Ninja Camp is a card game for two to four players. It is designed by Adam E Daulton and published this year by Action Phase Games. In the game each player takes on the role of a clan of trainee ninjas. The aim of the game is to become the personal ninja apprentice of Sensei Saru. This is achieved by scoring more points than each of the other players.
Each player begins the game with a set of meeples in the colour of their choice, together with a clan card and the two starting cards with the evade and sprint skills.
The pack of cards is shuffled and then laid out face up on the table in a grid formation. A start player is chosen and each player takes turns placing one meeple at a time on the card of their choice. There are some restrictions to this placement: only one meeple can occupy each card, each player’s three meeples must be placed on cards of different skills, and a meeple can never be placed on a wall. Once set up has been completed, the game is ready to begin.
Each turn consists of a player playing a card from their hand, moving one of their meeples according to the instructions on the played card, and then claiming the card that the meeple that they moved started the turn on. In this way the board gradually becomes smaller and movement more limited.
Cards are played onto a pile in front of each player. Once per game a player may choose not to play a card from their hand, but opt instead to make use of their unique clan ability. If they do this, then they move their meeple and/or claim a card according to the instructions on their clan card. They then turn their clan card over so that all players know that their clan ability has been used.
Play continues in this way until either no more moves can be made, or each player has chosen to pass instead of playing. A player can pass at any time, but once they do they cannot then begin to play again.
Once the game has come to an end each player collects the cards they have played, the cards remaining in their hand, and the cards that their meeples occupy, and calculate their score. The player with the highest score wins the game.
Ninja Camp is a light, quick playing game. Despite the fact that it is both easy to learn and play there is a good amount of thinking involved in the game. Players need to consider where to move and which cards are going to best suit them as the modular board shrinks. It can be good to go for the high point cards, but continually doing so may mean that a player soon finds that their meeples have become stranded and they do not have the necessary cards to get them out of the difficult situation that they are in. This is where the clan ability can come into its own. Even when a player doesn’t have the necessary cards to enable them to continue, then their clan ability might help them solve their problem. In this way it can be useful to try and keep the clan ability in reserve for as long as possible, but the variability of set up will mean that each game will provide different circumstances and different challenges.
Ninja Camp has similarities, particularly in the way players claim cards, to another family game, Hey, That’s My Fish! However, to my mind Ninja Camp has more depth to it due to the fact that each move can be different due to the varying skills on the cards. This makes it more interesting than simply moving in straight lines as far as you want to go. The addition of walls and traps also increases the interest and tactics.
All in all this is a good game that fulfils all the requirements of a good filler. It is quick and easy to set up, it is quick and easy to learn, and while it is also quick and easy to play, there is enough depth in the game to provide a decent amount of challenge for most gamers. I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys light but challenging filler games.