Trapped in the Dungeons of Shintaro: A Review of the Ninjago RPG

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When LEGO announced that the late-2020 wave of Ninjago sets would include a role playing game that could be incorporated into the builds, I was intrigued. I had never heard of LEGO doing anything like this and I thought it made a lot of sense. It could add a whole new level to building and playing with LEGO. At the time, my interest was also keenly piqued because I had just finished playing my first Brickquest campaign (and only the third RPG campaign of my life). Brickquest is a fan created custom LEGO RPG and my friend and fellow WCL member, Will Sabo, is a Brickquest master.

Included in four of the Dungeon of Shintaro Ninjago sets (71717, 71719, 71721, 71722) is a new spinner die and a dungeon map that the Game Master (Dungeon Master for those more familiar with D&D) uses to set up the game and story. You can find a sizable handbook online that lists the rules and four stories that the GM can use to play the game around the sets and their own ideas. I thought this was a great idea to expand LEGO play and Will was excited about possibly adding to his Brickquest games.

However, when I read the following statement from the handbook:

The NINJAGO dice is five-sided. It features values of one, two and three, plus a Heart and a Skull.

I knew the game was fundamentally broken.


The Ninjago die is actually six-sided with faces that read:

1 heart

1 skull

2 heart

2 skull

3 heart

3 skull

This die gives the player a 100 percent chance of getting a heart or skull. The die listed in the handbook gives only a 20 percent chance of getting a heart or skull.

There are many smaller problems and errors throughout the handbook, but the die problem is the only one that matters because all the rules, effects, story, and essentially everything are based on a completely different die. This makes the game unplayable as written.

For example, consider this scenario from the game:

Your characters encounter an enemy and you must roll to see what kind of damage you inflict and what damage is inflicted on you.

Because the directions are with the five-sided die, you have a 20 percent chance of getting either an instant win or an instant loss. But the actual die gives a player a 100 percent chance of an instant win or an instant loss, which makes the numbers on the die superfluous and you either win or lose every encounter. It’s highly possible that the game could end after the very first enemy encounter.

However, the biggest issue with this game is that it’s impossible for kids and adults who have never played an RPG to figure out. I needed every ounce of my minimal RPG experience to decipher the rules and what they were trying to say. I read the handbook at least six times and spent hours trying to figure out what to do. I needed to consult Will’s expertise and he confirmed my findings. I’m sure it wasn’t LEGO’s intention to create an impenetrably confusing game, but nevertheless that was the outcome.

Beware! Those who enter the Dungeons of Shintaro will be trapped forever in a perplexing pool of puzzlement…

But not all is lost. the Dungeon of Shintaro Ninjago sets are fantastic. I didn’t want to waste the time that I spent researching the game so I used the handbook as a guide and created my own version of the Dungeons of Shintaro.

I gained a new respect for my friend Will and anyone else who makes and runs Brickquest games. It’s hard!

It took me hours to design a new way to create a custom map layout that integrated with the sets.

I designed a story that used elements from the handbook and built custom obstacles and traps.

In the end a LEGO Ninjago game was a lot of fun that everyone seemed to enjoy, I know I did. My only wish is that LEGO knew how fun it was too.

article and images by Gary Scheppke