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  • Writer's pictureHansel

Smash Up Faction Review - Ninjas

Updated: Jan 4, 2022

The Ninjas faction is one of the original eight factions released in first set (Core Set) on October 8th, 2012.

The Core Set rulebook describes the Ninjas as:

If you can see a ninja, chances are you're already dead (and if you can see them while dead, skip ahead to the zombie section). I don't want to give away the secrets or anything, but most of what this faction does is sneaky, happens fast, and at the last second. So look out for that.

That being said, we describe the Ninjas as a faction that has many ways to destroy their opponents, as well as a sneaky faction that tends to get VP from bases unexpectedly.


Card Breakdown:

Ninjas have the typical 10 minions, 10 actions, and 2 bases breakdown. For additional data around the Ninjas breakdown, please visit our faction analysis page.


  • 1x Ninja Master - power 5 - You may destroy a minion on this base.

  • 2x Tiger Assassin - power 4 - You may destroy a minion of power 3 or less on this base.

  • 3x Shinobi - power 3 - Special: Before a base scores, you may play this minion there. You can only use one Shinobi’s ability per base.

  • 4x Ninja Acolyte - power 2 - Special: On your turn, if you have not yet played a minion, you may return this minion to your hand and play an extra minion on this base.


  • 2x Infiltrate - Play on a base. Destroy another action that has been played here. Ongoing: You may ignore this base’s ability. Destroy this card at the start of your turn.

  • 2x Seeing Stars - Destroy a minion of power 3 or less.

  • 1x Assassination - Play on a minion. Ongoing: Destroy this minion at the end of the turn.

  • 1x Disguise - Choose one or two of your minions on one base. Play an equal number of extra minions there, and return the chosen minions to your hand.

  • 1x Hidden Ninja - Special: Before a base scores, play a minion there.

  • 1x Poison - Play on a minion. Destroy any number of actions on it. Ongoing: This minion has -4 power. (Minions have minimum power of 0.)

  • 1x Smoke Bomb - Play on one of your minions. Ongoing: This minion is not affected by other players’ actions. Destroy this card at the start of your turn.

  • 1x Way of Deception - Move one of your minions to another base.


  • Ninja Dojo - breakpoint 18 - VPs: 2 3 2 - After this base scores, the winner may destroy any one minion.

  • Temple of Goju - breakpoint 18 - VPs: 2 3 2 - After this base scores, place each player’s highest power minion here on the bottom of its owner’s deck.

Check out what these cards look like at the bottom of this post!


Ninjas' Playstyle:

We classify the Ninjas faction with a predominantly aggro-swarm playstyle. The Ninjas really excel at destroying opponents' minions and sneaking their own minions onto bases to gain victory points. The Ninjas have many destruction cards, and a few cards that allow them to swarm a base. Something to note when playing with or against the Ninjas is that they are one of the few factions to have special abilities that allow them extra minion plays on bases. The Ninjas' playstyle rating has an average of 2.6, which is just above the typical playstyle average for a faction (~2.5). The aggro playstyle of Ninjas comes from most of their cards being able to destroy their opponents' cards. Their swarm playstyle comes from a few of their cards allowing extra minion play. We determined that because of the amount of destruction, they deserve a 5/5 for aggro, and for their few cards that allow extra minion play, they deserve a 3/5 for swarm.

Playstyle Radar Chart
Playstyle Radar Chart


The Ninjas' narrow playstyle and simple card abilities make them an excellent choice to introduce players into Special abilities and destruction factions. Your goal when playing Ninjas is to slow down your opponents with their heavy destruction while carefully placing your non-Shinobi minions throughout the bases in play. If/When your opponent decides to burst down a base that you are not on, you can almost always guarantee you get VP by keeping a Shinobi or two in your hand, or a Hidden Ninja :), allowing you to focus on the bases you want first place on. Don't feel obligated to hold onto your destruction cards until the perfect moment as that moment may pass, or may not ever come, ultimately clogging up your hand.


  1. Destroy cards. Ninjas have nine destruction cards, six of which destroy minions, and two of those have no limitations on how powerful that minion can be - bye-bye King Rex!

  2. Keep your Shinobi's in your hand to ensure you can play them in Phase 3 if your opponent(s) burst down a base. At least you get some VP!

  3. Due to Ninjas destruction and hoarding of Shinobis, they tend to be a bit slower playing as players often hold onto their destruction minions for the right moment.

  4. Utilize Ninja Acolyte and Disguise to drop powerful minions to swing the base substantially.

  5. Use the Ninjas to slow down your opponents while you execute your other factions' game plan.

Ninjas have a couple dangerous ways to swing a base in their favor during Phase 3:

  • Hidden Master: In phase 3, play Hidden Ninja and Ninja Master to drop 5 power and destroy an opponents' minion of ANY power, often times putting you in first for that base.

