Shuriken Kickstarter Ends

With Shuriken raising just over $30k at 30 days in and with 15 days to go, it is clear that the project will not be funded, and so we are regretfully pulling the plug on the Kickstarter today.

It’s been a heck of a ride, we’ve learned a lot and tried to correct and adjust for backer needs on the fly, but even making the whole project Kickstarter exclusive gave us only a small spike in backers. In the end I suspect that to actually raise all the funds for a big box game requires a large pre-existing audience, and preferably a funding goal much lower than the cost of producing the Kickstarter.

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Shuriken: Call for Playtesters

Development of the Shuriken board game is now entering the final phase: open blind playtesting. We need volunteers to blind playtest prototypes of the board game.

In the blind playtesting phase players play the game without any help from the designers — they just have the prototype and the rules. Blind playtesting is a good way of finding poorly worded sections of the rules.

In open blind playtesting the game is played by complete strangers — and as many of them as possible — to gather as much feedback as possible from as many new eyes as possible. The more people who see the game before production, the more errors they can spot, and the more the game can be balanced.

What’s Involved

We have made a limited quantity of hand-made prototypes of Shuriken. These are not finished games. This is cards printed out on a desktop printer, cut out, and put in card sleeves. Board on cardstock rather than actual gameboard. The figures are spraypainted plastic zombies standing in for ninjas. Prototypes also do not included finished art (some, but mostly not).

If you just want to try out a fun new game, blind playtesting is not for you. In blind playtesting we’re asking you to play the game in a timely fashion and provide detailed feedback on the game — not just if you liked it or not, but feedback about everything from ability balance to spotting typos to things unclear in the rules to length of gameplay and just everything else.

We want playtesters with a reliable group of gamers willing to test out a game prototype, play at least one game within a week or so of receiving the prototype, and who can play multiple games.

If this sounds like you, we’ll be happy to mail you a prototype of the game. And for your assistance we’ll also send you a free copy of the published game if the Kickstarter is successful, as well as giving you playtester credit in the rulebook.

How to Apply

If you’d like to be a blind playtester for Shuriken, just email the following information to

  • Indicate your interest in the Shuriken playtest
  • Tell us your name
  • Do you have a reliable group of gamers?
  • Will you be able to playtest the game within about a week of receiving it?
  • Are you willing to email us detailed feedback?
  • How many times do you think you’ll be able to run the game?
  • Do you have more than one group that you can playtest with?

Please be aware that we have a limited number of prototypes (they take a ridiculous amount of time to make by hand, even in their crude format) and will not necessarily be able to send everyone who inquires a prototype.

Shuriken Board Tiles

This is a Shuriken preview post. We are beginning to get some of the artwork in for the Shuriken board tiles, from the fantastic Cyril Van Der Haegen. Here is the first tile to come in, the Zen Garden:

Shuriken Zen Garden Tile

The Shuriken game board is made up of 12 of these tiles (each tile is 8″ by 8″) laid out 3 tiles wide by 4 tiles long. Each tile has a 1″ grid of squares, and each square can hold one ninja figure. In addition each tile has a special ability that affects ninja on that tile.

The Zen Garden is one of only two tiles that can’t be destroyed during the game, in which players may not fight each other, and into which any play may place new Unarmed Ninja.

These two starting tiles are mechanically important because they give players a safe place to regroup after a particularly bloody battle and ensure that players will always be able to bring new ninja into the game (outside of the starting tiles, players may only bring new ninja into a tile on which they already have ninja).

Tiles & Combat

One of the ways that Shuriken makes combat fast and easy is by embracing the notion that ninja are martial artists who can leap through the air, off walls, and attack from range or up close. When a player initiates combat, all of that player’s ninja fight all of the opponent’s ninja on the same tile.

This way there is no counting spaces or determining who is adjacent to whom — you can very easily see all of the ninja that participate in the fight at a glance.

Combat is dangerous, however. Not only might you lose to the opponent, but if the dice take a bad turn you could end up damaging the tile itself. Every damage result on the dice (1 in 6 chance) places a damage marker on the tile. If a tile takes 5 damage, it is destroyed. A destroyed tile is flipped over to the destroyed side and all ninja on the tile are returned to their owner’s pool of available ninja.

This mechanic is both fun and practical. Fun because you can see the board slowly get destroyed over the course of the massive series of battles. Practical because it creates a danger to attacking with a huge force of ninja at once. Saving up a giant unstoppable force is likely to wipe out the tile and your forces with it — instead this mechanic encourages players to strike with smaller (but not too small!) forces of ninja, which keeps the action happening. It also sometimes presents interesting tactical choices: perhaps it’s worth engaging in combat not in an attempt to win, but just in an attempt to finish off a tile that’s already heavily damaged, and thus wipe out a chunk of the competition.

