TGN Review: Rise of the Kage from GCT Studio

By Polar_Bear
In Board Games
Sep 11th, 2014

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.

Rise of the Kage

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.

Metal Ninjas 1

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.

Metal Ninjas 2

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.

In the Box

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.

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  • Borzag

    What I think about the game…. nice 🙂

    Sofar looks the business. A co-op game that encourages both combat and planning instead of one or the other, and isn’t as complex as Descent. Definitely a goer.

  • evillx

    Checked it out at Gen Con… looks nice, like the concept

  • I’m already in at red. With the rejigging of the stretch goals, this has great potential. Minis look great. I wish there was a full coop option, but you can’t have everything. Good concept, so far looks well executed.

  • Soulfinger

    I hate the name, because I keep expecting the cover art to be a picture of Johnny Cage from Mortal Kombat at the start of his career. Now, is that a reason to change the name of the game? Absolutely! Nothing in life should ever evoke thoughts of Mortal Kombat. It’s why I stopped reading, as this makes me think of Raiden (also, no more plundering neighboring villages).

    That’s really cool that these figs can be used for Bushido though, which makes it a great starter set / gateway game, I am assuming. That is particularly good, since Polar Bear is always on about how good Bushido is, and he has gradually been eroding my will to resist giving it a try. I hope that the pre-assembled pieces avoid the pitfalls I’ve heard of with other manufacturers, where the pieces must be pulled apart and reassembled again by all but the most casual gamers.

    The game play sounds nice though. I like the noise as your enemy shtick, and I’m glad that ninjas from other clans can get together and be super best buddies. Actually, on that latter point, I would have loved to see a mechanic like the old Siege of the Citadel game, where you are working together BUT also able to dick each other over so that everyone wins — but you slightly more.

    • odinsgrandson

      Yeah, I love Siege of the Citadel for that reason.

      Why hasn’t anyone kickstarted an anniversary edition of that? It would make a good gateway into Mutant Chronicles for sure.

      On a side note- I’m honestly really happy to see new ‘gateway games’ coming out. I used to play a bunch of those before I started miniatures gaming full time, but I haven’t seen them for a while.

      But now, with miniatures board games in going so strong on Kickstarter, I’m glad we’re seeing new ones.

  • Veritas

    I want this more for the models to use in Bushido rather than actually playing the board game. Don’t get me wrong, the rules look good, but I think I’d rather play the full on Bushido than this which does look more like an intro set. It could be good for drawing in new blood though.

  • Nak

    I had trouble picking a faction for Bushido, this game made that choice easy for me!

  • Brummie

    What a great idea for a game and the production levels for the figures seem very high. A nice touch that the figures can cross over into Bushido as well. Making them doubly useful i’m sure they will make great display pieces to.

  • I really love the ninja miniatures that had been shown until this moment.

  • I’m excited to be part of this KS. I love the theming and miniatures look great. Nice review summary too.

  • Thanks for the review! Cant wait for my pledge to arrive.

  • Commenting to win free stuff!

    • Soulfinger

      Gotta do more than that this time around.

  • Braxandur

    At first I was a bit hesitant about the kickstarter because of replayability option, but with the addition of a second map and another one mentioned as a possible stretch goals and a different boss in a stretch goal, I see this as less of an issue and think the game is taking shape nicely.

    To be honest I probably would not buy it that soon in a store for the estimated price and would wait on discounts, but stretch goals (in most kickstarter campaigns) make up for that.

    A the game starts lookig more and more fun, I pledged at red level 🙂

  • ant_s

    Great looking game, hoping that they develop some AI for the guards.

  • asperon

    Mostly looking to get the ninas to use in Bushido, but then again, should i win it id have no reason not to try it 😉

  • Bushido is one of the best miniatures games I have ever played and RotK seems to be a really promising board game. With lovely miniatures and artwork.

  • Awesome. Can’t wait to get my hands on the game. Always wanted to play Bushido, but noone here is into Tabletop. Maybe I can use this game to convince some people.

    Also love Tabletop quality miniatures in board games. So important for immersion.

