While on holiday last week in beautiful Alberta, Canada, I picked up this cheap, fun little dice game.
I have to admit, the name alone was enough to grab me.
Pirates vs. Ninjas is one in a series of “X vs. Y” 2-player dice games from Wiggles 3D Games, the others being Army vs. Aliens and Robots vs. Dinosaurs. Each faction from each set is fully compatible with the others, so, yes, you can have Army vs. Dinosaurs, or Pirates vs. Aliens.
As for rules, you couldn’t ask for much simpler. Each player has a dice cup and nine dice, your standard six-siders, and each dice is marked with six different themed symbols, ranked 1 to 6. For example, the Ninja dice have Ninjas (Rank 1), Shuriken (Rank 2), Kuji Magic (Rank 3), and so on, all the way up to Kuji Shrine (Rank 6). The aim of the game is to destroy all of your opponents dice.
At the start of the game, each player rolls their nine dice, then lines up their dice in Rank order in their “Combat Zone” (i.e. the bit of table in front of them). If you rolled more than one Rank 5 – Rank 5 being your “Hero” dice – excess Rank 5’s are converted into Rank 1’s. The player with the most Rank 1’s goes first, because God knows they’re going to need the help.
On their turn, a player can attack or rally. Attacking is dirt simple; the player chooses one of his dice of Rank 1 to 4, and destroys one of his opponent’s dice of equal or lower Rank. The destroyed dice is taken out of the game, and the attacking dice goes back into its owner’s dice cup. Easy! Alternatively, three dice of the same Rank can gang up to destroy a dice with a Rank one higher than their own (so three Rank 1s can destroy a Rank 2).
If you want to try and get better dice results, or you can’t attack (for example, if you aren’t able to destroy one of your opponent’s dice, or you have no dice in your Combat Zone), you have to rally. To rally, a player picks up as many of his dice as he wants from their Combat Zone, puts them back in the dice cup, then rolls all dice in their cup to get new results (demoting excess Heroes to Rank 1s as usual). Again, easy.
The spice of the game comes from special powers. A player uses the special power of their Rank 5’s and 6’s instead of attacking. To use the power of a Rank 5 (your “Hero”), you only need to spend one Rank 5 dice (putting it back in the cup as normal), but three Rank 6 dice are needed to use the Rank 6 special power. The special powers are faction specific; the Ninja Master (Ninja Rank 5), for example, lets you destroy an opponent’s Hero dice, and the Jolly Roger (Pirate Rank 6) destroys all Rank 6 dice, yours and your opponents.
That’s about it really; a very quick and easy dice game that shouldn’t take any longer than 5 minutes to play. There is a rule that prevents stalling; if five turns go by with no dice destroyed, victory goes to the player who destroyed the most dice, and if there’s still a tie, players get a score, which is the total of the Ranks of the enemy dice they destroyed.
There’s also the nice bonus that all the two cups share a double-sided lid which makes keeping the whole set together easy.
If you want to try this game out without buying the kit (and miss out on the funky dice!), you could easily use normal six-sided dice; you just need to determine which faction a player is to determine the special powers of their Rank 5 and Rank 6 dice provide; just remember you need to spend three Rank 6 dice to use their power. For your convenience…
Aliens – Move any two enemy dice back into their owner’s dice cup (Rank 5), destroy any two enemy dice (Rank 6).
Army – Choose 1 to 3, and upgrade all your dice of that Rank to the next Rank (Rank 5), destroy all dice of Rank 3 or lower (Rank 6).
Ninjas – Destroy enemy “Hero” dice (Rank 5), you can immediately rally and then attack this turn (Rank 6).
Pirates – Opponent has to rally on their next turn (Rank 5), destroy all dice of a Rank of your choice (Rank 6).
You could also be creative and invent your own factions and Rank 5/6 powers, I suppose.
Ultimately, PvN is fun, fast and casual, great for quick breaks while you eat pizza and argue about which game to play next.