The following is an interview between 2D6.org and Ninja John, the Creative Director at Ninja Division conducted over the weekend for your reading enjoyment! Read all the way to the end for some comments from me and of course learn more about Ninja All Stars over at the Kickstarter!
Hello and welcome Ninja John from Ninja Division/Soda Pop Miniatures!
Could you please take a few moments to introduce yourself, tell us what you do at Ninja Division/Soda Pop, and give us the 30 second sales pitch on Ninja All Stars?
My name is John Cadice, I am one of the owners, and the creative director at Ninja Division/Soda Pop. I manage content creation for all visual and manufactured products, world building, miniatures, artwork and concepts for Relic Knights, Super Dungeon Explore, Takoashi University, and now Ninja All-Stars.
Ninja All-Stars® features fully assembled, high quality miniatures and exciting community-building, league-style gameplay!
Build a team of elite ninja and compete for honor and glory against rival clans. Games pit 2 – 4 players against one another in a series of challenges to earn the favor of the Moon Princess. Between challenges, ninja earn experience to gain new abilities and combat aptitudes. As leader of your clan, you guide the growth of your team, including hiring powerful Heroes and Ronin to aid your cause.
I really like how you handle your Kickstarters, no gimmicks just a really good price. What made you pick this business model versus the more common (and frustrating for customers) KS exclusives business model?
There is a lot to be said for the baited hook of exclusives, it drives purchasing at a near subconscious level, and drives a lot of sales. We are not ignorant of this factor, but instead have always tried to apply our own ethos to managing a campaign like this. We want long buy-in and participation in our products, we want that people are not left out of special merchandise that they would/could enjoy playing with, even if the campaign didn’t land on a good paycheck day for them, or perhaps they didn’t hear about the campaign until it was too late. All of these are good reasons why we can still benefit our backers with great products, and early releases of special miniatures and supplements, but overall, will not harm our community and build in value that everyone can participate with.
Soda Pop has set the bar pretty high with the most recent Forgotten King Kickstarter with weekly updates. Will the Ninja All Star KS get the same treatment?
Yes, its time consuming, and Ninja Deke has been handling this expertly, and is a show of our commitment to being out front with all issues, and try to address any and all questions we can. We want to earn and reinforce the trust of our backers in our projects now that we are managing our own delivery.
How far along is Ninja All Stars in development? Is it pretty much ready to head to manufacturing or are their still mechanics being ironed out?
Ninja All-Stars is mechanically sound and ready to go, we are wrapping up some last minute copy writing and layout for packaging… but as we finish that up, molds have started to be cut, all our artwork and sculpting is finished, and by the end of the campaign, we will be in a good position to push the big red ninja button – meaning a tight turnaround for Ninja All-Stars… even more so than with Forgotten King. Now that we are under our own steam, we can do so much more to keep this tight and reliable.
Any chance we will see a limited painted pledge before the Kickstarter ends? Sure it would be expensive but you know there are those of us with limited painting time and or skill!
Nope… we encourage you all to punch right out into painting your minis. Pre-paints would be a huge cost, and delay our delivery. Though we have started to put together planning for future products, considering pre-paints as options. But for now.. get those brushes ready!
The board gaming hobby is really taking off over the past 2 years. We are seeing games such as Krosmaster and Arcadia Quest hitting the market to lots of positive buzz. People may not realize that Soda Pop has been making similar games since 2011 and not realize you were the originals. How is Ninja All Stars differentiating itself from games like Krosmaster and Arcadia Quest? Can you highlight some differences that really stand out?
We certainly did not get the benefit of a large-scale Kickstarter to introduce the world to the original Super Dungeon Explore. But yes, we brought this to market as our flagship product, and in our cooperation with CoolMiniorNot – their first board game. We work very hard to maintain the highest level of sculpting and artwork that are most reminiscent and authentic to the manga inspired super deformed and chibi art styles. As creative director, I work hard to ensure that they maintain that cutesy videogamey feel, and maintain consistency across all our ranges that use Chibi miniatures… both Super Dungeon, and now Ninja-All Stars.
Can you tell us more about the team building and leveling system? What steps are being taken to stop Deke’s Dominating Dojo from mopping up Newt’s New Ninja? Are you thinking of Handicapping systems, temporary buffs (always better than handicaps!), or is there another Ninja secret?
The player with the lower rating is given boons like re-roll tokens and moon princess tokens that directly help in gameplay, and should help to even up the score when a team is feeling outmatched.
I really love the idea of the leveling system; it gives you a vested interest on so many levels in your team. What kind of ceiling are we looking at, give me an idea what “Super Ninja Sayonara” is going to look like at the top level!
Individual ninja will have a ceiling in the number of levels they can advance. But don’t worry; it will take a lot of games to get your team up to that level. Taking that into account, a fully decked out team will have strong interplay between added abilities, and some new stat increases, creating excellent agents for your clan.
Games like this always seem to lend themselves best as 2 player games. What can you tell us about the 3 and 4 player game mechanics? Will 3 players be a free for all? 4 player teams or more free for all? Is there anything added in to minimize ganging up on the leader? Can we look forward to large 4 player free for all game?
