The game lasts until one player has eliminated all other players, at which point they win.
There are some advanced rules in which each of the three ninjas has a special ability, designated by a symbol on the pawn. The Light Star Ninja is the only one that can roll the Power die when throwing a light star; the Laser Sword Ninja is the only one that has an automatic "+1" in battles, and the Sabotage Ninja is the only one that can block Portals. Each ninja has three hit points, which are marked on a small reference card. Also, there is a Ninja Master card, which a player can use once per game under certain situations, that gives them a "+3" to one of their rolls.
Some comments about the game…
1.) Components: One thing that is very interesting about the game board is that you actually punch holes out of the game board in each spot, so that the ninjas sit in them, nestled on top of the table. It's very effective, and you have a whole bunch of counters that you can use in another game, I guess; although the rules recommend that you use the colored discs as markers for the ninja hit point tracks in the advanced game. The pieces are bright and colorful, from the wooden stars and little wooden pawns, to the small cardboard tiles, to the six-sided dice that match each player's color! When placed on the board, there is almost a color sensory overload - I enjoy it, but some find it garish. And why do those swords look like lightsabers? Still, everything is high quality and fits in a square box, which is slightly smaller than the standard size (Ticket to Ride).
2.) Rules: The eleven page rulebook is full of color illustrations and examples, and a few extra sheets are included for quick reference and the advanced rules. I found the rules very clear, and they covered pretty much every situation in detail. As for teaching the game, it's really very simple, although I stumble over using the term NED sometimes. Teenagers quickly and easily pick the game up, and I've had no problem in any of my teachings.
3.) Laser Swords: I do have one small problem with the laser swords - especially in the basic game. I realize that the concept is similar to one that I enjoy - the battle cards from Lord of the Rings: Confrontation, but it just doesn't have the same tension here. I can't figure out why you wouldn't always play the "+3" card first, then the "+2" card after you lose it, then the "+1". What advantage is there to playing them face down? Since battles are fairly random anyway, why not put forth any advantage you have, especially as the winner doesn't lose the card? This is slightly mitigated in the advanced game, since some ninjas are better than others, therefore giving a player a few more options.
4.) Advanced Game: I really don't see the point in playing the basic game, because even with all the "advanced" rules, Ninja Galaxy is still a fairly simple game, one that I find very enjoyable - so why not throw in the rules that actually make it a more strategic game? I think having only one ninja able to block portals makes that game more enjoyable and interesting, and having this ninja killed can be a strategically devastating event.
5.) Luck: Any game that has pieces moving the amount shown on a die is going to have at least some amount of luck, and Ninja Galaxy is no exception. Because a player has more than one ninja, they still often have many choices; but there are a few times when it can be a bit annoying. This occurs when a player rolls several turns in a row and failing to bring a pawn onto the board, or when a player rolls several times, attempting to land on and neutralize an opponent's base. The kids that I've taught the game to don't find that irritating, but some adults did, cementing my view that Ninja Galaxy is best as a family or teenager game.
6.) Fun Factor: The theme is certainly probably the main reason people will enjoy the game - I mean, who wouldn't want to move ninjas around the galaxy, clashing with light swords and throwing stars at one another? For me, the advanced game really brings it home, as you try to get your Sabotage Ninja to sneak around, messing with the portals while sending out the Laser Sword Ninja on the attack. Hearing the laughter and shouts of the younger set who played the game, showed me that I wasn't alone in my enjoyment.
Gamers seeking a strategic game should probably head elsewhere, as the random die results will likely drive them crazy. Those who do enjoy the game will most likely have the best time when playing it with their families. Families with children and groups of youth will enjoy the rather bright board with high quality components, and the simple yet engaging play. The theme is light hearted and enjoyable; and while gameplay won't be everyone's cup of tea, it should please kids who just want to have an enjoyable thirty minutes.
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