Players catch on very quickly to the dangers of trying to save up too large a force — and quickly afterward begin to see the possibilities of using the mechanic against others.

With 12 tiles in the game, the Shuriken game board uses 22 unique pieces of art (10 double-sided tiles, and 2 single-sided ones). Awesome Enterprise has invested to have Cyril begin the board artwork, but the Kickstarter will be needed to pay for the entire collection of board art.

Shuriken Miniatures

This is a Shuriken update post. One of the most exciting things about the Shuriken board game is the 250 plastic ninja that come with the game. Here on the Shuriken design team we’re incredibly excited to finally have the chance to show off what these plastic ninja will look like!

Unarmed Ninja

Shuriken unarmed ninja mini

The Unarmed Ninja is the basic unit of Shuriken. When players spend an action to bring new ninja onto the board, it is Unarmed Ninja that are brought in. The Unarmed Ninja are the weakest of the four ninja types in Shuriken, with only a one in six chance of scoring a hit. However they are essential in combat if for no other reason than to soak up the casualties dealt out by the enemy.

As you might imagine, Clans have more Unarmed Ninja than any other type.

Shuriken Ninja


The namesake of the game, Shuriken are one of the advanced ninja. Players can spend an action to train two of their Unarmed Ninja into ninja of another type. Shuriken Ninja have two in six chances of scoring a hit in combat, but on one of those two chances they can get a double hit, taking out two enemies.

The greatest strength of the Shuriken Ninja in the game is that they attack first in combat, before Sword or Unarmed Ninja, so a strong force of Shuriken Ninja has the chance to clear out all enemies before the enemy has a chance to attack.

We chose to have the Shuriken Ninja sculpted in a crouched down position to give it a substantially different silhouette, to make it easy to stop the ninja type at a glance.

Sword Ninja


Sword Ninja are the heaviest hitters in Shuriken. They have a two in six chance of scoring a hit in combat plus an additional one in six chance of getting a double hit. Thus a Sword Ninja hits half the time on average.

The Sword Ninja is sculpted with particularly large upraised sword again to make it easy to stop the figure’s silhouette on the game board. Because the figures will be injection molded with soft plastic rather than resin, the sword on the figures will bend rather than break when dropped — at which point you can just straighten it out again.

Master Ninja

shuriken-master-ninjaMaster Ninja are the strongest ninja in the game, as it should be. Each Clan can only have one Master Ninja on the board at a time, and Clans only have access to two Master Ninja (so if both are captured, you must then do without).

Master Ninja participate in every phase of combat: shuriken, sword, and unarmed. Players want to avoid having their Master Ninja captured, and as such it’s safest to make sure your Master Ninja travels in the company of other ninja that can be chosen as casualties in battle.

Shuriken Dice

This is a Shuriken update post.

The Shuriken board game makes use of custom dice to resolve combat and each game will come with ten dice. The dice manufactured for the game will be debossed plastic dice (these are standard high quality gaming dice); however, for the prototype we have to make due with stickers.

shuriken dice

NOT final dice: these are just prototypes with stickers. The final dice will be debossed plastic 16mm dice.

In Shuriken combat, players roll one die for each ninja they have participating (all ninja on a tile participate). Combat happens in three phases: shuriken, then sword, then unarmed. After each phase casualties are removed, and the player who took the casualties gets to choose which of his or her ninja are removed.

The six custom dice phases are:

  • Shuriken: represents a hit during the shuriken phase of combat
  • 2 Shuriken: represents 2 hits during the shuriken phase of combat
  • Sword: represents a hit during the sword phase of combat
  • 2 Swords: represents 2 hits during the sword phase of combat
  • Sword + Damage: represents a hit during the sword phase of combat, but also a damage token is placed on the board. This damage is placed if this result is rolled during any phase of combat.
  • Fist: represents a hit during the unarmed phase of combat

Experienced players know to always have at least a couple of Unarmed Ninja on a tile to use as casualties. Some players prefer to stack Shuriken Ninja for the first strike capabilities while others prefer Sword Ninja to have the heaviest hitters. Both strategies have their strengths and weaknesses, as does a balanced approach of Sword and Shuriken Ninja — but always have those Unarmed Ninja on hand for casualties.

