The main board, shown above, is double-sided, and shows a manor house or temple on this side. Figures move from dot to dot, some of which have restrictions depending on their surrounding terrain. For example, it costs 2 movement points instead of 1 to move through Rough terrain, Obscured terrain blocks Line of Sight and Elevated terrain cost 3 movement points to climb up on but only 1 to drop down from.
The game board shown above depicts a small village. Soda Pop Miniatures have announced that new game boards will be produced in the future. Yay!
Each Shrine team has an equivalent Clan team. The Air Shrine team's Clan equivalent is Clan Tanchyo. To ease identification, both teams are moulded in green plastic.
The Earth Shrine team's Clan equivalent is Clan Yamazaru. Both teams are moulded in brown plastic.
Note that all of the figures in the game have a small mark on their bases to indicate their front facing. This is a great idea, I think.
The Fire Shrine team's Clan equivalent is Clan Tora. Both teams are moulded in red plastic.
The Spirit Shrine team's Clan equivalent is Clan Kitsune. Both teams are moulded in orange plastic.
The Void Shrine team's Clan equivalent is Clan Ijin. Both teams are moulded in purple plastic.
The Water Shrine team's Clan equivalent is Clan Ika. Both teams are moulded in blue plastic.
Although I only received this game very recently, I have played it once just to try out the rules. I rolled to see which two teams to use and ended up with the Air Shrine and Void Shrine teams. I played the introductory Brawl Challenge and the first team to accumulate 9 Victory Points was the winner. It took about 90 minutes to play and ended in a 9-5 victory to the Void Shrine team. I must say, the game played very well. It was a lot of fun and is a game that should not be taken too seriously at all.
The game is more akin to a non-lethal sports match than to a fight to the death. In Ninja All-Stars no one dies. Characters are either injured or stunned. A character who receives three stuns in a round is automatically wounded. Your role is as a coach, picking the best team for the challenge in hand and coming up with a winning game plan. Like many good games, Ninja All-Stars is easy to play but difficult to master.
I have read some misguided negative reviews of the combat system, with a few people moaning about the colours of the dice (WTF!), the cancelling elements and how characters with low attack stats have no chance of defeating enemies with a high defence stat. I totally dismiss all these criticisms. If you are stupid enough to send a low attack character head to head with a high defence foe then you deserve to lose! The game is all about tactics. Let us assume you are sending a character with AT1 against an enemy with DF3. First, you should have your attacker go into Stealth mode and move behind the enemy. Attacking the enemy in the rear from Stealth adds +2 to your AT (+1AT for a rear attack and +1AT for attacking from Stealth). Now its 3AT versus 3DF. The odds are tied. For each friendly model next to and facing the enemy you get +1AT for each assist. With just one colleague assisting your attacker the odds are now in the attacker's favour - AT4 vs DF3. Ninjas are meant to be stealthy and to attack from a position of strength. Really, combat is all about good tactics, which is why I said the game is easy to play but difficult to master.
I absolutely love the game and can highly recommend it. From what I gather, it ought to go on general release in mid to late February.