  • [email protected]

    this game looks fantastic,

    i have been playing bushido for a few years now and i cant wait for another awesome game from GCT

  • I’ve been looking forward to this game for ages and once the missions are complete for both sides, I was thinking about incorporating my own missions and bosses. The stretch goals look like an excellent boost for Bushido players too. Maybe GCT will create their own line of mythological creatures for the game… hint hint

  • Just pledged Red Alert (someone dropped out of the early bird tier and I saw my chance to save £3!). I’m so glad they’ve changed the stretch goals, initially Red seemed absolutely pointless to pledge, but now it’s great – provided some stretch goals are hit.

    May increase my pledge for some Bushido minis even though I haven’t played it yet, just gotta have them!

  • Toxik

    This game looks really nice, the fig are fantastic and the gameplay looks interesting. I was wondering if the ninja can re-stealth once detected? If not then this makes it a big deal to get detected…

    • CrazyFish

      Yes the ninja can re-stealth, but it takes an action to do and isn’t automatically successful.

  • Acidblade

    I really love the minis and the graphics for the game. Have watched the game play video and am very interested in playing the game. Love the detected or undetected aspect to the ninjas attacking.

  • The Game looks prommising, If Bushido is any guidline this game will de awesome….

  • I am definitely looking forward to finding out more about this one!

  • I wish I had been able to play the demo as well. 🙁
    But now I am part of the KS. 🙂

  • CptJake

    The game does look neat. I have a reminder set to look at it before the KS closes, and if I can will pledge.

    Is this something which will eventually get expansions?

    What type of plastic will the figures be made of?

  • Lemminkaeinen

    I put the reminder on on the KS page. The theme is fun and the production values seem top-notch – I just have so much on my gaming plate right now, that I need to consider these things more thoroughly these days.


    I’ve been looking forward to this, so it’s good to see it shaping up so well!

    I bought some Bushido figures recently after drooling over them at the UK Games Expo (well, leaving slobber marks on the glass cabinet they were in), but I haven’t managed to convince my gaming buddies to dive in too just yet.

    I’m hoping that by luring them in with the board game, I can gradually sneak them with my ninja like skills on to the skirmish game…

  • I think this game will be a huge success !!! The miniatures look fantastic and the theme is terrific!! Can’t wait to see how well this does !!! I am in on red alert pledge level even though it will cost a lot for US backers !!!

  • Gct has not let us down this will be a must own for Bushido players and should introduce a whole new audience to the bushido universe.

  • I’m really excited by the possibilities on this one. If we hit the alternate ninjas and bosses there should be plenty of variety to keep the game fresh. The pre-planned movement also really interests me, since it forces the Ninjas plan and execute, rather than just react to the guards.

  • Looking forward to ninjas! Played it at GenCon and it was a fun game, can’t wait for it to come out.

  • The only thing I don’t like about Bushido (and the majority of the current skirmish games) is the unalterable nature of the characters. Would be more fun if you could generate your own.
    The above can’t be said about a board game, so I jumped on this Kickstarter. Wonder how much will they eventually gather.

  • Asabiru

    I’m in at Red. I was able to get a demo at Gencon and I really liked it. Plus the models were awesome.

    I can’t wait to get my copy!

  • Very cool concept for a game. I do wish there was a 5 player option though. That is the sweet-spot for my gaming group.

  • Chris Rennie

    Love the fact this game has ninjas, which isn’t really explored territory in board games that much and I like that you can customise each mission so it stands up to repeat plays.
    Hope the kickstarter can pull in many more backers.

  • sniperjack

    At the moment i’m in with a red alert. But a free one i would like to more.

  • Fell in love with the game at GenCon… Can’t wait to see more.

  • hithero

    Have been following this for ages and was one of the first to back at Red level, looking forward to having a Bushido ninja faction by the end of it.

  • I love Bushido, so backing this was a foregone conclusion for me. They kind of got off to a rocky start but really listened to their backers and rearranged some of their stretch goals and free add ons. Now I’m really looking forward to some of the new stretch goals, plus getting more models to use for Bushido.

  • KelRiever

    (This post has been edited)

  • [email protected]

    I’m a big miniatures fan, so this game has me very excited for the metal ninjas and samurais that I’ll be able to paint up! The game also looks really cool and fun.

  • Bewulf

    What I have seen so far looks nice, especially the stealth/alert mechanic.

    I am also pretty sure that I could get some cross-usage out of the miniatures and boards with the Okko boardgame.

  • I’m a huge tenchu fan, so when I heard they were basically making a board game version of it, I couldn’t pledge fast enough. It just keeps getting better with every update!

