IN 12TH CENTURY JAPAN, the Minamoto and Taira clans vie for

IN 12TH CENTURY JAPAN, the Minamoto and Taira clans vie for
IN 12TH CENTURY JAPAN, the Minamoto and Taira clans vie for power while retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa plays his rivals
against one another. One of the three factions will triumph to impose the coming social order. In the shadow of these elite
powers, a few ninja scheme to exploit the chaos. Daring raids, skill mastery, and subtle intrigue are essential to establishing
one’s honor. When the new era dawns, one ninja will flourish as the Ninjato, the Invisible Sword of the ruling family.
1 Round marker. Used to track rounds.
1 Game Board. The board shows different locations for
actions: the Dojo, the Sensei, the Palace, the Pavilion, and
the 5 clan-controlled houses.
12 Shuriken (Throwing Stars), 12 wooden markers. Each
player gets 3 shuriken in a color to indicate actions and 3
markers: one to indicate turn order and two to track honor.
15 Clan tokens. There are 5 tokens for each clan. These
are used to show which clan controls a house and the
honor level of the house.
52 Dojo cards. These cards are used to invade the houses
and purchase skills.
19 Sensei Skill tiles. These skills help ninja in various
ways during the struggle.
90 Treasure tokens. Treasures are gained by defeating
guards in the houses and are used to gain envoys and
spread rumors.
21 Envoy cards. Envoys enable you to exhange treasure for
honor and gain allegiance to clans.
30 Rumor cards. These cards gain bonus honor at the
end of the game.
40 Guard and 20 Elite Guard cards. Guards protect the
treasures in the houses. Elite guards are more difficult to
defeat than regular guards.
1 Bag. It’s an enchanted bag, but the enchantment is
PLACE THE BOARD in the center of the table. Each player
takes 3 shuriken of the same color and the matching
wooden markers. Put one marker from each player in a
container, then randomly draw them one by one and place
them on the Turn Order Track 1 in the center of the
board. This sets the turn order for the first round. The other
two markers from each player are placed at the beginning
of the Honor Track 2 . Players keep their 3 shuriken in
front of them.
Separate the 3 Hensojutsu (Disguise) Skill Tiles from the
rest, shuffle them, and place them in a face down stack
next to the Sensei area 8 . Now shuffle the rest of the skill
tiles and place them in a large face down stack next to the
Hensojutsu tiles 9 . Draw a number of skill tiles equal to the
number of players from the large stack and place them face
up in the Sensei area.
Shuffle the Envoy Cards and place 4 face up on the Palace
10 Put the remaining envoys in a face down stack near the
Shuffle the Guard Cards 3 and the Elite Guard Cards
4 in separate face down stacks. Draw and place 1 guard
card face up on each house 5 as the sentry protecting the
Shuffle the Rumor Cards and place 4 face up in the
Pavilion 11 . Put the remaining rumors in a face down stack
near the board.
Take a 2 and a 4 honor value Taira (red) clan token and
place them on different Clan Houses. Do the same for
the Minamoto (blue) clan. Place the 6 honor value GoShirakawa (green) token 6 . Place the remaining clan
tokens in a pile off to the side of the board. Mix up the
Treasure tokens in the bag and place 3 treasures in each
house 7 , plain side up (red side face down).
Shuffle the Dojo Cards and deal 4 to each player. Turn up 3
dojo cards on the dojo and place the deck next to the Dojo
12 face down.
Place the round marker on 1 on the Round Track
IN THE ROLE OF A MASTER NINJA, each player practices in the dojo, learns
esoteric skills from the sensei, raids clan-controlled houses to steal fabulous
treasure, influences envoys, spreads rumors in the pavilion, and ultimately
tries to become the most legendary ninja of the age.
In turn order, each player places 1 shuriken on a location and immediately
follows the rules for that location. Once all players have placed 3 shuriken, the
round is over. The game lasts 7 rounds. Rounds 3, 5, and 7 have special scoring
at the end of the round. In the end, the player with the most honor wins.
In turn, each player places 1
shuriken on the board and takes
one of the following actions:
THE DOJO: Take some dojo cards.