Quite simply, the scenarios will outline how each of those games will work, the larger games don’t necessarily mean that you will be ganged up on, as the presence of ninja on a portion of the board works to negate and disrupt all the players, not just one. Once objectives are presented, it will feel less like a free-for-all, and more like a precious balance of mitigating enemy advances on the objective, which will require your tactical brains in addition to a bit of luck and uncertainty with 1-2 more players.
Currently you are offering 2 versions of the game, the Ninja Master, and the Elemental Master. On the surface it seems like Elemental Master offers a dozen less miniatures but you get unique sculpts versus the Ninja Master which has generic sculpts that can used for a generic team. I know there is more to it than that though, what else can you tell us?
The Ninja Master is a required basic pledge that introduces a player to the game with the full retail product, and some choice to select 2 clans of his/her choice should something really stand out and inspire.
The Elemental Masters is as much for the player as it is for the collector. They player who wants variety of sculpts over simple mass-playability, a real “style first” backer. We wanted to provide as much choice in this option as able, while still making sure that the core of the game was present in both pledges. This is a pledge for a whole new game we want you playing, not just a collection of awesome figures. (which it is)
On to game mechanics! Have you noticed the dice symbols are easy to quickly match up for dice tests? Any thoughts of color coding the symbols or have you noticed this really isn’t necessary? From a quick perusal it seems your average dice test will be 4, maybe 5 dice max per player, am I correct in this?
So, in the game, and as part of our lexicon of game language, all the elemental symbols do in-fact have colors associated with them – red/fire, blue/water, green/wind, orange/spirit, brown/earth, and purple/void. Now.. ask us what it costs to make a 6 sided dice with 6 different colored painted elements on them.. and I’d rather give you 8-10 more awesome miniatures in the box.. it’s a pricey upgrade, when it is otherwise unnecessary.
Can you give us an idea of what an example combat between 2 ninja will look like with some possible outcomes from the dice tests?
Quite. Our gameplay video will enhance this example, but here you go: A Tora ninja Chunin – the teams leader is stalking an enemy Kaiken of the Yamazaru clan. During the Tora players activation, he sees that he is within movement range to bring him into close combat and moves into an adjacent space to the target ninja. The Tora Chunin already has a healthy attack value of 4 vs the enemy Kaiken defense value of 3. Without adding in special abilities or moon cards (which can greatly sway combat)- the Chunin lets out a battle cry and attacks with his sword.
He rolls his 5 attack dice, and they come up – Earth, Void, Air, Fire, Fire.
The Yamazaru Kaiken has barely enough time to react, rolling his 3 defense dice, and getting – Spirit, Water, Water
After cancelling battle dice – Void/Spirit – Fire/Water all cancel out. This leaves the attacking Tora ninja with remaining dice, allowing him choices of Earth or Air effects to effect the combat. Earth would result the defender being stunned and Air would result in the defender being thrown from the combat up to 3 spaces in any direction.
The Tora ninja decides that with the following activations moving more ninja in this tight space, he chooses to launch the defending Kaiken ninja out of combat with a well timed throwing technique.
There are many strategic considerations for different outcomes, over and above just knocking out the enemy.
By the way including 16 dice is really awesome, no need to be sharing dice! I don’t want my opponent’s bad juju!
HA – gotta have enough dice
The Moon Deck, is it a customized deck based on which clans are present in the game or is it a generic deck used every time no matter which ninja are present?
The Moon Deck will come with the basic game, and everyone will be able to draw from this for gameplay. We have included possibilities to add in more moon cards as your collections expand, but the deck should not be considered customizable, simply expandable.
Can you tell us more about how the Moon Deck will influence the game play? Will we see some really game changing cards that will force you to constantly update your tactics?
We were careful not to overbalance too much power in the Moon Deck, there are some very useful mechanics and abilities you might be able to draw upon in a pinch, and this deck acts as that level of randomizer. In some cases allowing for some rerolls, cancelling or granting combat and movement effects, which compound with the phases of the moon magnifying the powers in-game.
I like the idea of the Ronin and how they can be temporarily used to boost your team, really good if you see some deficiencies that need a temporary boost in your next battle. Any chance we can see an all Ronin Clan? Any hints on the 6th unrevealed clan you care to share?
Well, as of today, the Tanchyo preview is up on our website! They are one of my favorites.. nothing like the flittering “thwip” of dozens of fletched arrows dragging down your enemies! As of yet, no all-ronin clans are planned, but there are some great combinations that are not only cool looking and thematic, but seriously powerful on the table-top. Early games will see Ronin used to cover some early shortcomings in attack or defense strength, but we can see long-term use for key Ronin to not only flavor your clans presence on the field, but to enhance your already awesome powers and abilities.
The Oni look great, can you tell us more about how they change things up, and can we look forward to any more thematic fantasy additions? Amanojaku, Hibagon, or even Yōkai?
The Oni bring that heavy hitting coverage to your side of the board, they have an expanded footprint on the table, meaning that fewer ninja will be able to sneak past them to complete missions, and their Resilient ability means that they can make affinity tests vs being KO’d in a fight, making them hard to drag down. Add that to the skills and abilities they come with, and can learn.. and they can quickly be a huge threat after a few games and some experience.
