by Jonathan Leistiko
Inspired by Jeff Johannigman
You’re a ninja at the “Jade Tee” golf championships. The winner of this tournament will bring great honor to his or her house (and get some super-sweet merchandising deals to boot!). Do you have the focus and concentration to sink a birdie while being shot at with a blowgun? Are you wily and subtle enough to replace your opponent’s golf ball with a smoke bomb without being noticed? Do you have what it takes to win in the cutthroat world of Ninja Golf?
Complete the most holes of golf with the lowest score.
A bunch of polyhedral dice (4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, 12-, and 20-sided)
A bunch of tokens for various purposes
A golf ball token for each player
A fairway tracker for each player
A Ninja Golf scorecard for each player
A Ninja Golf Character Sheet for each player
The Ninja Golf “golf course” deck
The Ninja Golf “Ninjitsu” deck
Pencils for each player
Shuffle the two decks separately. Put them where everyone can reach them. Put the dice where everyone can reach them.
Claim a scorecard, a fairway tracker, a character sheet, 7 health chips, a golf ball token, and a pencil. Put your golf ball token at “0” on your fairway tracker
Flip the top card of the golf course deck face-up where everyone can see it. This is the first hole of the course.
Ties are always decided by the player with the most Ninjitsu chips. Further ties are decided by the youngest player.
At the start of each hole, flip the top card of the hole deck face up to the middle of the table.
Each hole is played in rounds. Rounds have the following phases:
1) Allocate Chips
2) Reveal Chips
4) Determine Action Order
The phases are detailed below.
1) Allocate Chips
Secretly distribute your health chips among the three attributes on your character sheet: Power, Accuracy, and Ninjitsu.
Power determines what kind of dice and how many of them you roll when teeing off. Every chip in Power gives you a point to “purchase” golf dice. 4-sided dice cost one point, 6-sided dice cost 2 points, and so on up with 20-sided dice costing 6 points. If you have three chips in Power you can purchase 3d4, 1d6 and 1d4, or 1d8.
Each chip in Accuracy lets you re-roll one die, modify the result of a die you rolled by one point, or ignore the result of one die you rolled.
Each chip in Ninjitsu lets you draw a card from the Ninjitsu deck in phase three. Ninjitsu also determines what kind of dice and how many of them you roll when you attack another ninja or defend yourself from an attack. It does this in the same way that Power does.
2) Reveal Chips
Once everyone has allocated his or her health chips, show everyone where you allocated your chips.
The player with the most Ninjitsu decides the order players resolve this phase in.
If you have less cards in hand than chips in Ninjitsu, draw cards until the two are equal. If you have more cards in hand than chips in Ninjitsu, discard cards from your hand until the two are equal.
If the Ninjitsu deck runs out of cards, shuffle the discards to create a new Ninjitsu deck and continue play normally.
You may play a Ninjitsu card at any time unless the card says otherwise. Some Ninjitsu cards state specific conditions for playing them; you can only play those cards when those conditions arise. Items and Assets stay in front of you when you play them; their effects persist until they are discarded, and many of them create effects when they are discarded. All other cards (Skills, Events, etc.) go to the discard pile when you play them (unless they specify otherwise).
You may have up to two Items and one Asset in play. If you exceed these limits, you must immediately discard Items or Assets to meet these limits.
4) Determine Action Order
The player closest to the hole (compare where your golf ball tracker is to the hole’s distance) acts first.
In action order, take turns teeing off, starting a combat, or resting:
Your goal is to roll a die or dice whose sum total (added to or subtracted from your current total on your fairway tracker) equals the distance of the hole you’re on. Start by choosing your golf dice: Every chip in Power gives you a point to “purchase” golf dice. 4-sided dice cost one point, 6-sided dice cost 2 points, and so on up with 20-sided dice costing 6 points. With three chips in Power you can purchase 3d4, 1d6 and 1d4, or 1d8.
Roll your golf die or dice and sum them. If you don’t like the total, you can move a chip from “Accuracy” to “Spent Accuracy” on your character sheet to remove one die from your sum, re-roll a die, or add or subtract one point from your sum. You may do this as long as you have chips in “Accuracy”. You can use Accuracy chips one at a time – you do not have to declare that you’re using them all at once.
Once you have your final sum, add or subtract it from your current total on your fairway tracker. This is your new location. If your total is less than 0, set it to zero. If it is greater than 390, set it to 390.