THE SENSEI: Learn a skill to use
in invading houses.
cards to defeat guards and take
THE PALACE: Discard and score
treasure to take 1 envoy.
THE PAVILION: Discard and score
treasure to take 1 rumor card.
You place one shuriken each turn to immediately perform the selected action. Here,
you are attacking the house with strength.
Shuriken locations remain valid
even with previously-placed
shuriken on them.
PLACE A SHURIKEN HERE and take dojo cards in any combination from the
face up cards or the draw pile. The number of dojo cards you take depends
on how many dojo cards are already in your hand. If you have no dojo cards,
take four. If you have one dojo card, take three. If you have two or more dojo
cards, take two. After you take all of your cards, replace any face up cards
taken with new cards from the draw pile. If there are no more cards in the
deck, shuffle the discards and start a new pile.
If you have over 7 dojo cards in hand, you must discard down to 7.
Always stack your shuriken on top of any previously placed shuriken on the
dojo. At the end of the round, the dojo shuriken stack determines the player
order in the next round. The player with the topmost shuriken goes first, and
so on down through the stack (if a player placed more than 1 shuriken on the
dojo, only his top one counts).
Example: Suppose the current player order is Tom, Mike, Eve, and Brandon. During
the round, Brandon places a shuriken in the dojo. Later, Mike places one on top of
Brandon’s. Tom and Eve do not place any shuriken in the dojo. So the stack order,
top to bottom, is Mike – Brandon. The player order in the following round will be
Mike, Brandon, Tom, Eve.
Dojo cards range in value from 1 to 5.
Guards range in value from 1 to 5.
YOU INVADE HOUSES TO EARN TREASURE. Each treasure is protected by a
guard. The Sentry is the face up guard you know about in advance, the other
guards are surprises. Each time you defeat a guard, you put a treasure on your
shuriken. Then you decide whether to leave or take on the next guard (and
get another treasure). To take on the next guard, call Banzai. If you defeat all
guards in a house, you will hurt the honor level of the clan that lost the house,
and help the honor of the clan that will take it over.
Treasures range in value from 2-5 honor. Though Gold
has variable value, it is considered the most valuable
treasure in houses. The plain side of a treasure token
indicates it is protected by a normal guard, the red side
indicates an elite guard. As you defeat guards, you take
the plain treasures first, from least valuable on up, then
the red side treasures, from least valuable on up.
Sc l
To start your attack, place a shuriken on the strength or stealth side of
a house.
For strength, you must play a dojo card that is a higher value than
the guard card.
For stealth, you must play a dojo card that is lower value than the
guard card.
Ties do not win!
Suppose you hold this hand of dojo cards:
Here’s a typical house controlled by the Taira
clan. There is a 5 value Samurai turned up
as the sentry guard, protecting the scroll
(the lowest value plain treasure). There is an
unknown guard protecting each of the other
treasures—a vase and a gold.
You have a good “stealthy” hand so you place your shuriken on the stealth
. To beat the 5 sentry, you play your
Then you take the lowest value plain side treasure, the scroll,
it on your shuriken. You leave the sentry on the house for now.
and put
You decide to call Banzai, which tells another player at the table to flip up
a guard—a regular guard because there are plain side up treasures in the
house. He turns up a 1 guard—you must play your
card along with your
card as a -1 kicker to defeat this guard.
You take the least valuable plain side treasure remaining, the vase
¾.L N ¿ A 3 dojo card may be played like a normal dojo card. But it may also be played along with another
dojo card as a kicker—giving +1 or -1 to the dojo card. You may play multiple kickers on the same dojo card.
Calling Banzai
Let’s take a moment to discuss the “Banzai” decisions. Saying Banzai tells
another player to turn up a guard card, you’re going to attempt to defeat it.
If you call Banzai, but you cannot defeat the guard? Failure. You take only one
treasure from your shuriken—discard any other treasures on it. If you decide
to leave instead of calling Banzai, you take all treasures from your shuriken.
In either case, leave any remaining treasures in the house.
Returning to our example, there is one plain side up treasure left in the
house—gold. You call Banzai, and a guard with an alarm symbol is
turned up!
