Gameplay is asymmetric, with one to three players taking on the role of the Kage Kaze Zoku ninja and one player controlling the Takashi family guards. In general, the ninja's task is to move around the map, sneaking past or quietly eliminating guards and gathering the resources they need to complete their mission, which is unknown to the guard player. The guards' job, naturally, is to eliminate the ninja before they complete their nefarious task. If the ninja lack subtlety, competence, or luck, they will generate Noise, which both advances the time track and increases the general level of alarm, as well as giving the guard player more resources with which to recruit and activate Mooks, Elite Mooks, and eventually the samurai in charge of the guards.
Rise of the Kage was funded by a successful Kickstarter in September-October of 2014.
This game provides examples of:
- Agony of the Feet: Ninja can be equipped with caltrops, which they can drop along their movement path to stop patrolling guards in their tracks.
- Blood Knight: Katsumi and Rin of the house of the Bleeding Moon.
- Crazy-Prepared: Yuto of the house of the North Star has this as his shtick: on top of having four equipment/bonus slots (the highest number a ninja can have, tied with his fellow North Star ninja Ghost), Yuto starts the game with an extra equipment/bonus card equipped. His playmat quote sums it up:"Failing to plan is planning to fail."
- Damsel in Distress: In some missions the ninja have to escape with a hostage, a Bound and Gagged young woman in nightclothes. One of the hostage-specific mission cards refers to her as a "princess."
- Does Not Like Shoes: Both Kickstarter add-on boss Oka and the hostage are barefoot. Depending on the circumstances in which you encounter them, Oka is most likely a voluntary example* , while the hostage almost assuredly is not.
- Eye Scream: The cover art of the game's rulebook is an extreme close-up of a guard's eye, with a Kage Kaze Zoku ninja visible in the reflection throwing a kunai at the guard — and said kunai is about a millimeter away from said eye....
- Fatal Flaw: Kouhei of the house of Long Shadows is a highly proficient killer, better in fact than his counterparts in the house of the Bleeding Moon — provided no one can see him. However, he seems to suffer from some form of performance anxiety, because if he's ever detected, his combat ability takes a massive nosedive.
- Highly-Visible Ninja: Bleeding Moon ninja dress in red armor, carry lots of weapons, and are generally inept at stealth compared to their Long Shadows and North Star house counterparts. They make up for this by being very, very good at killing things.
- Improbable Weapon User: Minato, boss of the Docks of Ryu expansion, wields a ship's anchor as a weapon.
- Jack of All Stats: North Star ninja are designed to be this, with balanced stats, dice pools that are an even mix of Force and Stealth dice, more equipment/bonus slots than any other ninja, and versatile special rules.
- Naginatas Are Feminine: According to her miniature, Oka is armed with a naginata (though her playmat art depicts her with a yari, instead).
- Obvious Beta: One of the complaints leveled against the initial release of the game, which contained muddled and confusing rules that heavily favored the guard player. To address this, GCT Studios released an updated version of the rules for playtesting in early 2016, and eventually released the final version 2 rules on April 14, 2016. Among other things, the revised rules allow the ninja players to determine in which order the ninja act (when previously it was determined by a dice roll), force the guard player to spend resources to draw cards or play cards during the ninja's turns, and completely eliminate the gameplay concept of aware vs. unaware guards (which was largely redundant when combined with the concept of detected vs. undetected ninja, which was maintained in the revised rules).
- Pirates vs. Ninjas: Invoked in the Docks of Ryu expansion, which has a very nautical theme. Missions can take place on the docks; the boss, Minato, wears an eyepatch and carries a ship's anchor for a weapon; the red-level guards are armed with black powder pistols and have monkeys riding on their shoulders; and the lower-level guards are armed with fishing nets and large hooks.
- Power Trio: Every Kage Kaze Zoku ninja squad is one of these, for spiritual* , political* , and practical* reasons.
- The Quiet One / The Speechless / The Voiceless: Ghost of the North Star house presumably fits one of these categories, since the quote on his playmat is nothing but "...."
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The combat-oriented house of the Bleeding Moon and the stealth-oriented house of the Long Shadows, respectively. The generalist house of the North Star acts as a mediating influence between the two.
- Shout-Out: The Poison Rice item is a pretty blatant one to the Tenchu series, behaving pretty much exactly like the poisoned rice balls in that series do.
- Smoke Out: It wouldn't be a ninja game without it! In fact, the Smoke Bomb item card seems to allow the ninja using it to actually teleport — it lets the user move to anywhere within six squares of their current position, ignoring locked doors and walls.
- Stock Ninja Weaponry: Shuriken, kunai, the kusarigama, and tekko-kagi Wolverine Claws are all equipment cards the ninja can use. The models themselves are armed with a number of other weapons, including katana, kodachi, sai, and what appear to be nekode.
- Two Guys and a Girl: The ninja squads included in the base game and the Docks of Ryu expansion both fall under this; however, by combining ninja from the two boxes, it's possible to build a squad that is Two Girls and a Guy, or one that is exclusively male.