Arcane Wonders / £25-£30 / 2 Players / 10-30mins / Age 8+
Chess is not one of my favourite boardgames. If it was a decision between playing chess or nothing I think I would choose nothing. I do not have the memory for it and the complexity is where it falls over for me. Memorising the best opening moves, how to counter the moves your opponent makes, fills me with dread that I am going to make myself look like a fool…
Believe me when I say I have tried to play chess. Bishops move diagonally, Castles move straight and the horses move in L shapes, but just looking at the board makes me start to sweat. I have even tried to make it look cute by buying the black and white sheep version, nope still do not like it. I then purchased the four player version called Loki by Mantic Games and have not had the guts to bring that to the table yet. I want to like, it but I just can not do it.
Then I saw a picture of Onitama, a small petite version of a chess game. It is simple, beautiful, and an absolute joy to play. Whoops, think I just gave the review away… Darn it!
Onitama plays on a fabric covered neoprene mat. In the center it has a 5 by 5 square play board with a watercolour landscape on each side, where each player sits. In the middle square along each players side is a throne in the players colour, red or blue.
Each player has 5 pieces on the board. One master in the middle and four students, two on either side of the master.
Each player is dealt 2 cards which contain moves that they can make with any of their pieces. One more card is played to the side of the player mat for later turns. These cards are either blue or red and the one that is dealt to the side of the mat is the starting player colour. All cards are played face up so that both players can see what moves are available to their opponent. The game is now ready to play and the first player moves a piece.
The cards show where the piece starts in reference to the moves available and the squares that the piece can be moved. Each turn a player selects one of the two cards they have and then makes the move. This card is then swapped with the card placed at the side of a mat and the other player takes a turn. It is a simple and beautiful mechanic that gets rid of all the fuss and complexity.
Each player has only two options of moves on their turn and because all cards are laid out you can also see what moves the other player could choose. Looking at the moves the other person could make and then examining your options is a fantastic way to plan your moves and forward thinking is the key to winning.
The winner is the player who either captures the opponents Master piece or by moving your Master onto the opponents throne square.
I am in love with this game, I think it is simple but the amount of strategy in the game is just right to keep me coming back for more. The artwork is fantastic and even though the box is not a standard size, one of my bug bears, the whole design is outstanding. If you see it or get the chance, pick one up now.
What do you think of Onitama, is it something you would like to play? Do you think it’s better than normal chess or do you love the classic game? Let us know in the comments below.
For more information check out:
Onitama – Arcane Wonders
Onitama – Board Game Geek
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Reference Pig Time!
As a thank you for reading our review of Onitama, here is Buddy and Scampi giving it a piggie chew of approval!