When an alarm guard is turned up, immediately draw
1 treasure from the bag and place it plain side up in
the house. Then select the most valuable plain side
up treasure in the house and flip it to the red side.
So an alarm increases the treasure in a house, but it
also means the best treasure is protected by an elite
guard card.
In our example, you draw a treasure for the alarm—a
jade. Then you flip the most valuable treasure—gold—to
its red side. Continuing play, you defeat the 3 guard by
playing a
and then put the jade on your shuriken.
The gold is still in the house! Facing another Banzai decision, you know that if
you go for it, you will face a guard from the elite deck, because the remaining
treasure is red side up.
You decide to leave. You take the vase, scroll,
and jade from your shuriken and leave the gold,
red side up, on the house. You draw another treasure
from the bag and place it plain side up in the house.
The sentry recovers and stays in the house.
There is an alarm symbol
on some regular guards.
Alarms are ignored on sentry guards.
More than one alarm guard
may be drawn in a house, so an
unlucky ninja may face several
elite guard cards in one invasion.
If you defeat all guards in a house,
you take all of the treasure. You
also replace the clan honor token
on the house with a token from
one of the other two clans. The
house is left empty for the rest of
the round—the Sentry guard is
After you resolve the treasure on
your shuriken (see Calling Banzai),
add 1 treasure to the house, plain
side up. Leave the Sentry on the
house—he recovers. The house
may be invaded again this round
by you or another player.
Defeating an elite guard
earns honor at the end off
the game, shown here.
Some elite guards have different values
depending on whether you’re invading
by stealth or strength. This one is a
5 against strength invasions, and a 1
against stealth invasions.
All drawn guard cards are
discarded after encounters except
for beaten elite guards—keep
those for end of game scoring.
Some elite guards are actually 2 guards.
You must separately defeat both a 3
guard and a 5 guard to defeat this one.
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Changing Clan Control
Each house is worth 2, 4, 5, 6 or 8 honor for one clan. Throughout the game,
the control of houses changes from one clan to another. Such control changes
occur when you defeat all guards in a house. You must return the house’s
clan token to the pile and replace it with any token of a different clan. The
house is left empty of treasure until the end of the round. No one may place
shuriken there.
Envoys give you influence with a clan—see The Palace on page 8. To see how
honor on houses is awarded to players, see Scoring Phases on page 9.
During rounds 1-4, there are skills
available from the sensei equal to
the number of players.
During rounds 5-7, the sensei
only teaches one skill—the
Hensojutsu (Disguise) skill—
to a single student.
During the game, you may
exhaust the supply of dojo or
guard cards. Shuffle the discards
and start a new deck.
If you have no snake style skills, you
must discard a 1 value dojo card to
learn Shinobi-iri.
Gives a -2 to
a dojo card.
If you defeat a Minamotocontrolled house, you must replace
the Minamoto token with a Taira
or Go-Shirakawa token.
PLACE A SHURIKEN TO VISIT THE SENSEI to learn one skill. Select a skill
by discarding the dojo card shown on the skill tile. A ? means that you may
discard any dojo card. You may learn skills from different styles. Once you
learn a skill of a certain style (snake, tiger, crane), you do not have to discard
a dojo card to buy more skills of that style.
Example: You discard a 5 dojo card to learn the skill Kenjutsu, a Tiger style skill. For
future visits to the sensei, you do not have to discard cards to select a Tiger style skill.
You may use a skill only once per round. When you do, turn the tile face
down. If you learn the same skill twice, you may use each skill tile once per
round. At the end of the round, turn your used skills back up.
Most skills help you invade clan houses. The Hensojutsu (Disguise) skill is
unique in that it is used during a scoring phase (see Scoring Phases on page 9).
Gives a +1
or a -1 to a
“A puff of
smoke, or a
bit of breeze,
going past
a guard.”
“The way of the
open hand.”
Gives a +2 to
a dojo card.
“Distraction is
a sword.”
Changes the
vvalue of a
played dojo
to 0.
Acts as if you
played a 2
o a 4 dojo
“An artist
of shadow.”
“Inventive devil
of a trickster.”
