Ninjak is on the run after stealing a powerful object and it’s up to the other Valiant Universe heroes to take down their former ally. You must team up with your fellow heroes and fight your way through an onslaught of villainous Threats and Ninjak’s devastating gadgets. Your only hope to defeat Ninjak is to increase your power and learn new abilities. Are you prepared to confront MI-6’s deadliest operative?
Game Design and Set Up
Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe by Overworld Games and Valiant is a 1-6 player co-op card game based on the popular comic and web series of the same name. The series was a joint project between Valiant Digital and Bat in the Sun Productions. Every Valiant Universe character comes with base stats and an ability. You must defeat Threats, learn new tactics and discover artifacts in order to become strong enough to defeat Ninjak.
Start by choosing 1 of 6 playable characters. Each character has a special power that can be utilized by your allies throughout the game. Players can not use their own character’s ability, so it is vital to share that power with your teammates throughout the game. Each character Hero Mat will indicate their unique power, starting health, strength, manipulation and knowledge attributes.
In addition to working together in order to defeat Ninjak, every player will have a Hidden Agenda card. This card indicates a unique set of symbols that you can find on a variety of cards. For every complete set of symbols you have at the end of the game, you will receive an additional 3 points. Even though this is a co-op game, there will be an ultimate winner based on total points. The player who most recently displayed heroic qualities goes first.
There are 3 different Villain Decks, levels 1, 2 and 3. The Villain Decks change depending on how many players participate. For example, if there are 3 players, you will remove any cards from the Villain Decks with a 4+, 5+ or 6+ on the top right corner. Shuffle each deck separately and place them face down on the left side of the Ninjak Mat in the indicated spot.
Prepare tactic cards in similar fashion as the Villain Decks. Remove any cards with a number in the top left corner higher than the amount of players. Shuffle the remaining tactic cards into one deck and place it on the Tactic Deck spot on the Ninjak Mat. Turn over 3 tactic cards face up and place them in the allotted slots on the right side of the Ninjak Mat. Place all 5 artifact cards face up and off to the side. Each artifact card adds an ability to a character. These artifacts can be claimed on a player’s turn when they have sufficient symbols in their personal attribute section that match the symbols on the artifact card. Only one artifact can be in a player’s possession at a time.
How To Play
Heroes will take turns in clockwise order. There are 4 steps to each turn. First, start by drawing a villain card from the lowest level deck remaining. A villain card will either be a Threat, Defense, or Recharge. A Threat card is placed at the bottom edge of the Ninjak Mat. Threats will have a combination of attributes that are required in order to be defeated. A defense card is placed face up in the designated spot on the Ninjak Mat. These cards have an ongoing effect that makes things harder for the heroes. A recharge card restores health to all players.
The second step to a turn is a Hero Action. The player can perform 1 of 3 actions. One option is Prepare Tactic. This allows the player to choose a tactic card from the left side of the Ninjak Mat. The card will correlate to either the strength, manipulation or knowledge attribute. For every tactic card placed in you character’s assigned spot, that attribute will increase by one. Attributes are used to defeat Threats so it is important to improve them throughout the game as Threats become more difficult.
The second Hero Action option is Attack Villain. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. If your character meets the attribute requirements on the Threat card, you can defeat it and place it in your designated Threats pile. This comes into play later when calculating final scores. The final option is to Rest and regain 3 health. While you can have more health than you started with in the game, the cap is 30.
Third step is to Activate Threats. Any Threats that are left standing after each players’ turn will deal damage equal to their level. If the Threat is from Villain Deck 1, it will deal one damage, Villain Deck 2 deals 2 damage and Villain Deck 3 deals 3 damage. The final step in a player’s turn is to retrieve their power token. As I mentioned earlier, characters can share their power with another player at anytime in the game. The power can only be shared to one player at a time. If you give it away, you have to wait until the end of your next turn to share it again. You can choose to share or not share your power.
The game is over when the last Villain Deck is empty and all Threats have been defeated or a hero dies (health drops to zero). Everyone loses if anyone dies. If the heroes are victorious, count up points to determine the winner. You receive 1 point for every Threat you defeated and 3 points for every complete set of symbols indicated by your Hidden Agenda. Symbols can be found on defeated Threats and Prepared Tactics. This forces you to pay attention to what Threats you decide to beat and what tactics you prepare. The hero with the most points wins. There are tie breakers if players have the same total score at the end.
There is a solo play option for the game where you can decide to play as 2 heroes or only 1. If you play with 2 characters, do not play with a hidden agenda and don’t count up scores at the end. The game is won or lost depending on your ability to defeat all Threats. If playing with only 1 hero, keep the same rules above, but remove power tokens. If Artifacts refer to “other players” that ability can apply to yourself. Difficulty can be adjusted by removing Recharge cards from the Villain Decks.
Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe is a thrilling game that will test your ability to cooperate and scheme. Even though there is a lot to think about and plan for, I never once felt overwhelmed by the game mechanic. There is a great balance between complexity and simplicity. It felt very much like a combination of other games I love. The sharing of character abilities and the necessity to cooperate are reminiscent of Samurai Spirit. Much like that game, there is an initial sense high difficulty. After playing a few rounds however, you begin to understand how to beat the game which lowers the frustration of repeatedly losing. Personally, I enjoy games that I can’t beat right away because it’s an actual challenge. Battling the Threats reminded me of Legendary and claiming artifacts was similar to Splendor. The amalgamation of those game mechanics makes for a fun and challenging experience.
The art on the packaging, cards and play mats are fantastic. I like the fact that the player mats have the comic and live action versions of the characters on either side. The abilities and stats are the same no matter what side you choose to play with, but having the option was nice. I’m a big fan of Jason David Frank, the original green and white Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, and he played Bloodshot in the Bat in the Sun adaptation. Of course I had to play using his version of Bloodshot. The rule book is extremely clear and helpful.
The only issues I have with the game are very minor. The health clips used to indicate your health level tend to damage the player mats. The mats look amazing and it was sad to see them showing signs of wear already. The only game aspect that seemed odd was how characters could not use their own powers. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just strange. The game flows great without characters having built in powers they can use on their own so it’s clear this concept was thoroughly considered.
If it’s not obvious, I absolutely loved this game. I was worried that it would lean heavily on the original content and ignore gameplay, but I was happily mistaken. Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe is well designed, enjoyable, and engaging. With games lasting from 20-50 minutes, you’ll want to play it multiple times in a row. By the time we got the mechanics down, we were able to fly through games. With 6 different characters, randomized Hidden Agendas and the ability to scale the difficulty up and down, there is a high level of replay-ability. If you enjoy co-op games that challenge your ability the strategize, this is the game for you! I highly recommend anyone who enjoys card/board games or the Valiant Universe to check it out. You can find it online at Valiant Entertainment’s online store right here!
Note: We received a free copy from Valiant Entertainment in exchange for an honest review