Hands on Shinobi Empire - Sample Rooms

Hands on Shinobi Empire

I finally had a chance to play Shinobi Empire, one of the games I got at the last Game Market. I found it to be an easy to pick up and lighthearted game that was fun to play. One of the coolest things about this game is the cards themselves. Each card has a unique image, a mix of cute and cool, and they form a neat multi-storied castle as you play.

Instructions, 35 tokens, and 54 cards
Instructions, 35 tokens, and 54 cards

Players choose a set of seven colored tokens that correspond to the color of the ninjas they receive points for. Each player is dealt a hand of five cards. The player who is wearing the simplest clothes (most ninja-like) goes first, with play proceeding clockwise. A turn consists of a player drawing a card from the deck and then placing one card.

Cards are played in rows, with each row representing a castle floor. Each card may be placed to the left, right, or above another card. Except for the first floor, cards must be played with a card beneath them (physics!). Each floor may have at most seven cards and there can be at most seven floors.

Only the largest completed room (a room with red walls on both sides) on a floor gives points. Open rooms and rooms tied for being the largest do not give points. Once the largest room can be determined for a floor, players place one token per ninja of that player’s color in the room. The first player to place all seven of their tokens wins.

Two completed rooms, with the largest being two cards.
Two completed rooms, with the largest being two cards.

In addition to the ninja cards, there are three special cards. The samurai card nullifies the room he is played in. The Fujin (wind god) and Raijin (thunder god) cards cause players to pass their hand to the player to their left if Fujin and right if Raijin.

We played with five people and the first game we played ended surprisingly quickly. The second game, however, nearly exhausted the entire deck and resulted in a seven story castle. Once we all understood the strategy of the game, it was surprisingly hard to gain points because other players would block attempts.

The second game began with a large room completed on the first floor.
The second game began with a large room completed on the first floor.

But finished with just a few additional smaller rooms completed.
But finished with just a few additional smaller rooms completed.

The cards that you play may not correspond to the color you gain points for, which adds an interesting aspect to the game and leads to a bit more compromise than might be expected. I imagine that the player dynamics may change a bit in a game with fewer than five players since not all ninjas would result in points for a player.


The instructions fit on a single double sided B5 paper with lots of example images and easy to understand Japanese. There’s no text on the cards themselves, so it should be fairly easy to play without much Japanese. An English version of the rules should also be available in the next couple of months according to this Facebook post.

Rules Sample:
Cards are played side-by-side with the same facing. This represents each floor of the castle.


Shinobi Empire
Time 20 minutes
Players 2-5
Ages 6+
Maker Freaky Design, Inc
Details Game Market Site
Online Retailer Amazon Japan

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