Example: You are attacking a house with a 2 Sentry using
stealth. You use your Intonjutsu (Concealment) skill to change a
5 dojo card into a 0 to defeat the Sentry. You call “Banzai” and
an elite Tsuba appears—he is a 3 vs. stealth.
Changes the
vvalue of a
to 6.
“Speed of
the blade.”
You use your Boryaku (Tactics) skill as a 2 dojo card to win—
you don’t need to play an actual dojo card. You keep the elite
Tsuba card for end of game bonus scoring
Swaps 1 treasure on your shuriken for any
one treasure in the house.
This can be played at any point during a house
invasion, even after a failure. If a red side up treasure
in the house is exchanged for a plain side up treasure
on your shuriken, you must flip the most valuable
treasure remaining in the house to red side up.
“The heightened senses of a scout.”
Flip any
sskill face up
eexcept Henojutsu
The flipped skill
may be re-used
this round.
“Mind over body.”
Example: You are attacking a house with strength, only a red
side up jade treasure is left. You confidently call “Banzai,” but
unfortunately, a two-guard elite card is drawn. Your remaining
dojo card can defeat either one, but not both.
Making the best of it, you use your Choho (Espionage) skill
to exchange a fan on your shuriken for the jade. Because the
jade was red side up, the fan is flipped red side up in the house.
Because you failed, you only keep one treasure from your
shuriken, but at least it will be a valuable jade.
Switches your attack from stealth to strength, or strength to stealth, for the rest of
tthe house. This can played after a guard card is revealed. The change from stealth
tto strength or vice versa holds for the rest of the guards in the house.
Example: A 5 guard is revealed and you’re attacking with strength. You use Seishin-teki to change to
stealth and play a 3 to defeat the guard.
“The active mind must be clear.”
Gain 1 additional influence from one of your bribed
envoys, who must have the mask symbol. If you have
more than one Hensojutsu skill, you must choose
different envoys.
“The illusion becomes reality.”
When specific treasures are shown
on an envoy, those treasures are
required. For example, if an Envoy
card shows a fan and a jade, you
must discard a fan and a jade,
immediately scoring 7 honor.
Other envoys may take various
kinds of treasure and thus score
varying honor. For example, an
envoy might require 1 of any
treasure plus 3 of any treasure
of the same kind. You could bribe
this envoy with 1 vase and 3 jade
(19 honor), or 4 fans (8 honor),
or 1 scroll and 3 vases (15 honor),
PLACE A SHURIKEN NEXT TO THE PALACE to bribe one envoy by discarding
the matching treasures and immediately scoring the value of those treasures
in honor. Take the envoy and place it face up in front of you. During each
scoring phase, the players with the most and second most envoys in each
clan earn additional honor or a Rumor card. In case of a tie, the player with
the oldest envoy in that clan wins. See Scoring Phases on page 9.
The symbol and color
indicate the clan.
The number is the age
of the envoy.
Indicates you can use the
Hensojutsu (Disguise))
skill on this envoy.
Gold may be substituted as any
treasure you choose, scoring as
that treasure. In the previous
example, you could bribe the
envoy with 1 fan, 2 vases, and
1 gold—the gold would have to
substitute for a vase. This would
score 14 honor.
Discarded treasure is kept in a
pile off the board. If you exhaust
the treasure in the bag, put the
discards back in.
After you buy a Rumor card, you
may keep it face down until the
end of the game. Rumor cards and
Dojo cards are the only hidden
player information.
This envoy requires 1, 2,
3 or 4 of any one kind of
This envoy requires 1 of
a one kind of treasure
and 3 of any one kind of
hi envoy requires
exactly 1 vase and 1 jade
PLACE A SHURIKEN NEAR THE PAVILION to spread one favorable rumor
among the nobility. You discard 1 or 2 treasure indicated on the rumor and
take the rumor card. As with Envoys, you immediately earn honor from the
treasure you spend. Some rumor cards may be bought with any treasure,
some require specific treasure.
Rumors work best if there is some substance behind the rumor. For example,
if you have one or more “Greatest Warrior” rumor cards, you’ll score best if
you have a lot of defeated elite guard cards.
See End of Game Bonus Scoring on page 10.
