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Review – Strawberry Ninja

Review – Strawberry Ninja

This is a review of Strawberry Ninja designed by Chris Castagnetto. It plays 1 – 4 players. Realistcally, I’d estimate the playtime at 5 minutes.

Mechanics
This game is dead simple. Stay with me…

To setup, lay out ten random field cards and the one ninja card in a grid (with one empty space). Cards are face down and secret. Shuffle the four movement cards into their own separate deck.

On a turn, slide two cards, as in a sliding puzzle. Reveal the second card and carry out any text on it. Then draw the top card of the movement deck (four cards, four directions) and move the Kitty pawn in that direction. Advance the turn marker and do it all again.

The goal is to move the Kitty pawn onto the Strawberry Ninja card (revealed or otherwise) before the end of the twelfth and final turn. If you fail, the Ninja wins. The game is intended to be played in a best of three rounds situation.

Nothing particularly mind blowing here, though I do like the movement deck a lot. There are only four cards in it, so you always know which cards WON’T come up and can guess at (or sometimes know) which cards WILL come up. So, after you have found the ninja, you still need to plot out how to catch him quickly. I have always liked this mechanic in games like Kemet or Game of Thrones, where you have a finite deck and can make decisions based on what you know remains.

I’ll also bet that no other review of this incredibly simple game will mention anything as heavy as Kemet or Game of Thrones.

The box mentions that up to four players can play this game, but this is actually never mentioned in the rulebook. One assumes that players just rotate through the turns, but again, this is never mentioned in the rulebook. No matter, though, because the game is fine at one and short enough that it’s actually more fun to watch someone play, rather than bullshit with other players about how to move a cat through a garden.

Theme
The game takes place in a small garden full of interesting little critters – bloated bugs, rotten grapes, cannibal flowers, a runaway cookie, and some sort of siren donut that transports Kitty to its space immediately upon revealing it.

I think the theme ties into the mechanics pretty well here, actually. The revolving garden cards, the movement that is slightly beyond your control, the limited time to win, it all makes this feel like a chase and that is a lot of fun.

Art
I LOVE the game’s art and it was probably one of the really big selling points for me when I backed this on Kickstarter. The game is so simple that without such fun and interesting art, I likely would have given it a pass.

Pacing
This game moves very quickly. The box quotes the play time at twenty minutes, but that is honestly a stretch. I played two full games and then taught my sister how to play one in that time. The strategies aren’t deep and a single turn of the game should take no more than ten seconds.

Value
It was ten bucks. This game is exactly what it promises to be, so I can’t ding it really for value. The art is awesome and the game itself is a stimulating little memory and modular movement game. There are enough cards included to add variety.

Accessibility
This is probably one of the most accessible games I own. It can be taught by demonstrating a single, ten second turn, and uses concepts that everyone is familiar with. I could absolutely see playing this with my daughter in a couple of years.

I don’t expect this game to really hit the table much otherwise, however. I may bring it along to some game nights to occupy five minutes, but otherwise, it won’t really come out much.

Longevity
I think I kinda got it after a few plays (remember, a single game takes about five minutes). There’s nothing novel about Strawberry Ninja, but it is certainly not a bad game – just a fairly basic game.

Final Thoughts
I would struggle to recommend this to someone unless it met their specific needs. The game is great for kids, the art is cool, the concepts are simple, and it is stimulating for the exact amount of time it takes to play it.