Dale Yu: Review of Ninja Academy

Ninja Academy

  • Designers: Antoine Bauza, Corentin Lebrat, Ludovic Maublanc, Theo Riviere
  • Publisher: IELLO
  • Players 3-5
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by IELLO

Ninja Academy is a quick dexterity game in the Mini Games line from IELLO.  The tagline on the box is: “No Pain, No Shuriken!” though I’m not entirely sure what that means, the ninja garbed meeples on the rules had me smiling as soon as I saw them.

In Ninja Academy, players vie to be the Ninja Master – which is of course decided by being the player who has accumulated the most points over the course of the game.  The game itself revolves around 21 different trials – the majority of which are “Duel” cards though there are a few “Collective” cards. The box comes packed with a number of components which you might need in a trial: meeples, wooden logs, tatami mat cards, coins to collect as victory points as well as the box itself.  To set up, each player gets a numbered Tatami mat in front of them. The first player takes the summoning card which will be used to determine which players duel in the trials.

The Summoning card essentially outlines the order of play for the game.  Essentially, the game starts with a collective trial, then there are 4 or 5 1v1 duels, followed by a collective trial, then another set of 1v1 duels, and then a final collective trial.

For a Collective trial, a blue card is drawn and the instructions are read aloud.  Then all players compete in said trial. The winner receives 3 coins. In the case of a tie, all tied players get 1 coin.

Example: Concealment

Then, as the game progresses, you simply go down the list of Duel Trials on the Summoning card.  Each line specifies which two players actually take part in the duel. A purple duel card is drawn, and the rules are read out.  Then, before the duel begins, all of the other players (bystanders) get to bet on the Duel. They indicate with their Tatami mat who they believe will win the trial.  The trial then happens, and the winner of the duel gets 2 coins. In addition, all bystanders who backed the winner get 1 coin.

Example: Bluff

The game continues until the end of the third Collective trial – at this point, the game ends. The player with the most coins is the winner.

My thoughts on the game.

Like many of the IELLO Mini Games, this one is intended to be a light filler – and this one is filled with what I jokingly refer to as that certain sort of French randomness that is often found in light filler games!  The designers here have come up with a bunch of wacky trials that are sure to generate chortles or outright laughs as the game progresses.

As you play the game, you will encounter just over half of the trial cards in the game, so there should always be some variety with each game; additionally, each player only takes part in some of the duel challenges, so even if you saw a particular trial in your last game, maybe you get a chance to actually participate in it this time around.  Some of the challenges are direct physical/dexterity games while other have a zen “read my mind” feel to them. None of them take more than a minute to complete

The betting is a nice way to keep everyone interested, but it some seem to feel at times like people pile onto a player who might not be very good at this game because it could turn out that everyone but the loser of a duel makes out with points in this situation.  But, in the end, the game is a truly quick affair, so there’s not enough time for anyone’s feathers to be ruffled for that long at all.

The game is what some might call a typically French affair – more of an emphasis on randomness and creating laughs than on strategic planning.  And in my group, it fits in well as a closer. A nice game that gives everyone a chance to take home the win, and if nothing else, a night light way to generally end the night on a high note – with plenty of laughs – regardless of your actual position in the final scoring.  I’d recommend that you give it a try and see how you like it.

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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