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 Copyright Eric Pietrocupo

E-Mail: ericp[AT]lariennalibrary.com

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Shadow: Spirit of the ninja

Page: GameIdea.GameIdea201005030517AM - Last Modified : Fri, 21 Oct 22 - 2745 Visits
How much do you like this idea?

4.5 stars Rating 9.0/10 from 2 votes
Vote Distribution: 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 1 – 1

Very Good (10/10) The game is very interesting, make it as soon as possible.
Good (8/10) Great idea but some modifications are required.
Fair (6/10) Interesting but a lot of things are missing.
Bad (4/10) Would need to completely redesign the idea in order to work.
Very Bad (2/10) It will never be interesting, abandon the idea.
Already Exist (0/10) Do not waste time of this game idea.

Status: CLOSED

  • Will be a solitaire game, with maybe playable with a 2nd player friend
  • I have better ideas of how the game could work, still mechanisms are missing.
  • The game will be much more a resource management game than a surprise management.
  • new map design idea could actually be interesting.

Progress: Partially Designed
Priority: High
Number of players: 1 - 2 players
Expected Play time: 30 - 90 minutes


A cooperative ninja game where players attacks a location and try to fulfill their missions. The game focus more on the strategic aspect rather than the tactical aspect (How do I kill this guy)


Make a good ninja game that will become the reference since there are really few good ninja games out there.


Tenchu video game is my primary source of inspiration. Any other fictional or historical ninja lore is also another sources of inspiration. Recent inspiration source could be mark of the ninja, Invisible Inc. and V-Commando.

Priority Evaluation

Theme vs Mechanics: based on theme, I could have discovered simple working mechanics, more RnD will be required.
Video vs Board Game: Could be implemented as both a board and video game.
Single vs Multi player: The more I think about it, the more it should be a single player game else you need to use hidden movement.
Rating = 8/12


- Cartography: Maps of the area to "attack" are required unless the details of the mission are not played.
? Scripting: Scripting could be required. It really depends on the game mechanics which are unclear.

Design Plan


  • It's a game about being a stealthy ninja assassin
  • Possibly since you could be on your own that you could be required to steal too.


  • Can use a campaign mode with multiple mission. This is why it could me more suitable as a video game
  • Short: Should run in average for 1 hours + maybe additional setup and planning. The missions are still limited in nb of turns.
  • Simple: The rules are not that complex, but there could be a lot of them to support the idea of interaction with the environment.
  • Solitaire: Suitable for a solitaire game (Especially the campaign mode), but could have a 2nd player like a side kick.


  • A map of the area is essential. Split in various larger areas with interactive objects and other stuff.
  • Pawns used to represent the player.
  • Tokens: Used to represent guards, search areas and other states of the game.
  • Character sheet: Hold various stats, abilities and information
  • Cards: Not sure, but equipment could be on cards, or on a record sheet.


  • resource management: Players should need to manage various kind of resources, like expandable items but also time. These resources must also be limited to increase stress (like in invisible inc) and force the player to use their environment.
  • Risk assessment: players should decide how much risk they want to take according to example to the amount of resources willing to spend. Risk can also be inflenced by the skills of their character.
  • Mission analysis: Players should try to plan ahead how they expect to make their mission and select their equipment according to their plan. In case of multiplayer, the plan must be coordinated with the other player.
  • Interact with the environment: Players should be capable of using various element of their environment to their advantage.
  • Try to survive on your own between missions according to the stuff you find in mission.


  • Time investment: An idea where the more time you put on a check, the greater your chances of success. Some action like movement could be resolved automatically by spending the right amount of time. But as time is limited, you might not want to spend the maximum for each action.
  • Degree of success or failure: The amount by which you fail your roll matter. If you fail your roll by 1 point, you might get the attention of a guard, giving still the option to hide in the bushes, but if you fail by a lot, you might alert guards which could start running after you.
  • push your luck: Time investment is a form of push your luck.
  • Weakness of the character: The character is weaker compared to the guards, or simply smaller in number (1 vs many) which force the player to use resources wisely.
  • Storage space: Players will have limited storage on themselves and their personal hide out cache. So they cannot accumulate tons of equipment.