    Still waiting for ninja dogs though!

  • ShinRido

    When I saw this KS I had never heard of GCT.

    Now 3 days later, I’m all in for Rise of Kage, and Im staring at my first shipment of Bushido minis that arrived today, with many more shipments already making their way through the mail to me! Had to order the Bushido manual from the UK, but it was the only one I could find.

    I dont buy a lot of games. But when I do, I buy EVERYTHING for it!

    “Nothing In Moderation!”

  • spiers101

    Been following this closely before KS launched like grimcatalyst I lost a lot of my life to Tenchu. Pledged on day one and have been shouting from the rooftops about it since as this game deserves to be massive and the more people we can get onboard the more awesome it will be. Love that GCT have listened to backers and have restructued stretch goals. This will definitely be my gateway into Bushido, ninja faction bring it on!!!!

  • [email protected]

    Played this at Gencon. Looks VERY promising. Models are way cool and the artwork is outstanding. I’m happy I got in with the Early Bird.

  • Lparigi34

    I am in love with the concept… I hope the $150 investment is worth it…

  • Erlend H

    Looks to good! Can’t really afford it, but can I be without it?
    Damn you Boardgame breakfast

  • Gubbinz

    Looks like a fantastic game!

    I have a lot of love for GCT. They make a great game (i.e. Bushido), with nice models, and they conduct themselves very professionally (in my experience). That, and they actually listen to their community.

    I would love to get a copy of Kage, but currently can’t afford it….

  • Soulfinger

    Nice to see so much enthusiastic posting. Now, just so long as nobody finds out about the contest part. I’m sure to win!!!

  • Looks great, will have to also check out bushido.

  • fuzzyguy

    I’m really liking how the game play looks so far and the components look to be of excellent quality.

    I especially like that it looks likes both an excellent stand alone board game and can also act as a gateway game to Bushido. Playing and getting this game me be the final push some of my mates need to get them into Bushido. Well Done GCT. I can’t wait to see the final product in person.

    • fuzzyguy

      “may be” , not “me be”. Autocorrect/insert is my bane.

  • [email protected]

    Really love the theme of this game. First heard about it from G&S.

  • I backed it at Red Level from the start, with the new Stretchgoals this is even more attractive!

  • Been in since the start. Nice that they have listened to backers about stretch goals and very excited about the new maps. Should give it a lot of longevity.

  • Amazing board game,i’m waiting that from about a life! =) when i’ve buy the bushido miniatures of disceples of Orochi i’m asking when some beautifull ninja come out.
    an that’s it!


  • Amazing looking game with great minis. Signed up for the Red Alert pledge and can’t wait for more stretch goals.

  • xGIxJOKERx

    Looks cool. Those minis are pretty impressive.

  • Amazing game, i can’t hold the wait!!

  • I can’t believe no one has made a similar kind of game before, the idea is genius!

    I’m sure from Bushido that it will be a high quality game and I can’t wait until it’s released!

  • hapotte

    Nice overview of the game, I’m at red level and can’t wait to see how far this goes.

  • [email protected]

    I’ve spent way too long staring at this an Bushido. I don’t know that I’ll be able to afford to back it, but it’s on my calendar so I don’t forget.

  • Black soulgem

    Really excited about this project! It definitely captures the feel of gaming classics like Tenchu and the like and the mechanics are great! I especially like how the more wounded a ninja gets the harder it becomes for them to be stealthy. Its also cool that its a race to get the job done before the sun rises! 🙂

  • vegabond

    Oh oh, can I enter to win?!

  • [email protected]

    Game looks very good. Wish I had the money to get metal figures. Oh well.

    I think currently 2 boards unlocked, hopefully a 3rd will get unlocked. At Minato now, very close to having that 3rd board.

  • Pietort

    This is the game I’ve been waiting on for years.

  • Looks like an excellent game.

  • hithero

    Already a backer, game looks awesome 🙂

  • I really admire the design of the game as well as the acumen with which they run their business and the kickstarter campaign. For example, the fact that they are making this game compatible with their existing Bushido title. It’s a great idea that indicates a great thoughtfulness on the part of GCT Studios, but you would be surprised at how often some other game companies fail to consider such possibilities. From what I can see the mini’s look great as well. That’s why I pledged.

    PS. “princess hostage” is an amazing name for a character in the game.

