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TGN Review: Rise of the Kage from GCT Studio

TGN Review: Rise of the Kage from GCT Studio

Rise of the Kage, from GCT Studios, is a new board game where ninjas must stealthily infiltrate a samurai’s mansion in order to carry out their mission. The game is currently funded over on Kickstarter with a lot of time still on the clock for stretch goals.

GCT’s Gordon gave me an in-depth demo of the game, and I’m here to pass on what I know about the game.

So strap on your tabi and ready your throwing stars. It’s another TGN Review. This time it’s Rise of the Kage. Also, read on to see how you can get yourself a copy of the game for nothing (like a ninja!).

Before I get too far into this, I want to remind everyone that what I was shown was an incomplete version of the game. While most of the mechanics were set, obviously things can change between now and when the game finally hits shelves and tabletops across the world. So think of this as looking at a “late beta” of the rules. The photos, as well, that I took, were of pre-production versions of the board, cards, and minis. There are some photos from their Kickstarter in the article, but it’s pretty easy to tell what is “final versions” and “pre-production.”

In Rise of the Kage, players choose to either represent the infiltrating ninjas or the guards in the samurai’s palace. The ninjas (despite all being from different houses) are all working together, so it’s much like Super Dungeon Explore where several players can play cooperatively against a single enemy player. Of course, if you just want to play 1-v-1, then you can have one player in charge of all 3 of the ninjas.

The ninjas have three main stats that each one specializes in. There’s Combat, Stealth, and Equipment. Combat allows you to take out guards efficiently. Stealth helps you search and move around the board quietly. Equipment helps you get through doors or use items within the mansion. For example, there are secure doors within the home that the ninjas might need to get through. A passed equipment roll will get them through the door, but a failure will create noise. Ninjas can also simply force the door open. This is risky as it also creates noise.

Other than the guards themselves, noise is the other major enemy of the ninjas. Various things the ninjas do have a potential to create noise, such as forcing open doors, attacking but failing to kill a guard, failing search checks with certain items, and so forth. Every point of noise the ninjas create gives the guard player an extra action during their turn. Also, there’s a general “sense of alarm” for the guards. The more noise there is, the more the guards become aware of what’s going on and the more powerful the guards that can be placed on the board. If the ninjas really stumble around, they could even simply lose the game as such a commotion is made that the general alarm for the house goes up. The ninjas can also lose if they take too long. Darkness is the friend of a ninja, and with the coming dawn, their cover would be blown.

Rise of the Kage is designed so no two games are ever the same. GCT has tested 12 different missions for the game. Missions dictate what sort of map the game will take place on. Add to that, there are several different versions of each ninja that can be employed. On the guard side of things, there are 3 bosses to choose from. Each boss plays differently, with how many actions a player gets during their turn and what type of guards are available. Bosses also add different special cards to the guard’s deck of special abilities and gear they can use during their turn. So even just from that, you can see that there are many combinations of ways you can build the game. There’s not just one way for the ninjas to succeed or fail in their missions.


There are several things that make Rise of the Kage unique from other similar board games. One is how ninjas activate on the board. At the start of the ninja’s turn, their player will place markers on the board that show where they intend to go. Then all the ninjas roll initiative. The one with the highest roll goes first, following along the path they chose. They can stop early (such as if they make it to a door, but don’t manage to open it), but they can’t deviate from that chosen path. This makes planning very important.

Another thing that makes the game unique is that the models will be usable in both Rise of the Kage and in Bushido. If GCT makes it to certain stretch goals, they will be producing stat cards so you can use the ninjas and guards from Rise into their miniatures skirmish game. GCT has plans for lots of crossover between the two games. In time, they’d like to have Cult of Yurie members trying to infiltrate a Bakemono cave, for example, or something along those lines.

The pieces for the game are going to be multi-part plastic figures. They will come pre-assembled, so no worrying about opening up a box and having to spend a couple hours putting figures together. The models are different color plastic to represent different states the models can be in during the game (such as “alerted” for the guards, if they happen to catch a good glimpse of a ninja). In the Kickstarter, metal versions of the minis are also available, for anyone who might just want them for use in Bushido.

Rise of the Kage brings various elements together to create a nail-biting gameplay experience. Ninjas hide in seemingly every shadow, ready to strike without warning at the hapless guards. But as more commotion is created, more care must be taken, lest the shogun of the house take matters into their own hands.

The Kickstarter campaign lasts until October 5th. So if you want in, go check it out.

Also, GCT is giving you a chance for a free Red Alert pledge level for the game. Simply comment below about what you think about the game and one lucky winner will get reimbursed for their Red Alert Pledge level over on the Kickstarter.