Niya: A 2 player strategy game to see who controls the Garden

Recommended Age:8+
Play Time:10 Minutes
Contents:16 Clan Tokens 16 Garden Tiles Illustrated Rules
Skills:Strategy Visual Perception Abstract Thinking Focus & Attention
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We just love Blue Orange Games and their new game, Niya is now one of our favorite go-to games. It is a strategy game for two players that is fun but makes you think. I love those types of games, plus this one is beautiful and comes in an amazing tin!

Niya is meant for ages 8+ but you can teach a younger child…just don’t expect too much strategy just yet. You also might want to help your child learn how to strategize and not just beat them mercilessly…at least not all the time.

2015-03-10 22.24.06 copyThis is a 2 player game. Period. No other players can play at the same time. Just two. Which, in all honesty, is kind of cool. There are not too many games out there (that I know of anyway) that are just for two players. I have a ton that work for 2 or more players but not a lot for JUST two. I’ll move on now….but it is kind of cool.

The tin is a thing of beauty. Seriously I have never seen a game box/tin so pretty inside and out. The outside has a raised design on top that makes it look 3Dish and the artwork is fantastic.

When you take the lid off there is a velvet liner that has custom spots for each set of Clan Tokens and all of the Garden Tiles. Everything in its own place…I love that!

The tiles are what feels like a hard smooth plastic with an engraved or chisled looking NIYA on one side and on the other a printed sticker of sorts of one of the clan members. Very high quality pieces. 

I also need to mention that the Red tiles all face to the right and the Black tiles all face to the left. Not sure it matters at all in the scheme of things but it is freaking awesome! Well it is to me…but I like those little subtle things like that.

The Garden Tiles are that wonderful cardboard that isn’t cardboard material with the same great artwork on them. This is seriously a very well made game and as a bonus it is small enough to travel well!

2015-03-10 22.02.39 copyThere are a few things I should explain before I explain how to play. The game consists of two colored Clan tokens. Eight Red Genji Tokens and eight Black Heike Tokens so each player chooses a clan and gets those Clan Tokens.

The Garden Tiles have 2 elements on each. One is a plant and one is a poetic symbol.

The plants are Maple Leaves, Cherry Tree, Pine Tree, Iris and the poetic symbols are Rising Sun, Poem Flag, Bird and Rain Cloud. There are 4 different types of Birds but they all count as the Bird here. Now I’ll explain how to use all that info.


To win! Ok there are technically 3 ways to win so you have to do one of them in order to win. You can line up 4 members of your clan in a row either horizontal, vertical or diagonal. You could also create a 2×2 square of your clan members OR block the other player from making any more legal moves. It sounds easy to do one of those but there is a bit of strategy involved…at least when playing against another adult.

2015-03-08 15.41.44 copySetup:

First shuffle the Garden Tiles and arrange them in a 4×4 grid. (4 across and 4 down in each column/row). This is the Imperial Garden and the “board” part of the game. Each player chooses a Clan and places one token from each on either side of the garden. My son almost always chooses Red and my husband chooses Black but personally I like both equally. The youngest player gets to go first which is pretty much never me…le sigh. Now for the interesting part…and the fun part.


Each player takes turns replacing a Garden Tile with a Clan Token. It is as simple as setting aside a Garden Token and putting your Clan token in it’s place…but there is a catch to what Garden Tokens you can replace. The first player on the very first turn must choose a tile from the outside of the grid.

You can choose any tile you want on that first turn but it has to be from the outside or edges. Each turn after that every player has to play replace a tile that has an element in common with the one previously picked. It sounds tricky I know but if you remember the lists of Plants and Poetic Symbols I showed you earlier it is a bit easier.

2015-03-08 16.01.29 copyExample:

If the first player replaces the Garden Tile with a Sun and the Cherry Tree on it then the next player HAS to replace a Garden Tile with either a Sun or a Cherry Tree on it. Say they choose the Tile with the Cherry Tree and a Bird on it then Player 1 would have to choose a Tile that had either the Cherry Tree or a Bird on it. Make sense now?

This is the hardest part of kids to get but if you take it slow they CAN get it. My 6 year old gets it but kind of focuses on the 4 in a row to win and isn’t so great with strategy just yet. Although, he is learning that very quickly…too quickly.2015-03-11 09.09.35-1 copy

Blue Orange Games has also added a variation in their rules which is awesome. You can play for Victory Points. The winner is the player who gets 10 points or you can go up to 20 or whatever you want.

You cannot adjust this game for younger kids except to play a sort of matching game with the Garden Tiles in order to show them that the Cherry Tree goes with another Cherry Tree OR the Sun matches a Sun. This will set the foundation of the entire game. It also lets you buy the game to play with other adults or older kids and still play with your younger kids too.

Niya combines literally all of my favorite features of a game. It is well made, portable, enhances skills (like matching, logic and strategy) and is fun. As a bonus it is really pretty to look at too. If you are looking for a game for all ages or a new fun game to play with teens or adults this is perfect!


“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
~ Albert Einstein

Author: sandyz