  • Hidden Shinobi Master: Similar to Hidden Master but add a Shinobi from your hand and drop 8 power instead of 5!

Advanced Play:

The Ninjas have some powerful minions that are easily played inefficiently. Specifically, playing the Ninja Master, Tiger Assassins, or Shinobis too early in the game, or onto a base as the first minion, really hurts their overall strength and playstyle. Nina Acolytes resolve this problem by allowing you to play two minions on your next turn, ultimately allowing for extra time to draw additional cards that are better in that moment to play than your King minion, or your Shinobi. In addition to saving minions for the right time, imagine using a Ninja Acolyte and playing two minions the next turn that have great on-play effects; such as two Howlers in the same turn!

Ninjas are typically played very aggressive, utilizing them in a new way by playing them more as an aggro-swarm faction will cause disruption in your opponents' game plan to counter the Ninjas. Additionally, try playing them as a support faction and utilize their abilities to protect your paired faction and to help get the paired factions minions out into play.


Many players do not tend to play on Ninja bases if Ninjas are being played as they know the Ninjas will most likely get more VP than them as the second place VP is worth more than the first place VP - making it unattractive to play on.

If Ninja Dojo is in play -

  1. Win this base if there is a powerful minion on a different base that you need to destroy. Otherwise, go for second place as it is worth more VP.

  2. Focus your plays elsewhere if you have cards that will allow you to play here during Phase 3.

  3. This base has a fairly low breakpoint, so it can be easily soloed if paired with the right faction.

If Temple of Goju is in play -

  1. Go for second place on this base for the extra VP as the base ability effects all players on this base, not just the winner.

  2. If you do not have a way to recovery your high power minion(s), playing them here will allow you to put them on the bottom of your deck for future play (Ninja Master).

  3. Force your opponent to play on this base as sneaking in when it is scoring in Phase 3 using Shinobi, will let you get VP and put the Shinobi back into your deck.

  4. This base has a fairly low breakpoint, so it can be easily soloed if paired with the right faction.


Ninjas suffer from their non-existent card draw and lack of board presence. Shinobi's can clog up in their hand as the Ninja player will almost always keep Shinobi's in their hand to play strictly during Phase 3. Ninjas are great at destroying opponents' minions and sneaking in on bases last minute for VP, but they NEED a partner faction's help to win games. Specifically, they need their partner faction to assist in board presence to win bases other than their own as they lack the raw power that's needed to win games against some opponents.

When to use Ninjas:

Okay but when do I use them? Ninjas are a great choice when matching up with factions that can quickly empower their minions and solo a base unexpectedly (think Mythic Greeks, Kree, Cyborg Apes). Even if these power-pumping factions come out hard, having a Shinobi in your hand will ensure you get some VP if a base scores. Are you playing against a faction that has a strong king minion? If so, remember that the Ninja Master has no power-limitations when destroying a minion. Ninja have some potential burst plays with Ninja Acolyte, allowing your following turn to play two minions with no-power restrictions - think about this with two Avengers minions in your hand for a 10-power drop!

Effects Breakdown:

Using our SUD Effects system, we are able to classify all Smash Up cards into different Effect categories. These categories help us determine the Effects that each faction excels in, as well as Effects that they lack in. More details regarding this system can be found on our Effects Definitions page and in our SUD System series of blog posts.

Check out the Ninjas' effects breakdown below:

So, what do these effects tell us about Ninjas? It tells us that the Ninjas have a primary focus of destruction, extra plays, and a little bit of (self) returning minions. The Ninjas have 7 distinct effects throughout all of their cards, which can be broken down into 28 effects for their deck. This gives the Ninjas an average of 1.4 effects per card, making them a relatively simple faction. Breaking this down further gives us the following:

  • Actions: The actions have 14 effects across their 10 actions, giving an average 1.4:1 effects per card.

  • Minions: The minions have 14 effects across their 10 minions, giving an average of 1.4:1 effects per card.

  • Bases: The bases have 2 effects across their 2 bases, giving an average of 1:1 effects per card.

The higher the ratio and count of the effects per card can usually determine the complexity and/or versatility of a faction. Ninjas have a fairly low ratio across all of their cards, telling us that they are not super difficult to play, especially since they have a spread of 7 distinct effects out of the 20 total Effects available for any card to have.

Here is how we broke down the defined SUD Effects for Ninjas:


Sooo what works well with Ninjas...?

Factions that allow any sort of card draw, have strong minion on-play abilities, and/or provide board presence greatly increase the effectiveness of the Ninjas. Factions that benefit from a lot happening in a turn like wizards, disco dancers, or mythic Greeks can make good use of this ability.

Example Pairings:


Mega Troopers - This pairing helps with by extra special bonuses, minor card draw, and power gains. Useful cards include: Black Trooper, Green Trooper, Pink Trooper, Blitzing Sword Attack, Lightning Rescue!, Plan For More!, Power Pose, It's Blitzin' Time!, and the Juice Bar base.


