Yet another Deck Building game using the Cerebus System by the people at Cryptozoic. Surprisingly, this was pretty well-received among my group of boardgamers and no, most of them aren't Naruto fans.
So what is the schtick for this particular theme? It's Chakra; which Naruto readers will know is the energy that powers most of the special attacks in naruto. And what is Chakra exactly in the game and how do you use it?
Well, Chakra in the game is when you play a matching card type into one of your character cards chakra slots. Some examples are above. For example, for Jiraiya, you have 2 technique (super power) slots, one enemy slot and one equipment slot. When you play a card,you can choose to put it on that side of your character card and you gain 1 chakra from that card. You can not play multiple cards into the same chakra point without first spending the chakra already in that slot. Hence, you can not play 3 enemies for Jiraiya and expect to gain 3 chakra straight away. So there's a fair bit of thinking about what you want to buy since chakra does have some fairly useful abilities. For example, for Jiraiya, if you ever get 3 chakra, you will be able to gain the top card of the main deck for free. Btw, I've been banned from using Jiraiya/Shazam like characters because apparently I lucksack way too often into 8/7 cost cards. For Naruto, 3 chakra makes it easier to defeat the Archenemies.
However, no worries if you can't get the correct card types to gain enough chakra. You can always buy handseals, which are 1 cost 1 use cards that give 2 chakra when you play them. This helps mitigate not being able to get the cards you want.
But due to the fact there are two different power mechanics in the game, with chakra and the more conventional power, it makes it difficult at times to accumulate enough power to defeat the archenemies. In terms of power scale this is far more like Street Fighter than DC DBG. However, there are still power cards which will help you tremendously when you draw them.
There's also positive attacks, which is a new thing for Naruto DBG. They're like the normal attacks except they only affect the player who plays them and they're positive effects. However, like most attacks, they can be defended against in the sense that if another player plays a defense card, he can deny the player the benefits of the positive attack card. This is one of the more interesting additions to the game but I do feel that positive attacks are insanely powerful for the things they do. For example, one 3 cost Rock Lee card gives you +4 power for its positive attack while 6 cost Maito Guy makes it so that arch enemies cost you 6 less to defeat arch enemies. Apparently the designer of the DBG really really liked the spandex brigade. Another thing is that there aren't enough cruel or devastating attacks in the Naruto DBG, which would at least make you consider should you block your opponents positive attack or keep a defense card in hand in case one of your other opponents plays a cruel attack card on you. As it is right now, the best thing to do is ALWAYS block the positive attack.
Overall, I'd say Naruto DBG is a pretty interesting take on the Cerebus System and certainly a much better one than the SF DBG. The chakra system certainly feels like it's more interesting than the Street Fighter counter-attack system or the DC DBG simplistic hero system. As a note, this game was sold out pretty fast on the first day of Gencon and most people had to wait till the 2nd day to get a copy.