Indicates that you need to collect skill tiles
to score bonus honor with this rumor.
This rumor card requires 1 jade statuette.
AT THE END OF EACH ROUND, do the following:
Move Player Order Markers. The Dojo shuriken stack determines the player
order in the next round. The player with the topmost shuriken goes first, and
so on down through the stack. Players who didn’t place shuriken in the dojo
do not change position relative to one another. Afterwards, players gather
their shuriken.
At the end of round 5, the clan
houses look like this:
Reset Skills. Players turn all their skills tiles face up.
Reset the Sensei. Discard any leftover face up skills. Draw from the large
stack a number of skill tiles equal to the number of players and place them
face up. Any skills left over in the large stack after round 4 are discarded.
Round 5 on, draw and place one Hensojutsu (Disguise) skill tile face up from
the small stack.
Reset Cleared Houses. If a house has no treasures (all guards were defeated),
draw out and place 3 treasures plain side up on the house. Next, place a new
guard on the house who becomes the new Sentry. If the sentry is an alarm
guard, ignore the alarm (do not add an additional treasure to the house for
that alarm).
Refill Palace and Pavilion. If there are less than 4 Envoys in the Palace, draw
and turn up Envoys until there are 4. Do the same for the rumors in the Pavilion.
Scoring Phases Advance the round marker to the next round. After rounds 3,
5, and 7, perform a scoring phase as shown below. After round 7, the end of
game bonus scoring follows the scoring phase.
AFTER THE 3RD, 5TH, AND 7TH ROUNDS, there is a scoring phase.
For each clan, the first and second place players in envoy influence receive a
reward. Each envoy in a clan counts as 1 influence in that clan. Ties are won
by the player with the oldest envoy in that clan.
The player with the most envoy
influence in Taira has first choice
—he happily chooses the house
honor and marks 14 honor with his
scoring token.
To begin, in player order, players with the Hensojutsu (Disguise) skill
declare which envoy of theirs that they are targeting. Players may only
choose envoys with the
The player with most Minamoto
influence is miffed about the paltry 2
house honor, so he selects a rumor
card instead.
Example: You have 2 Envoys in Go-Shirakawa, one has the
You decide to use Hensojutsu on this envoy, giving you a total of 3 influence.
The first place Go-Shirakawa player
takes the 8 house honor.
Players are rewarded in the clan order shown on the round track. For
example, in round 3 scoring, Go-Shirakawa is rewarded first, then Taira,
and then finally Minamoto. You reward first place for each clan in order,
then second place for each clan in order.
Now second place players in each
clan get the leftover rewards. Taira
must take a rumor card, Minamoto
must take 2 house honor, and GoShirakawa must take a rumor card.
The player with the most envoy influence in a clan has a choice—score the
total honor on the clan’s houses or get a free Rumor card from the Pavilion.
No treasure is used or scored for a free rumor. After each first place player
chooses, the second place player gets whatever the first player left.
Rumors are not scored until the end of the game (see End of Game Bonus
Scoring on page 10).
Refill the Pavilion with Rumor
cards after scoring phases.
““Greatest Warrior”
sscores Elite Guard
After the last round ends, following the last Scoring Phase, do the End of
Game Bonus Scoring. The bonus scoring is for Rumors, Unused Treasure,
and Defeated Elite Guards.
Rumor Bonus Scoring
““Goodwill of the
People” scores
Rumor cards.
“Powerful Friends”
scores Envoy cards.
“Master of the
Secret Art” scores
Skill tiles.
These rumor cards score extra
if you have 3 of the same type.
scores uniquely.
Most rumor cards act as a “multiplier” for something else you collect—a
full “set” is 3. If you have 1 rumor of a type, the multiplier is x1. If you have
2 rumors of the same type, the multiplier is x2. If you have 3 rumors of the
same type, the multiplier is x4. If you collect more than 3 rumors of the same
type, you’re starting a new set.
Example: Suppose you have 2 “Master of the Secret Art” Rumor cards. Two
matching rumor cards have a x2 multiplier. So if you collected 4 skill tiles, you
score 8 honor. If you had 3 “Master of the Secret Art” Rumor cards—a set—
the multiplier would’ve been x4 and you would have scored 16 honor.