Sharks - This pairing helps with by adding additional destruction, power gains from destruction, and card draw. Useful cards include: Hammerhead, Mako, Air Jaws, Chum, Torn Apart, Blood in the Water, Week of Sharks, and both bases.


Spider-Verse - This pairing helps with additional card draw and extra special bonuses. Useful cards include: Spider-Man, Ghost-Spider, ...Comes Great Responsibility, Spider-Sense, Spider Reflexes, The View From Above, With Great Power, Your Friendly Neighborhood Hero, and the Manhattan base.


Star Roamers - This pairing helps with board presence, card reuse, and protection. Useful cards include: Ship's Captain, Science Officer, Ship's Engineer, Hyperspeed 10, Protector Fields, Teleport Overflow, Mass Teleport, and Port Me Up.

Time Travelers - This pairing helps with recover and extra play (great with the Ninja's destruction). Useful cards include: Repeater Perfect, Time Raider, Doctor When, 1.21 Gigawatts, It's Astounding, Time Walk, Wormhole, Do Over!, Into the Time Slip, and the titan Time Box.

Zombies - This pairing helps with card draw, board presence, and recovery. Useful cards include: Walker, Tenacious Z, Zombie Lord, Lend a Hand, Mall Crawl, Outbreak, Grave Robbing, and They Keep Coming.

What does the community think pairs well with Ninjas?

Below shows data that the community has given us regarding Ninjas. Want to see your pairing(s) in this data? Then go ahead and submit a Ninjas synergy now!

…and what doesn't work so well?

Ninjas need board presence, so factions that provide limited board presence or factions that rely heavily on their own strategy hurt the overall synergy. Factions that have zero card draw hurt the Ninjas as well, as the Ninjas also have no card draw.

But what does the DATA actually tell us about what pairs well with Ninjas?

When looking at the Ninjas' game data, they show that they're slightly below average when looking for statistical advantages in 2-player, 3-player, or 4-player games. How do we know this? Well, imagine the winner of a game was decided randomly, like flipping a coin for 2-player or rolling a die for 3-player. Turns out, the Ninjas are slightly below those odds for 2-player and 4-player games, but slightly above for 3-player games. That doesn't mean the Ninjas are more likely to lose in 2-player and 4-player games, and win in 3-player games; rather, it which means you aren't likely to improve your chances of winning by picking them, but you aren't likely to hurt your chances either.

Synergy Table:

Check out the average synergy score and the total synergy score below - the higher the number the better!

The below synergy table is our guide to the Ninjas' faction pairings! You can see from the report that Ninjas are on the positive side in terms of overall synergy with most of their synergies falling under Good. If a faction is randomly selected for Ninjas, expect them to be a pretty average pairing.

If you think a faction in the table listed above isn't where it should be, or if you want to give us feedback on your favorite faction pairings with Ninjas, please let us know by filling out the favorite pairing form!

Countering Ninjas:

Ninjas are great at playing minions in Phase 3 and squeezing easy VP unexpectedly, so being aware of this will help you counter them. Here are some ideas to help you counter Ninjas:

  • Stalling: Stall the game while you farm VP and make them have to play their Shinobi's as normal minions in Phase 2 instead of Phase 3. Some example factions include: Aliens, Masters of Evil, and Knights of the Round Table.

  • Protection: Play cards that protect you from their nasty and effective destruction. Some example factions include: Bear Cavalry, Mad Scientists, Truckers, and Vigilantes.

  • Specials: Outperforming them in Phase 3 also messes with their game plan. Play Spider-Verse or Mega Troopers and utilize the Phase 3 specials to win bases.

  • Destruction: Given that many Ninja cards have destruction abilities, being able to utilize their destruction to your benefit also counters them as they have to make important decisions in every move they make. Try using Hydra or Sharks as they gain benefits from destruction.


What does our data tell us?

Check out a brief overview of what the data tells us about Ninjas. Feel free to click on the data bars to see specifics about 2-player, 3-player, and 4-player games.


What is the community saying about Ninjas?

Check it out below. Have something else to add? Feel free to fill out this form and check back here to see your review added!


Overall Review and Ratings:

Ninjas have a very straightforward playstyle (aggro) enabling them to be a great introductory faction to destruction effects. We recommend playing the Ninjas if you enjoy destroying your opponents' minions while sneaking onto bases to score unexpected Victory Points.

Below is the average community complexity rating for Ninjas. Please see the definitions of our difficulty levels to know more

Based on the current SUD Community games data and the faction review data, the Ninjas have been given the following ratings:


Faction Images:

What are your thoughts on this review? Feel free to use the comments section below to leave us your questions, comments, and/or curiosities, or give us feedback in our Discord! If you enjoyed this article, don't forget to click the heart below <3 or share with your friends!

Pirates will be our next faction review, to get your comments featured in the next blog, be sure to submit a form for Pirates!

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