We are drawing from across a wide pantheon of mythology and popular culture, you might have seen our preview of Jorogumo, and we might even have a well known Yūrei in the mix as well… wait and see. We did our homework, and left a few out for future expansions and collections!
The idea of just dots on the board versus the traditional square grid is an interesting decision. Are they big enough to easily see across a table? I like how the dots + symbols should minimize any arguments about difficult terrain, the dot is the terrain! Tell me more about how the dots work with line of sight.
The marks on the board will clearly demonstrate line-of-sight by your models ability to draw a line to touch a mark an enemy is standing on without drawing that line through intervening elevated terrain or anything that would block LOS. It is meant to be quick.
Will the game board itself prove to be interactive? Items to pick up or drop, maybe tell us more about how the Samurai Sentries and how they will or will not be a thorn in our Ninja sides!
The game board, as a part of setup, and depending on scenario will indeed have interactive elements, such as elemental shrines, and lanterns. And as you have identified, Samurai Sentries will be essential parts of some of the scenarios.. a thorn in your side is the least of your worries.. I hear spear tips are much nastier.
Is there any chance of an additional alternate board as a stretch goal? Who knows, maybe combining two boards together in an epic 4 player Ninja free for all might be fun!
We have already announced a 2 sided board for the box game.. and if stretch goals work out, we will be expanding available arenas of play with lots of really cool themed areas to provide you new and interesting places to have your games.
I really enjoy Super Dungeon Explore, it’s my 6 year old son’s favorite game and he requests to play it a lot! What new cross platform mechanics can we look for between Ninja All Stars and Super Dungeon Explore, Ninja magic in Super Dungeon Explore maybe? Oh and of course we need an Oni boss!
There will not be any carry-over into Ninja All-Stars. It is certainly a stand alone product with an entire mechanics set and world of its own. But we heard our fans, and have created rules for people who want to have dungeons filled with evil ninjas to battle or use any of the elemental heroes or ronin with a special hero card you can use. We were sure to stop short of providing cards for everything for the important reason that we need to keep some level of separation between the two products. The introduction of another 60-70 unique miniatures and heroes into Super Dungeon would have long term balance effects in organized play, and we know that our most devout hobbyists will have a great time creating their own profiles and playing as they want.
So far both sets are looking like a fantastic deal. $100 for either over 60 or over 70 miniatures (depending on which box you get) is a great deal for the quality we get from Soda Pop. Any hints about future goodies we can look forward to for Ninja All Stars? Maybe a box insert to keep all these plastic bits from banging around?
We certainly are looking at ways to prevent your miniatures from shaking around and will plan elements for packaging as appropriate. Lets work on getting this stuff backed by as many people as we can, then we have a bunch of new things we can get into the print queue to show off, but I can’t give it all away now.
One of the best things I like about Super Dungeon Explore is the inclusion of statistic cards for each miniature. Few things are more annoying than having the statistics listed in a rulebook that the players need to fight over between turns. Ninja All Stars sticking to cards, are we looking at some kind of clan board, or something else?
All the stats for the characters are in the rulebook as intended. But, as a player, you will be managing your own “scroll” which is your clans roster. Since the stats of your heroes and clan ninja can change up during gameplay, you will need to track individual experience when taking out enemies and achieving scenario objectives for experience. So the book will only be needed once to create your list, and then you are off and running.
We at 2D6.org would like to thank Ninja Division for taking the time to answer these questions! we look forward to the release of Ninja All Stars at the end of this year!
I just wanted to take a moment to add some comments to this Q&A. First of all I really appreciate Soda Pops standpoint on exclusives. I know the proper business model if you want to rake in the dollars for the Kickstarter is to offer exclusives but it really does hurt the brand in the long run in my eyes and I want to thank Soda Pop for taking a strong stance against exclusives. I know I am not alone in the fact that if a game hits retail and I know it had quite a few Kickstarter exclusives I simply won’t buy it at retail. I just simply think about how I am missing out on things that give more options to the game, shake my head, and walk away. I never bought Arcadia Quest for this very reason even though I have played it and know I would enjoy playing it with my 2 sons, I simply don’t want the lesser version of the game, and I know I am not alone in feeling this way. Sure I know there are people who will vehemently disagree with me but some of them disagree because they enjoy making money in the after market sales with escalated prices for those same exclusives.
It also sounds like Ninja Division has some great ideas here with Ninja All Stars that should give the game lots of longevity and replay, I mean come on, a campaign system? You have my attention there!
Finally The just released the Beta Rules over on the Kickstarter, so I plan on reading them and seeing if there is a feasible way for me to cobble together a video for the game using proxies only. Assuming it doesn’t look too much like a Frankenstein mess expect to see a video before this Kickstarter ends over on my Youtube Channel and here at 2D6.org.
If you have any comments or questions about this interview email me at OTSBGR@gmail.com (I know the messaging system here on 2D6 can be a little… rigid… thanks to WordPress) I’ll do my best to answer any emails!