Example: Suppose you have 3 “Goodwill of the People” Rumor cards and two
other Rumor cards. This would score 20 honor.
These score in a unique way—there is no multiplier. If you are the only
player with this type of Rumor card, each card scores 6 honor. If two
players have this type of Rumor card, each card scores 4 honor for its
owner. If three or more players have this type of Rumor card, each card
scores 2 honor for its owner.
Example: Suppose you have 2 “Dishonorable Opponents” cards and another
player has 1 of them. You score 8 honor and the other player scores 4. If no other
player had a “Dishonorable Opponents” card, you would have scored 12.
Unused Treasure Bonus Scoring
You get 1 honor for each remaining treasure you have—no matter the type
of treasure.
Unspent treasure
tokens score
1 honor each.
Elite Guards score
the honor on their
banner—these two
would score a total
of 3 honor.
Defeated Elites Bonus Scoring
For each elite guard you defeated during the game, you receive 1 or 2 honor
as indicated on the elite.
THE PLAYER WITH THE MOST HONOR WINS! All other players must bow
respectfully to the victor—and put away the game. When you bow, do it
with humility! You are in the presence of a superior!
In the event of a tie, the player with the most envoys wins. If there is still a
tie, the player with the oldest envoy (in any clan) wins!
THE HEIAN PERIOD (“Hey-on”) from 794-1185 was the last era of classical
Japanese history. It was a golden age for Japanese culture, especially in
the arts. Influenced by ideas in China, the Japanese blossomed in painting,
architecture, poetry, and especially literature. Though the Emperor nominally
ruled, power was shared between the emperor and several family clans and
enforced with a rising bushi military class.
Perhaps the greatest artistic achievement was the Tale of Genji, written by
a woman in the middle levels of the aristocracy, Murasaki Shikibu. This
enduring classic has a claim as the first novel ever written. It is certainly the
first with such a degree of psychological characterization. Life in the Imperial
Court is shown with astonishing insight and detail. The formal social code
emphasized grace, rank, manners, and custom. Nobles improvisationally
modified short tanka poems to express their views in veiled allusions.
The power struggle that Ninjato plays upon began in 1156, in the wake
of the suppressed Hogen Rebellion. Because of their assistance, the Taira
and Minamoto clans gained new prominence in the government, and GoShirakawa became emperor. This cooperation did not last.
Go-Shirakawa soon “retired” to wield power behind the scenes as a cloistered
emperor, more powerful than the series of emperors that followed. In 1159,
the leader of the Taira clan, Taira no Kiyamori, went on a pilgrimage and
left the Imperial Palace lightly defended. The rival Minamoto clan seized its
chance and occupied the palace. Go-Shirakawa was imprisoned.
When Taira no Kiyomori returned, he negotiated his surrender to Minamoto.
The Minamoto became careless and Go-Shirakawa escaped, finding refuge
with the Taira. The surrender was a ruse. With permission from
Go-Shirakawa, the Taira clan attacked the Minamoto clan at
the Imperial Palace. After some skirmishes, the Taira staged
a retreat, and the Minamoto poured out of the palace in
pursuit. Another ruse. A second force of Taira swooped in
to retake the Palace. Caught between the Taira forces with
no place to retreat, the Minamoto were defeated.
During the next 20 years, Taira no Kiyomori consolidated
his power with the help of Go-Shirakawa. Increasingly, the
Taira ruled in a high handed manner, taking nepotism to
new levels and ignoring the concerns of the provinces.
The other clans felt slighted.
The foundation eventually cracked, beginning a
series of events known as the Genpei War. After
another emperor abdicated, Go-Shirakawa
supported his son, Prince Mochihito, for the
throne, but Taira no Kiyomori named his
nephew Emperor Antoku. Relations with
Go-Shirakawa soured. Prince Mochihito
issued a call to arms against the Taira
for their hubris. The Taira response
was to chase Mochihito down and
execute him.
A popular Heian game involved
Tanka poetry, which had a meter
of 5-7-5-7-7. The 5-7-5 was the
upper phrase, and the lower 7-7
phrase often commented upon the
upper phrase or took the thought
in a new direction.
