As board games go, many can take up to an hour to play. Traditional board games like chess can take several all hours and truthfully, who has the time in this fast paced, electronic world? If you love games like Chess, Go, or Chinese Checkers - then the latest game by Arcane Wonders - Onitama - is worth trying.
Simple in play and elegant in design, Onitama is a two-player game utilizing chess-like moves to either capture your opponent's sensei (teacher) or by landing on your opponent's temple square with either the sensei piece or any student (pawn) piece. The game of dojo vs dojo is played on a beautiful, well-made play mat consisting of a five by five grid and five playing pieces; one master/teacher and four students. The game has a total of sixteen cards named after various animals like the goat, the horse, or the dragon, each with its own move sequence. Each card has an illustration of the grid and the legal moves (squares) a piece may move to when using that card.
Game play proceeds as follows: each player picks either red or blue and places them on the corresponding end of headboard with the master piece on the temple square, two pawns on either side. The sixteen cards are shuffled and each player is dealt two cards always left face open. A fifth card is dealt to the side and the rest put aside as they are not used. In the corner of each card is either a red or blue symbol. The color of the symbol on the fifth card determines who moves first. The first player moves a piece, any piece using one of his cards to a legal square (as in chess, landing on an opposing piece captures). The player than takes the fifth card onto his side of the board and replaces it with the card he just used. And play proceeds with used cards replacing the side card. Play continues until one of the two winning conditions as mentioned earlier is met.
Onitama takes literally less than a minute to learn, with the average game time lasting anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. Like chess, replay value is very high since the cards are shuffled between games. Guaranteeing that each game will be different, offering moves you may not have used yet.
The actual product itself is top quality with a lovely oriental motif on the rubber backed mat and the playing pieces are simple and elegant. This was a game I had been waiting for since I played it as a demo at a game trade show a little over a year ago, and it was worth the wait.
Review by Dan Longoria
The articles published here are by real gamers. Do not adjust your playing matt, do not fidget with your dice - just get ready to discover some games you may not have played before.