Monday, August 18, 2014

Preview: Rise of the Kage

Right before Gen Con GCT Studios (creators of Bushido) reached out to the community looking for bloggers who were willing to demo Rise of Kage. The game revolves around this clan of ninjas who are on a mission whether it be to assassinate a high ranking official, stealing an artifact or kidnapping a princess  these are but a few things that were mentioned as possible missions.

For the demo the group was provided with three characters, one was a heavy combat character another a master of stealth and the third a balance of of the two. They also had different special abilities and bonuses but they fit into their own roles quite well. In Rise of Kage the ninja have a sort of "dice pool" for abilities. On the character sheet there was a nifty reminder about how many dice each ninja had in each skill (either combat or stealth). For example the more combat oriented ninja had 3 dice for combat and 1 for stealth, the stealthy one had 3 in stealth one in combat and the balanced one had 2 in each pool.

Now just because you do not have a lot of dice in one skill does not mean you cannot succeed in the skill. For example when opening a door you can try and sneak/lock pick it or choose to just slice/crash through the door. When making a test you can use any of your dice as long as it includes 1 from the relevant skill. So if you want to bust through the door successfully even if you only have 1 combat dice you can use some of your stealth dice in addition to any combat dice you think you need in order to achieve the task.

This makes the ninjas able to do tasks a little more liberally though it does require some planning on the part of the player. Would they rather save their stealth dice in order to achieve objectives? or sneak through a window? how about evading the notice of a guard? Or would you rather bust through the door and start killing guards left and right? Both have their merits pending on the mission  at hand, though be warned the more noise you make the more actions the guards will be able to move about.

Which brings me to the next point, in Rise of Kage the player who controls the guards is not simply a drone or "AI" but another player who is also trying to win but under different conditions. After the ninjas have done all their actions the guard player gains 8 actions to move his various guards. This includes moving a guard 2 spaces, turning to face a direction, attempting to actively detect a ninja etc. If the ninja somehow made noise or alerted a guard during his turn the guard players gain noise counters. These counters provide the guard player with additional actions or abilities he can cash in on. The guard player can also "spawn" more guards from established points on the board marked by "barracks" counters.

It was also mentioned that the guard player has an option to choose a different "guard boss" which can give his guards different abilities. It gives the guard player the ability to customize his army to a degree which I really like because the player is not "locked" into just one play style. In addition it was hinted that there will be different levels of guards with different skills or abilities. So for example if you start with "10 guard points" you would be able to pick 10 level 1 guards or 5 level 2 guards.

In our demo we played a mission where the ninjas were looking for an artifact on the grounds of the "boss guard". It was mentioned that the guard player picks his force first, then the ninjas have a mission deck that only they can see, with that information they can decide how they want to make up their team. They are planning to have 3 different ninja houses with at least two different ninjas a player can pick from each house. Once the ninjas have been picked they can pick their intended points of entry through the board. Each ninja player places a possible points of entry before the guard player deploys his guards. Once all of the guard player places all of his available guards and draws cards from the guard deck (which have special events that the guard player can use to boost his guards or slow/stop the ninjas) it was up to the ninjas to deploy.

I should note that on the board there were also cache markers marked with different numbers, ninjas can use their stealth dice to roll equal to or over the printed number in order to find any valuable equipment or special events that can be used to help the ninja player on his mission. Since we drew the "steal the artifact" mission every time we uncovered a cache we would roll a d6 and add our total numbers of uncovered cache markers. If the number was 8 or more (established by the mission card) we would find the artifact and we could start to make our escape.

Adding to the ninja players woe is the fact that there are a limited amount of turns in every game, which means that teamwork cooperation and good planning will greatly help the odds of the ninjas on their mission. Although it does not mean that victory is assured even if you manage your objective as fleeing the board becomes a challenge once all of the guards start closing in on your ninjas.

What I found interesting was that before the ninjas roll initiative among themselves they must plot out their intended moves. They can stop at any point during the moves pending if things are going to plan..or not. The initiative roll makes things a bit random between the three players using the ninjas but it also adds to the game as it adds a level of uncertainty. Will the stealth heavy ninja be able to accomplish his mission on time? Or will the impetuous assassin type ninja just take the lead and do what he desires, plans be damned? Certain ninjas also do gain a bonus to their initiative roll giving them a measure of control just in case.

With that said I found our game to be very enjoyable and quick even when we stopped to talk about the finer points of the game and possible future plans for a melding of characters into the Bushido universe took a little less than an hour. I am excited at the possibilities this game has to offer and I am glad that they will be going through the Kickstarter route for this board game. With additional funding they will be able to add more to the game and simultaneously add to the Bushido universe.

Alright gents I hope that you all check out the Rise of the Kage when it goes live onto Kickstarter in the coming weeks, I for one will certainly back this project and wait to see what else GCT Studios has planned. Till then keep it classy and await further updates as I will be able to hopefully post all of my Gen Con adventures! Thanks for stopping by!