Development Progress

Problems that prevent development

The biggest problem is making a map with stealth mechanics that works. Since it's a cooperative game, I must design an artificial intelligence in case the player get's detected and the guard get's alerted. I need to have a way to keep track of this easily. Once this is done, the rest should be easy to do.

News, changes and updates

Dec 12th, 2011: First I got my hands on a translation of the Shoninki which is a classic text about how to be a ninja. It does not give the details of how it is accomplish but rather gives the general strategies to use. It makes this book perfect for a board game since I do not need to know the details of how to walk silently. There are tons of interesting information in this book like: the main source of distractions, face reading, Camouflage, Disguise, etc.

Second, I also made a great mechanic discovery that could make it possible to have a game where the ninjas are competing against a game master without any hidden informations. This would make the game much more easier to play since there is no need of pen and paper and it will make the game more challenging since you are playing against a player that knows where you are.

The basic idea is to give restriction to the game master that prevent him from hunting the ninjas, but if the ninja could get discovered, then it's just a coincidence that the alerted guard looked in the right direction to discover his enemy. I made a thread on Board game geek that describes the basics of the mechanics.


August 15th, 2012:I made a mini playtest as a solitaire game. I might focus more on a solitaire/cooperative game than a player vs GM game because the main usefulness of the game master is only for managing coincidence and chase. But there might not really need to have chases.

I am not quite sure about the scale of the map. Square that cover more space has the advantage of not having to manage soldier movements. They cover a certain area and we simply ignore which movement they made in the area. It's easier to build AI. But on the other hand, it makes the tactical manoeuvring of the ninja less interesting. Of idea would be to have 2 grid, one smaller for the ninja, and a larger for the guards, but I am really not sure.

I first thought of using an express dice system for the skill roll but revert to using regular dice. Still, ninjas depend a lot on opportunity, so the express dice fit well, but I was maybe thinking of using cards. The goal is to give the ninja some tactical strategy and planning. Cards could be perfect especially if there is no tactical grid.

February 14, 2014: I finished reading the rules for "Thunderbolt and Apache leader" and there are some ideas in that game that could be reused for this ninja game. The concept would be that you have a clan of ninjas, and you must fulfill missions to gain gold, glory, etc. For each mission you accept, you select who will go on the mission, equip them, train them and then you play the mission.

So the game would play as a campaign mode where from a mission to another you manage resources and train your characters. Then when you are ready, you play a mission. Once you have played enough, you can stop playing between missions and your progress stay recorded on your clan sheet so that you could use to re-setup the game later to play missions again.

Maybe the missions themselves would have been too limited in the end to make an interesting game, so the campaign and multiple characters management could bring an interesting depth. Still I will offer the option to play with pre-made missions and character selections for those who wants to play out of the box.

The game would be solitary or 2 player cooperative. I think it would be more interesting this way, and could get deeper in the details than if 2 players were facing each other.

October 19th 2014: I have been thinking about it yesterday and new ideas got in. First the map will be a modular map similar to the v-commando prototype I played. The advantage besides being modular, is that it is easier to make the area of the board match rather than taking a real map and trying to make the split work.

I think a main factor of the game will be the management of time you have before sun rise up. For each task you do, you will be allowed to assign 1 or more dice indicating how much time you spend on a task. You could even wait a whole turn to get +1 on all rolls on your next turn. This would promote the idea of waiting for the right moment to act. But if you run out of time, you might not be able to complete the mission.

Finally, another important element is to have somekind of sand box world where there is many things that you can do. Possibly many ways to interact with objects on the board. For example, you might be able to hide in a bushes, but also set it on fire to create a diversion.

