Onitama borrows from the tradition of many games from the Far East that appear simple, have a minimum amount of pieces, and are easy to learn, yet provide a surprising amount of strategy and options within those set standards. Onitama lives up to these descriptions and provides a beautiful, elegant, yet wonderful little game that provides plenty of interesting play all in less than 20 minutes.
For many busy couples who want to unwind or play a quick game while talking about their days and bonding, this is an excellent option that helps to make that connection. There are a small number of components that are very tightly packed into a really well designed block. Efficient, elegant, even the unpacking the inserts hint at the format and execution of the game.
Onitama is a very interesting game, easy to see how it plays, and in a very small and simple way does remind you of a smaller abstract form of chess.
This Onitama playthrough on YouTube makes for a really good Table for Two episode, and one where the movement of pieces in a small space makes for interesting strategy. If you want to know how to play Onitama, the video does a very good job in the beginning explaining how things work.
The cards each player draws determines how they can actually move. Depending on the mixing and matching of moves, how you can move, or how you can’t, makes for a very interesting back and forth.
When you use a card to move you pick up the side card, at which point your opponent moves and does a replacement, as well. That means a move you can do on round one you will not be able to repeat. Different animal cards allow different movements and knowing you’re giving those up to your opponent, or limited by what they give you, goes into planning those limited moves.
What Phil & Heather Think
If you boil chess down to a bare minimum, this is probably what it looks like. You have the small amount of pieces. You have your objectives, your two ways to win or two ways to lose. There’s only five moves so the game is so simple and limited and yet there is an insane amount of strategy and tension from just the small number of moves and possible outcomes. Quality of pieces and matt are just top notch – they invested into making sure the pieces are wonderfully made – great quality of game. Longest was about 20 minute game.Phil on Onitama
This is a very interesting game and a very unique one for sure. Definitely a chess-like game that you’ll want to add to the gaming cabinet.
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Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.