Review of Ni no Kuni II by Steamforge Games
Ni No Kuni II is a cooperative board game based on a video game and an animated film. The game requires you as a team to build a kingdom to withstand the forces of evil.
The game is well produced with nicely moulded plastic figures for the characters in the game and thick die cut counters and good illustrated cards representing the bad guys, quests and buildings that will be used to create your kingdom. The art work is very Studio Ghibli and should appeal to those of us that enjoy that type of animated movie. The one component that lets the game down is the mounted board which is small (to save space?) and whilst the spaces to place the building cards are fine the edge of the board, where quest cards and the enemy cards that need to be defeated to complete those quests are placed, only have space for the top of the cards. We eventually simply left enough space on the table to place the cards alongside the board. There are six 6 sided dice with the game with a sunburst instead of a 6, but this is just an illustration and should be treated as normal D6.
Game set up
Each player up to 4 chooses which character they wish to play. Even with the adults we found this was often based on the illustration or miniature rather than evaluation of the character card which gives their fighting values for physical, ranged and magical fights. These values equate to the number of dice available to roll to defeat enemies. The players are also allocated higgeldie ally tokens dependant on number of players in the game. The number of quest cards placed beside the board is also dependant on number of players with there being a handy graphic on the board illustrating this. After randomly drawing and placing quest cards enemy cards are drawn and placed on them so that both cards can be seen. Five building cards are then drawn and placed face up next to the board visible to all the players. The 5 turn tokens are placed in order on the board. Lastly you choose which enemy boss is in charge, there are two which affect gameplay in different ways.
There are 5 turns to complete a game. The sequence of play for each turn is as follows:
1. Adventure, this is where the players decide which quest or quests they will try to fulfil then roll the requisite number of dice to score higher than the enemy fight value on the enemy card guarding the quest.
2. Resource, you gain the resources listed on the quest and enemy cards you have successfully completed and any from buildings already built in the board centre. Certain characters can also modify resources.
3. Kingdom, the players may now spend resources to buy one or more of the face up building cards and place them n the slots in the centre of the board.
4. End of turn, as the setup draw and replace quest cards in the now vacant slots and similarly new enemy cards on each of the freshly drawn quest cards. There are 5 turn tokens that are placed on the board at the start remove one token to show turns remaining.
The game takes a relatively short time to complete, usually less than an hour including the setup. It is a light but enjoyable game which we have either had more than one game in our session or used as a filler game after perhaps completing another game with time to spare. Although there is a large random element with the drawing of cards and the die rolling there is still, in my opinion, room for planning and strategy. The number needed to defeat an enemy for instance can be calculated by the team and the chance mitigated by allocation of more dice to the roll. The special characteristics, in some cases, of the games miniatures as listed on the relevant card also assist in mitigation of the luck factor. You can also gain counters that allow an extra die or re-roll of a die for each counter spent.
All in all we found this an enjoyable and fun game not to be taken too seriously. We also found that although the game states age 14+ for player age that our 10+ grandchildren found the game quite easy to grasp with a little assistance from Gran and Grandad, after all it is a cooperative game. The game is well produced and robust which we have found little fault with, with the exception of the game board and one other small foible the limited number of resource counters (we had to resort to pen and paper), and enjoyed our time with it, it will undoubtably grace our gaming sessions again and again (especially as the grandchildren enjoyed it).