Gaming, Reviews

Boardgame Review: Shinobi Wat-aah!

When we were children, my brother and I along with our cousins, Saajidah, Shaheed and Ebrahim were obsessed with playing Crazy 8. You know “pick up, put down (a set), throw away”. We played it all the time. All day, every weekend or opportunity we got. So much so that when Ebrahim started Grade 1 his mother got a call from his teacher saying that when she asked him what came after 10 he said “Jack”.

We love boardgames over in this neck of the woods. It all started when I won Discworld: Ankh Morpork in an Exclusive Books competition and then it just snowballed from there. I didn’t know there was more to boardgames than just the regular old Monopoly, Scrabble, Pictionary, 30 Seconds etc. and it’s been such a fun education. Before then we were a straight up PC/Xbox family and we were happy with that.

Shinobi wa-taah! boardgame



The Empire of the Moon faces many threats. The Rift has reopened, providing passage for the creatures that have lurked in Shadow for millennia. But the danger also comes from within as the Emperor, son of the Moon, is getting old, and his formerly loyal lords are now trying to seize power. These aspiring clan lords will make their appeal to the warriors known as ninjas, adepts of the way of Shinobi. The clans are prepared for war!

As a lord with a thirst for power, in Shinobi WAT-AAH! you intend to place your honorable posterior on the imperial throne. Your plan is to appeal to the large clans of ninjas, who will empower you to impose your military strength your enemies. To put it simply, your goal is to put a big WAT-AAH! in your enemies’ faces!

This game seemed complicated when I looked at the Rule Book, but like all board games, it’s far easier to pick up when you play it. The first thing that made me go “ooooh!” when The Husband pulled this out was how absolutely beautiful the artwork was on the cards. It’s a Japanese themed game so that was another selling point for me but I was a bit sceptical that it was card based because aside from Crazy 8 I am not that good at card based games (especially Magic the Gathering).

I’ve only played this game with 2 players but even so, it’s still a good time unlike some other games (I’m looking at you Ankh Morpork!) which require the full number of players to enjoy.

Cards and Clans

Shinobi boardgame

There are 9 clans each with their own power. They either give you additional cards to add to your hand or they affect the other players clans in some way. There are also a few spare Ronin’s which function as the Joker did in Crazy 8 – basically a spare part stand in.

Then there are the Yokai. There are 9, one for every clan (each based on a Japanese mythological creature) but they can be used to reinforce any clan (more on that later).
There are also Imperial Court cards and Temple of Shadow cards.

There are 2 modes of play:

1. Grasshoper Mode
In this mode you don’t use the board at all. It’s just a simple card game. The point is to place 4 clans first.
Pick up: From the Shinobi Deck
Put down: Either place a Clan (2, 3 or 4 cards) or Reinforce a clan that you already placed down (you can’t place a clan someone has already placed but you can add to their clan) with a card of that clan, a Ronin or a Yokai. A full clan is 4 cards.
Throw away: Any card

2. Grand Master Mode
Grand Master Mode is basically 3 rounds of Grasshopper mode and you are awarded Ninja Pawns at the end of each round that you must spend on the board. The loser of each round can either take 2 cards from the Temple of Shadow cards or look at a Decoy Boss. In addition if a player places 2 Ninja Pawns in the Imperial Court they get a card which gives them an additional power/play in the next round. You can only do it once per round.

After the 3rd round you open the Boss card in the middle and see what the consequences are and the person left with the most points wins.

The Board

Shinobi boardgame


There are 5 Boss Cards and they each do damage or award points depending on where you’ve placed your Ninja Pawns. You use your Ninja Pawns to both gain points and to take a look at 1 of the 3 Dummy Boss cards on the top of the board.

It’s a process of elimination to figure out what Boss is really in the middle so you know whether you want to spend your Ninja Pawns there or not. Because all your Ninja Pawns count for points depending on where they’re placed.

Shinobi boardgame

This is a great boardgame to play with the kids, they’ll love the drawings and who doesn’t love playing Ninjas? Even though the recommnded age is 10+ I’d say a 6 year old would pick up Grasshopper mode quite easily. Grand Master mode can get a bit complicated and you need to strategise a bit.

Ages: 10+
Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 25-40 mins

You can buy the Shinobi Wat-aah boardgame from Quantam Gaming for R560.



  1. cat@jugglingact

    March 19, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Seems like fun – but a bit complicated. From what age on?

    1. Zayaan

      March 19, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      Seems complicated but it’s not at all! We felt the same, played a grasshopper round and then went “Oh! That was quiet simple!”. Once we played a few Grasshopper rounds we moved on to Grand Master. The box said 10+ but I think if you have slightly younger kids playing along, then the Grasshopper mode is best for them.

  2. Jerall

    March 19, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    This sounds like quite the fun game. I’ll have to check it out when next I pop into a friendly local gaming store.

    Do you lose points whenever you ask “what was Bruce Lee’s favourite drink”?

    1. Zayaan

      March 19, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      We’re going to bring it along to the Boardgames Con thing next weekend. You can have a go at it then.

  3. Celeste

    March 19, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Seems complicated but I’ll take your word for it when you say it’s not. I learned to play “klawerjas” last year so I’m sure I’ll be able to get a handle on this one.

    1. Zayaan

      March 19, 2015 at 5:52 pm

      Yor! WAY easier than klawers! I think when you write out something it seems more complicated. We thought so too when we read the rule book then we played a game and we’re like “oh, this is child’s play”.

      We’re having a Boardgames Con next week in Wynberg of you’re in Cape Town and want to check it out.

      1. Celeste

        March 19, 2015 at 6:27 pm

        Yeah I’m not big on reading instruction manuals. Hehehe… I may just take you up on the offer depending on what the kiddos schedules look like.

  4. Namreen Sonday

    March 20, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Looks like something my kids would enjoy!

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