October 21st, 2022: I made a quick test lately of the map that I somewhat designed a long time ago and the results where positive. I have an idea to make a ninja clan management game, but I need a tactical game system to resolve the missions. I have a simple story idea I could integrate with the game too. The clan management could feel Xcom-ish, while the tactical game would look similar to the new map ideas with many more than 1 character in the mission to increase strategy.

If the map is really solid, then adding more flesh is what remains to be done, like equipement, ennemies, events, time management, skills, spells, and other cool ninja stuff. The objective is to make Tenchu and Aragami style strategy games which by themselves are indirectly a puzzle game. I don't want to go the Dungeon crawler route like Invisible Inc.

Prototype Pictures

Second prototype with improvised playtest, using heroscape mini

First improvised prototype inspired on a tenchu map design.


Movement example

Show how a map with movable corner could actually work. You would be allowed to move from a space to another, or from a corner to another along the edges. Edges would represent walls, moats, tunnels etc.

Guard positioning example

Gives an example of how guards could be positionnned on the map allowing various kind of interaction according to the player's movement.

Related Threads

Board Game Geek : looking for games with very complex 2d terrain map
Board Game Geek: Could an adventure ninja themed game be better? (jan 17, 2013)
Board Game Designer Forum: Stealth game mechanic: Pay to succeed (August 1st, 2016)
Board Game Geek: Stealth game mechanic: Pay to succeed (August 1st, 2016)
Board Game Geek: Abstracting Ninja Encounters off board (aug 22, 2017 )
Board Game Designer Forum: Abstracting Ninja Encounters off board (aug 22, 2017 )

Development Log

2-may-2018EncountersTo make the game less a puzzle, each place you move on could have an encounter card with a small story and some decisions to make. That would make the game less puzzle-ish, add more depth, and put more stuff in the game without putting more stuff on the board.
17-sep-207Map DesignBy taking a look at burgle bros, I had a new idea on how to implement them map that would still allow moving in the corners of the square, but instead of detailing the physical location, each square would be a loose tile representing what important structure is located there with possible obstatcle but without any geographical positioning inside the tile. Wall and rivers can be added between the tiles as road blocks, not sure yet how bridges and doors would be handled.
26-aug-2017GeneralWhat the game should really be is a form of puzzle. But the solution to the puzzle will vary according to the character used and the random skill result and the unexpected events during encounter. I want to avoid the fixed solution that most puzzles have.
24-aug-2017Map DesignI came up with a map design that seems very interesting by allowing movement from corners to corners. I want a very complex map to make it an interesting obstacle course and then add guards along the way.
23-aug-2017IdeaFirst, I could make the scale of the map more detailed, and split a mission in multiple parts rather than using a whole map. This is somewhat what is used in V-Commando. Second, I could try focusing for now on implementing a obstacle course with not enemy characters, then characters could be added later as a new kind of obstacle.
22-aug-2017IdeaMake the Ai characters handled off board. Maybe only have some cubes on the map to indicate crowd location, then when you enter a square, you flip X cards equal to the number of cubes in the area and that are the people you need to deal with for now. This avoid having an AI and various status markers.
aug-2017IdeaTry to increase story based elements by for example having skill rolls with bonus/minus die to add complication and rewards to the resolution that players might need to deal with later.
aug-2017IdeaAbstracting action system by rolling and pairing dice. To realise that I dod not really need an abstraction of the player's gameplay, but rather an abstraction of the AI's gameplay.
06-aug-2016IdeaI was looking at various pen and paper games and was wondering if that game would be playable as pend and paper. Legend of the scorpion clan use pen and paper for hidden movement. Most resources are depleted when used, still new items could be picked up when interacting with your environment. Finally guards does not move, except patrols, and when a guard is disposed, it's out for good.
01-aug-2016IdeaSome people on the forums had interesting ideas. First the addition of stamina, that could possibly by used to perform specific actions like fighting, Running, Climbing walls, etc. Second only walking would allow to pay to succeed, but for other action you could spend a certain amount of time to increase you chance of success without necessarily automatically succeed. That introduce some sort of time bet to do something by evaluating the situation
01-aug-2016IdeaGot a new idea lately that people seem to like. The goal is to simplify skill checks for doing simple actions like stealth movement. Instead of rolling dice above TN to succeed, you pay the difference in time. Else you need to take some risk by rolling the die or use some items to pass the test. This makes it more a resource management, and prevent the need to roll a die for moving in each space.
31-aug-2014IdeaI played V-commando recently and it had interesting map design and stealth mechanics. I think I could reuse some of this in my own design. I might add more details especially more interaction with the environment. But the map layout makes it easier to have an AI
05-aug-2014IdeaI don't want the game to end up in a series of skill roll fest. So a solution is to make it work as a dice game, were you try to use the rolls you get to pass over obstacles. Either have dice with 3-2-1 different faces, or roll dices of various colors which could represent a different attribute (stealth, strength) and then use those dice to perform various tasks. The randomness is there to adapt to situations ( I wanted to sneak the guard but rolls were bad, so I try killing it instead).
05-aug-2014IdeaMaybe include the possibility to move to europe or other countries and have missions on map with different architecture
26-nov-2013IdeaUsing the same system as a racing game could be interesting. The faster you move, the more things you can do, but the more you can screw up due to the risk. Still, in order to prevent the player from only moving slow, need to have some times constraint to push the player forward.
26-nov-2013IdeaMaybe would fit better as a solitaire/cooperative game. Maybe player makes their move, then the AI makes a detection verification to see if they can find any annormaly. Then the turn goes back to the player.
22-nov-2011IdeaThe system might incorporate team work, for example a disguised character could talk to a guard as a diversion so that another character could infiltrate.
22-Nov-2011IdeaI could be possible to be disguised which gives you access to certain area of the map without having to hide. Some areas will require a higher level access which requires a better disguise or intrusion.
13-Aug-2011IdeaThe game "Ninja" games me some ideas for the map design and mechanics. I am thinking to use an irregular map like in "ninja", but it will still be a modular map. Each area will have various icons to indicate stealth level and the road will be made of seperate sections.
13-Aug-2011IdeaI am thinking of using a dice system for the guard detection. Faster movement and failed skill check will make the player roll more hazard dice which can make the surrounding guard See or hear the ninja more easily.
13-Aug-2011IdeaI was thinking of placing some facedown tokens in each area of the map. These tokens can contain objectives, traps and other stuff once the ninja explore these areas.

