My press man over at AEG sent an item today announcing a game called Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan. Now, unless you’re talking Sho Kosugi, the word ninja for me has as much appeal as “zombie” or “pirate”. Which is to say, absolutely none. Don’t get me wrong, one of my childhood heroes (and Halloween costume ’86) was Storm Shadow, I got busted for having throwing stars at school, and I once fell out of a tree trying to use climbing claws. I do love ninjas, but they’re one of those things that people get dead wrong. Generally when they go for that damned nerd humour route whereby something dark and violent is juxtaposed with something innocent and/or cute.
Anyway it’s designed by Frederic Moyersoen, who’s done some great games in the past including this great stealth/hidden movement title called Nuns on the Run. This is one to watch- I like the cool, serious ninja theme and it’s tied into the popular Legend of the Five Rings setting. Releasing at Gencon, but widely available in October. Press and description follows.
Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan is a new board game coming from Alderac Entertainment Group. Designed by veteran game designer Fréderic Moyersoen, Ninja features fast play, hidden movement, limited information, bluff and guile. It is sure to challenge players and bring hours of enjoyment.
Ninja marks a major excursion of the vaunted Legend of the Five Rings property into a board game format. L5R, as it is called by its fans, has become a staple of hobby gaming over its 16 years, thanks in large part to its loyal and devoted fans. It has won numerous awards for both its collectible card game and its role-playing games versions, and the property has also spawned novels and a miniatures game. Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan brings the depth and detail of L5R’s fantasy samurai world to board gamers in a fast-playing exciting, and accessible manner.
The game centers around one very dangerous night at a castle in the provinces of the Lion Clan. Honorable Lion samurai stand vigilant watch around the castle, protecting it from harm. The Scorpion Clan sends one well trained ninja to infiltrate the castle for nefarious purposes… it may be to assassinate an imperial guest under the Lion’s protection, or poison the well, or steal the daimyo’s war plans for the coming season. Whatever the goal, the ninja has vowed to accomplish it, or die trying. Worse yet for the Lion Clan, the ninja has an accomplice: a traitor among the ranks of the Lion samurai whose true loyalty lies with the Scorpion.
The intruders move in secret, marking their positions on a small copy of the game board. They can move freely, but the faster they move, the easier they are to detect. Moats, walls, and most especially sentries all serve to hamper their movement. And if a guard stumbles across their position, the alarm will be raised!
The guards must listen for intruders, search the area, and rouse additional guards when they think there’s trouble.
All this is handled through the Alarm Level. As incidents occur, the Alarm Level rises, allowing the guard player to take more actions each turn. Over time, the Alarm Level gradually diminishes… until a new incident raises suspicions once more. All this is handled through card play, but deductive reasoning and intuition will also be required to find the intruders before they can complete their missions and escape.
Although time and numbers weigh in the guards’ favor, the intruders have tricks aplenty. Climbing ropes, shuriken, drugged sake, and other tricks will distract the guards… or eliminate them completely. But of course, each such action may raise the Alert Level, as well as give the guard player a clue to your location.
The guards have their own secrets, of course. The intruders don’t know the precise location of their mission targets, and while searching for them, they may stumble upon a nightingale floor that gives a telltale squeak, or even a hidden guard ready to slay any foe!
The game is designed for 2–4 players, and plays in less than an hour. With three players, one player handles the guards, one the traitor, and one the ninja (the intruders don’t have to cooperate, either). With 4 players, the guards are split into two teams, which has its own benefits and challenges.