And you’d be surprised how often the Unarmed Ninja manage to polish off the enemy forces in the final phase of combat.

Shuriken Mission Cards

This is a Shuriken preview post. In Shuriken, Mission Cards give players an additional way to gather victory points, and to accumulate techniques that will aid them in combat.

Shuriken Mission Card

Shuriken comes with a deck of 80 Mission Cards. Players have a hand of Mission Cards and as they are completed players lay the Mission Cards face-up in front of them, gaining the benefit of the technique. Each Mission Card has three elements:

  1. A Mission, or what a player needs to do to get the benefit of the card.
  2. A Technique, representing some kind of in-game advantage granted by the card.
  3. Victory Points, which along with number of captured ninja, determine the winner at the end of the game.

Many Mission Cards offer both a useful technique and victory points. Others, like the example above, don’t grant victory points and instead offer only an in-game advantage. All of the discard (one-use) Mission Cards give zero victory points, so players are encouraged to use them.

In terms of game play, Mission Cards help give players direction as they play. Most missions require some kind of combat, often against specific other players, to keep the players interacting with each other. Players have a choice between working to complete Mission Cards, or just launching into combat against the best target on the board.

Shuriken Clan Cards

This is a Shuriken preview post. In Shuriken, each player takes on the role of one of five rival ninja Clans. Each Clan is represented by a 8″ x 4″ Clan Card:

Shuriken Clan Card

Click to Embiggen

The Clan Cards serve three purposes, in addition to looking darned good:

  1. Each Clan has a special ability available to only that Clan. Clan Takashi, pictured above, gets to skip a phase of combat, but only if Takashi is the one to start the combat. These Clan abilities often influence the strategy of playing that Clan.
  2. The Clan cards track the total number of ninja that can be moved with a move action, and the maximum number of spaces those ninja can move. These are tracked with glass beads.
  3. The Clan card also has a convenient list of what players can spend their 3 actions on, which is helpful for first-time players.

This is the first game component with finished graphic design, and it is exciting to playtest the game with something that looks good!

Shuriken Hour of Night Cards

This is a Shuriken preview post. The Shuriken board game uses two decks of cards. The Hour of Night deck provides global effects for each round, and acts as the timer for the game.

Shuriken Hour of Night card

Shuriken comes with 20 Hour of Night cards; however, in any given game only a random 10 are used. This ensures that players won’t know which effects are going to be present in any one game. At the beginning of each round of the game a new Hour of Night card is revealed, triggering a global effect for the round that replaces any effect of the previous one.

In this example, the Dark Future of Chojiro Kazaki, the global effect is that the player who rolls for damage gets to choose casualties (normally the player taking casualties gets to choose which of his or her ninja are captured). This effect will last for each players turn this round, and the next round a new Hour of Night card is revealed, replacing this effect with a new one.

Game Timer

The deck also acts as the timer for the game: since there are 10 cards in the Hour of Night deck, it limits that game to 10 turns. Personally, I’m a big fan of games with timer mechanics, which prevents the kind of endless games that can happen with victory point goals or player elimination.

The timer aspect of the Hour of Night deck also gives players the option of changing the duration of the game: choose to play with more Hour of Night cards in the deck for a longer game, or fewer for a quicker play.

The game, however, is balanced for 10 cards: too few and players won’t have sufficient chance to recover from bad combats; too many and players will run through the entire Mission Card deck (more on that in a future post) and the entire board will be destroyed from excessive combat!

Awesome Enterprise Funding Shuriken Board Game Kickstarter

Shuriken is a ninja-themed board game created by Jon Cazares and Awesome Enterprise’s Brian Wood. Original design of the game began in 2009, but with no way to pay the huge cost of printing a big box board game with hundreds of plastic minis, the prototype and rules were left on the shelf for years.

Now with Kickstarter changing the way the board game industry operates, Awesome Enterprise is funding completion of the game and a Kickstarter campaign to try to raise the money to get it printed. Awesome Enterprise funds will go toward graphic design, sculpts, and some of the artwork needed, as well as money to build prototypes and market the Kickstarter campaign.

The Shuriken development is nearly complete, and the game is now moving outside of the close-knit playtesters into a wider range of playtesters.

Currently we are aiming for a Kickstarter campaign to launch in spring or summer 2013. While the next playtest phase happens, Awesome Enterprise is beginning to source art and design components. If all stays on track, in spring the game will be ready for blind playtesting and that feedback will be incorporated into the Kickstarter version.

Keep an eye on the Shuriken page and the Shuriken category here on the site for more news on this game of ninja warfare.