Playtest Log

DateResultsPlay TimePlayersDescription
21-oct-2022Positive30 minSolitaireI tried a larger tactical map using the 2 layer square grid to allow moving on edges and between squares. Sentinels where only placed on nodes, patrols where only places inside square. There was no body on edges, but there could be eventually encounters like trap there. There was no skill rolls, but the idea is that sentinels adjacent to spaces or edges being crosses will increase the difficulty of the roll. Patrols would be samurai that would react if some sentinels are missing. The puzzle strategy was interesting and could be further explored. I think it could become a good tactical game by itself, or as a video game's mini game. The make the map more manageable, there is no sub areas within and area, so the player is either on node or space. Roof movement is possible allowing diagonal edge movement.
9-aug-2016Positive30 minSolitaireI tried placing guards on the edge wtih 2 guards per square on the edge. The results were very interesting as some edge are more or less well guarded making certain areas harder to move through. I also had ideas for dice rolls, you roll 1 die per guard but you assign the values, it adds strategy and if 1 of your roll is bad, it's less dramatic.
6-aug-2016Average45minSolitaireThis was an improvised playtest based on some of the ideas I had. I will need to fix the time system, because it's confusing when it's time for the AI to act. I might design a list of action for the AI and I might need to have environment bonus/malus for ninja and AI action. (ex: +1 to hide if in bushes) A consequence table according to how bad the failure was will be necessary or for Ai actions. The alert level could change the behavior of the guard's action.

Reference to other projects

Could fusion the ideas with this game
3 Ninjas

Back to my list of Board Games and Ideas

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