Ninja Dice - A Double-Take Review

"YO! It's the green machine
Gonna rock the town without being seen
Have you ever seen a turtle Get Down?
Slammin and Jammin to the new swing sound
Yeah, everybody let's move
Vanilla is here with the New Jack Groove
Gonna rock, And roll this place
With the power of the ninja turtle bass
Iceman, ya know I'm not playin
Devastate the show while the turtles are sayin

Ninja, Ninja, RAP! Ninja, Ninja, RAP! GO GO GO GO!
Go Ninja, Go Ninja, GO: Go Ninja, Go Ninja, GO!
Go Ninja, Go Ninja, GO: Go Ninja, Go Ninja, GO!
-Vanilla Ice

Ok... sorry about that...

Today we're taking a look at Ninja Dice, the sneaky little dice game from GreenBrier Games. Ninja Dice is a press-your-luck dice game for 2-4 players that has a few very unique twists that make it stand out from your normal you-take-your-turn-then-I-take-my-turn dice games. Let's take a flying back kick in and see what it's all about!

Like most dice games Ninja Dice revolves around some very nice, very custom dice. There are six House dice, five Skill dice, and four Threat dice. There are also some nice plastic coins that are used as VP tokens, and the whole thing comes in a nice padded zipper bag that looks like a little square-headed ninja.

Jeremiah--The dice look slick and the iconography is interesting on them. The didn't color scheme the House and Skill dice but it makes sense that they didn't once you understand a little bit about the game play. I LOVE the zipper bag that it comes in too; it's compact, it's durable, and it's a nice touch. I'm very glad that stretch goal got unlocked!

Firestone--It's a great time to be a gamer. It's never been easier for a designer/publisher to include cool custom dice for a reasonable cost. And these really are great. And I can tell you the cool bag is what made my kids want to play this game. You can toss it in a bag or bucket and not worry about anything getting squashed, ripped, or ruined. 

The game plays in three rounds. In the first round players are trying to infiltrate and loot a house that consists of four House dice, then five, and finally all six House dice. As you loot these houses you score money, and the player who has the most money at the end of the last player's turn wins.

Let's talk a little bit about the House dice because they help us understand the Skill dice. The House dice indicate what obstacles a player.... errrr... ninja has to overcome to steal all the monies. The six sides consist of Locks, Residents, Guards, Double-Residents, and Double-Guards. To get past a lock the ninja has to roll a lock, to get past a Guard or Resident a player has to roll either a Kill or a Sneak, this is true for EVERY Guard or Resident icon, so those doubles require two dice. There's a Fortune icon on the Skill dice that can be attached to a die to make it worth four of whatever icon it's attached to, as well as a Wild icon that can be whatever you want it to be--except, of course, a Fortune die. Lastly there is a Catch icon on the dice... and well we'll get into that in just a minute!

At this point the game somewhat feels pretty much like a standard dice game: Roll a certain type of die to get past another specific die with a few wilds/multipliers thrown in. Well that's about where the similarities end and the twists begin! 

A player's turn starts with the player to his left setting up the House, and the dice rolling begins. The Threat dice feature three icons: an Arrow, a Catch and an Hourglass. After the House is set, every other player who isn't the active player gets a Threat die, and then all the players roll them at the same time. All the dice need to roll where they will and then NO ONE TOUCHES THEM!!! See, the arrow dice have a line across the front of them and if an arrow is rolled and anyone else's dice are in front of that line, the player who rolled that arrow gets to target them and steal one coin (one point) from them! If anyone rolls a catch, they can't be targeted because they used their ninja reflexes to catch that arrow. And any hourglasses rolled on the Threat dice lock that die in for the rest of the turn and act as a timer. If all four Threat dice get locked in on hourglasses, the current player has run out of time to raid the house and loses the turn. The active player can reroll as many times as they like, but every time they do the other players roll any Threat dice that aren't hourglasses and are able to continue targeting players--including the active player and any dice they've locked in to help defeat the House.

Jeremiah--This is a really fun addition to the standard dice game. Being able to be targeted on every turn can really swing the lead to and fro, and having it matter where the dice land and their orientation when they do land also makes for more interaction and possibilities. Most importantly you RARELY have any downtime in the game, you're always rolling threat dice to try and knock out the active player!

Firestone--I'm not sure if this is the first game to use that spacial dice mechanic, but it sure is a cool idea. 

There are a few other things to take note of, such as the Fortune side of the Skill dice has the same mechanism as the arrow, so you can only attach it to dice you've rolled that fall in front of that line. And if you sneak past everyone in the house instead of killing--even one of them--you get extra points at the end of your turn. 

After it's all said and done, the player with the most money wins the game. 

Jeremiah--My group has really enjoyed this one. We do like dice-rollers as fillers but often they aren't interactive enough--or interactive at all! The Threat dice really take care of that! Being a part of the countdown makes everyone's turn more enjoyable, and there's a good deal of satisfaction in rolling that last hourglass just before someone finishes off a House!

Firestone--My biggest problem with the game is the luck of those dice. There's a big difference between someone rolling four single Guards on a House roll, and someone rolling four Double-Guards on a House roll. Yes, the odds are that the former will happen more than the latter, but I've seen the latter happen. And with only three rounds in the game, that can just put you out of the game. (And you get the same reward regardless of the "difficulty" of the House dice.) Yes, I'm aware it's a dice game, and that I need to lighten up. 

Jeremiah--I really love the creative way this game hacks dice rolling. It's not enough to just roll the right results, there's a deeper element to it Ninja Dice actually uses the physical location as a part of the result of your roll, it's very, very cool. Yes, it actually makes it a touch more random, and there isn't much if anything built into the game to mitigate that luck, but every game I've played has felt balanced and competitive.

Firestone--It's nice to see a game try something new with an old mechanism. And keeping everyone involved is a plus in practically every game. Plus, who am I kidding? My kids don't care how swingy or imbalanced the dice are. NINJAS!!!!

Jeremiah Final Verdict--Ninja Dice really takes dice-rolling to a different level, using very unique twists in a pretty standard--if not played-out--genre. Giving each player at the table a role (and roll!) in every turn and a chance to even the playing field keeps the game interesting for all the players, even if you're not currently in the lead. Great components and fun gameplay make this one a no-brainer for fans of both ninjas and/or dice!

Firestone Final Verdict--I didn't like this as much as Jeremiah, but it's still a clever little filler. It's cheap, portable, and plays quickly. And my kids love it. That counts for a lot in my book. 

Theology of Games would like to thank GreenBriar Games for providing us with review copies of Ninja Dice. This in no way affected our opinions of the game.