  • Macadams001

    Game sounds like it should be good fun. Looks easy to learn and very tactical.

    Models look great I personally cant wait!

  • The concept piqued my interest, but this review finally made me decide. Here’s hoping it reaches many stretch goals!

  • [email protected]

    Game feels promising from the GenCon video, and the figures are looking great. Fingers crossed for the stretch goals now!

  • The only thing better than the Red Level Pledge is a FREE Red Level Pledge! Congrats on a great KS so far, and I’m hoping that it’s a HUGE success!

  • This really looks interesting. Will keep eye on it

  • NINJAS…… What more needs to be said?! Only wish I had known about this from the start. Fortunately I follow a friend and get to see some of the things he supports and can then choose to support the items of interest to me. Hopefully no delays and we get our hands on these lovelies a little earlier than planned. NINJAS!!!!!!! WooHoo.

  • I’ve been curious about Bushido, but Kage might be a better option to begin with, locally.

  • Excited for the figures… The game reminds me of Hour of Glory and looks fun

  • Jagged Tooth Grin

    I am increasingly excited for this as each stretchgoal passes

  • This game looks really cool!

  • this looks like fun.

  • Soulfinger

    Is there a point where this contest ends?

    • KelRiever

      (This post has been edited)

      • Soulfinger

        (This post has been edited)

        • It ends at the end of the Kickstarter campaign.

          • Soulfinger

            All I said was that “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” was a bad game show.

  • Minis look great; checked out GCT’s Bushido stuff as well. Wasn’t a hundred percent that I wanted to back but the game play videos pushed me over the edge.

  • This game looks incredible! Great minis, great theme, the board painting is fantastic and the crossover with GCT’s other game, Bushido, means you’ll get double mileage out of the minis!

  • Great looking game. Love the theme, and the miniatures. I just hope it plays as well as it looks.

  • Looking forward to this as I try to move away from ever expanding tabletop wargames into standalone board games. This looks great. Memories of ’98 and tenchu.

  • I have been looking for a Coop game which focused on something other than, build up a pool of points to beat a number.

    This game might scratch that itch… with a ninja star

  • Hmmmm I like the look of this, think I might have to take a punt on it. Also nice to see a Kickstarter that doesn’t have too many levels to choose from.

  • Ran into this earlier today and had to buy in. Definitely looking forward to its release!

  • Well, that looks pretty awesome. I’m about to back the project, so a time machine to trip to August ’15 would be great 😀

  • Cardboard

    Full steam ahead!

  • The Bushido crossover nailed it for me. Two games in one!
    ninjas beat zombies all day long. Better still have just discovered the TTG site (via KS and BGG). Result.

  • This KS looks better every day.

  • Ewan Hoosami

    What an excellent concept for a game, sneaking about as a ninja in the Daimyos house looking in his sock draws, drinking his beer, eating his last nights pizza straight from the fridge. Then killing his guards, kidnapping his daughter and making a quick get away.AWESOME DUDE! COWABUNGA! Can’t wait till I get my hands on my Red Alert package containing more figures than there are grains of rice in a California roll.

  • That looks like a great game !

  • Jerekin

    Wheh? Must have overlooked this review the first time I perused the Kickstarter page. I dont know if I still came in time, but no winner spotted yet. So here’s my attempt.

    Nice to have some “hard facts” about the game mechanics finally.

    I would really appreciate more insight into the rules via future updates. So far some nice ideas. Just make sure the prelayed track-thing is not to fiddly and time consuming.

    Also I would suggest here again to leave it up to each and every one of us to choose if preassembled or not for the known reasons (convertibility, reaching all spots while removing mold lines and painting, individual basing)

    Nothing is more frustrating than deflashing and painting a model with many undercuts… D:

  • Jerekin

    P.S.: Those mdf-bases really kick ass. Exactly what I had in mind when i said make individual basing possible. <3

  • Jerekin

    …and it would be cool if you can blend the white walls better into the board (imo). Maybe a medium grey instead of white?

  • Jerekin

    or translucent…

    Thats it now. I promise. lol

  • Danny

    I think this game is going to be awesome! I’ve seen some reviews on it and it just looks amazing. I’d definitely pay a 50% extra just to get it! The miniatures have so much detail and it would be a constant joy to see such a game on my shelve. The rules of the game are also fantastic and I can’t imagine it getting any better than this. I really hope to buy one as it is simply great!