Add a stroke to your score for this hole.
Place your golf ball pawn on the appropriate square on your fairway tracker. If this matches the distance for the hole you’re on, you’ve finished the hole. When you finish a hole, sum your strokes for the hole. That is your score for that hole.
If you have not finished the hole and you have five strokes or more, count the hole as finished and mark six strokes for the hole.
Instead of teeing and driving, you can attack another player. If you’ve finished the hole and other players are still golfing, you’re not busy doing anything else, right?
In an attack, the player with the highest single die result wins. Use your Ninjitsu as points to buy combat dice the same way you use Power to buy golf dice. Once you’ve purchased your combat dice, your victim does the same.
Roll your combat dice while your victim rolls his or hers.
After combat dice are rolled, you may move an Accuracy chip from your “Accuracy” to your “Spent Accuracy” area to re-roll a die, force your opponent to re-roll a die, add a point to one of your dice, or subtract a point from one of your opponent’s dice. You may also pass. After you do this, your opponent may do the same. This stops when you and your opponent pass consecutively.
The player with the highest single die wins. The loser has to burn (remove from the character sheet) one health chip. You may burn any health chip on your character sheet.
Combat ends after one round.
Instead of golfing or fighting, you can take a rest. You may move one of your exerted chips to one of your attributes or (if you have less than seven health chips) you may put a health chip in your exerted area.
You may move a health chip from your Exerted Chips area to any other area of you character sheet or (if you have less than 7 health chips) may exert (move to your Exerted Chips area) a health chip to add a health chip to your Exerted Chips area.
If you have no health chips, you’ve been knocked out and are out of the game.
Is it time to move on to the next hole?
If all players have finished the hole, place the next card from the golf course deck face-up in the middle of the table.
If only one player has health chips left or you’ve finished the 18th hole, the game ends.
Exerting & Burning
During the game, you can move a health chip that is not your Exerted Chips or Spent Accuracy area and move it to the Exerted Chips area on your sheet. This is called “exerting”. When you do this, the chip provides twice the effect it normally gives. If you exert a health chip that’s in Power while you’re purchasing golf dice, it provides two points for purchasing dice instead of just one point. If you exert an Accuracy chip instead of moving it to Spent Accuracy, you get two “accuracy actions” instead of just one.
During the game, you can burn a chip (lose it entirely, as if you’d taken damage) to get three times the effect it normally provides.
Note that if you exert or burn an Accuracy chip to modify a roll or get re-rolls, you do not have to spend them all at one. Unspent Accuracy modifiers disappear at the end of the current phase.
Tally your score. Count any holes you did not play through as six.
If you have the lowest score, you win. Get ready for a life of fame and fortune as a corporate shill (at least until the next Jade Tee Tournament)!
When you reach the green, roll a d10 to determine the “ones” yards for the hole’s distance; also roll a d10 to see where your ball landed. When your distance exactly matches the hole’s distance, you’ve finished the hole.
A hole ends when all but one player has finished the hole. The unfinished player must take six for that hole.
Once you’ve finished a hole, you can move on to the next hole.
“The Sun Was In My Eyes…”
The main rules don’t mention what to do about the “special” text on the holes. Once you’re used to the normal game, follow the “special” text on the hole that you’re at.
October 17, 2005: Over a year ago, Jeff Johannigman roasted me at our Toastmasters meeting. It was a well-crafted and very funny roast. In it, he joked about how I could take any idea and turn it into a game. The ridiculous idea he used as an example was, “Ninja Golf: 18 Holes of Death.” I would have latched onto this instantly, except I was also the evaluator for this particular speech. Instead, this brilliant nugget laid forgotten until a few weeks ago. Sharon and I were tossing out unneeded stuff that had accumulated on our bookshelf in the process of moving it from one side of the room to the other. Going through our Toastmasters stuff, Sharon found Jeff’s notes for his roast. And thus, Ninja Golf was rediscovered.
June 10, 2006: I just re-read and modified the rules a teensy bit. Now I’m going to add helpful information to the character sheets.
June 28, 2006: Additional edits and simplifications.
July 15th, 2006: Removed unnecessarily complex Ninjitsu card management rules. Wrote most of the special FX for the golf course holes.
Thanks to Kori, Glenn, Sharon, and Frank of the Monday Night Games Group for play testing. Thanks to Sharon for editing.