The art of the ninja involves stealth and combat. These traits take on an almost goofy quality in Ninja Versus Ninja, a simple, quick, fun game of strategy, attacks, and sneaking

In Ninja Versus Ninja the two players (and this is strictly a two-player game) have six ninjas on a rectangular board. These large-headed ninjas face each other, swords raised, in the relative safefy of their dojos with a three-space-deep neutral area between them. Players win by sending their ninjas to infiltrate the enemy's dojo and return, or by eliminating all of the opponent's ninjas -- but neither task is easy.

Each turn a player rolls two four-sided dice, then moves one ninja that many spaces. Ninjas move in a straight line, with one 90-degree turn allowed; in an opponent's dojo a ninja can also make one 180-degree turn. The more spaces into an opponent's dojo the ninja travels, the more points that ninja scores -- if they return. Once a ninja leaves their own dojo, they must return to their dojo within three turns or be discarded. If a player scores seven points, they win!

Then there's combat. If a ninja ends their movement on an opponent's ninja, that opponent is discarded. But a ninja must move the exact number of spaces and turns to end their turn on an opponent's space; since all other ninjas can't be passed through, this is tougher than it sounds.

Ninja Versus Ninja is very simple to learn, very quick -- and a lot of fun. Most games are finished in 10-15 minutes, and I've seen as many games ended by eliminating an opponent's pieces as by getting the right number of points. The pieces are cute (identical ninjas except for the color of their clothing, with a "shadow ninja" tracking how deep into an opponent's dojo a ninja gets, and a sensei to keep track of score) and there's a surprising amount of strategy involved in balancing offense vs. defense, and whether going on a deep infiltration mission that's hard to return from is better than a number of smaller, safer missions. There's not a lot of depth to Ninja Versus Ninja, but this game is immensely enjoyable when you're in the mood for something easy and quick.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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