At a Heian party, there would
be appointed judges, the nobles
would divide into teams, and the
game was on. Clever wordplay
involved using puns, riffing
from given descriptive words,
using beginning and ending
syllables that formed a word,
etc. Sometimes one side would
do the upper phrase, and the
other side would answer with an
ironic or humorous lower phrase.
Being good at Tanka conferred
significant status.
Several books influenced the
design of Ninjato. One especially
inspirational work was Souyri
and Roth’s wonderful book about
medieval Japanese life, The World
Turned Upside Down. Many more
games could be made about this
fascinating and complex historical
Conceptual game ideas arose
from the flexible spending in
Brunnhofer and Tummelhofer’s
Stone Age, the stress inducing
push-your-luck in Faidutti and
Moon’s Incan Gold, and the critical
advance planning in Kramer and
Ulrich’s The Princes of Florence.
Not only do we admire these
games, but they often come to the
table with our family and friends.
Adam West
Dan Schnake
Drew Baker
Peter Gifford
Mark Anderson, Scott Arens,
Greg Beilach, Gary Duell, A. C.
Harrison, Chuck Jajuga, Don
Jennings, Sean Johnson, Steve
Labun, Scott McAhren, Jerry
Matczack, Hans Messersmith, Carl
Pacey, Sheamus Parkes, Daniel
Patterson, Jessica Patterson, Kent
Raquet, Eric Robbins, Jackie Ross,
Charlie Schaefer, Abe Schnake,
Izzy Schnake, Kristin Settle, Paul
Settle, Peter Settle, Boyd Steere,
Noel Stonehouse, Michael Strunk,
John Taylor, Chris Weller, Scott
Weller, Jason Wendling, Sean
Wilson, Sam Zitin
The denizens of
However, the fire was lit and Minamoto no Yoritomo took up arms with the
support of Go-Shirakawa. The Taira suffered a blow when Kiyomori died of
fever in 1181. A series of battles over the next few years culminated in the
naval battle of Dan-no-ura, a famous event in Japanese history. Altogether,
1300 ships fought in the strait between two of Japan’s four main islands.
There was a series of archery duels, followed by boarding and hand-to-hand
fighting, with the changing tides favoring one side, then the other.
The pivotal event occurred when a Taira General switched from the Taira side
to the Minamoto. Not only did he bring his forces, but he informed on the
location of the ship carrying Emperor Antoku and his regalia. The Minamoto
focused their attack and annihilated the Taira. At the very end, Emperor
Antoku, Kiyomori’s widow Tokiko, and many Taira samurai retainers flung
themselves into the waters rather than suffer capture.
Minamoto no Yoritomo became the first true Shogun with national reach in
Japan. The Emperor became a mere figurehead, samurai power ascended,
and the shogunate system established itself for the next 650 years. The Heian
Period had come to an end.
WITH NINJA, ALSO KNOWN AS SHINOBI, it’s difficult to ascertain where
history ends and legend begins. As a specialized group, ninja did not appear
on the scene until the 15th century. However, tales about individual ninja go
back much further. The Kojiki, the 8th century “Record of Ancient Matters”
for Japan, has an ninja-like account. In it, Yamoto Takeru disguises himself
as a charming maiden and assassinates two chiefs of a rival clan.
Ninja have always been associated with stealth and invisibility. Daimyo
feared their abilities as assassins, though there is little verifiable evidence
of such deeds.
The famous ninja black pajama attire was an invention of the kabuki
theater in the late 17th century. Real ninja preferred to disguise themselves
as monks, guards, or whatever would let them pass unnoticed. In addition to
their ninjato swords, ninja employed a variety of unusual weapons, including
shuriken (which were sometimes half-planted in the ground to hinder
The historical record on ninja exploits is sparse, consisting mostly of scattered
accounts of sabotage and spycraft. Was their prowess merely legend? It must
be noted that unlike the idealized samurai, ninja came from the lower classes,
and propaganda about a loyal warrior code was far more useful to the ruling
elite than underhanded “special ops.” Perhaps the final ninja trick was leaving
little trace for any of us.
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