|Time:||15 - 20 minutes|
Onitama is a two-player, perfect information abstract game with a random starting set-up. On a 5x5 board, both players start with five pawns on their side, with the main pawn in the middle.
Each player has two open cards that each display a possible move for any of his pieces. There is a fifth card that cannot be used by either player. On a player's turn, he chooses one of his cards, moves one of his pieces according to the chosen card, then replaces the card he used with the fifth card. The other player then chooses one of his cards, moves accordingly, and exchanges that card with this fifth card — which is, of course, the card the first player just used.
Moving onto one of the opponent's pawns removes that pawn from the game. Taking the opponent's main pawn, or moving your main pawn into your opponent's main pawn's starting space, wins you the game.
Learn how to play:
Onitama takes the elegance of Chess and removes the need to have studied the game to play well, or the analysis paralysis of having too many possible moves.
On your turn you will have 2 cards, each showing approximately 3 moves, that you can use on any of your 5 pieces (leading to a typical maximum of 15 possible moves if all moves are legal). The tricky part is that when you use a card, in two turns it will cycle into your opponent's hand as cards swap between, and in doing so, you may be handing your opponent your demise.
The brilliant part is that during each game you will be using 5 randomly selected move cards of the 16 available; you cannot study a definite strategy, you cannot meta the game, all you can do is develop intuition and for people like myself who are not well-versed in Chess, Onitama levels the playing field between drastically different skill levels.
This game is only played with 2 players but because of the way it has been created the replayability of it is immensely high as each time you get a different set of moves to use. There are two ways to win and it is entirely possibility to grasp victory from the jaws of defeat through excellent planning as there is perfect information for both players on what moves are available to their opponent and they have full control of their movement in the future. You just have to think about it. There is amazing depth and tactics in this game. The game time is perfect so you can play 4+ games in an hour and still love it. Just finished 6 games in the latest session and was keen to play more.
I can’t be bothered with chess but this version I can definitely enjoy! The moves you can do are laid in front of you, and you can see what is coming from your partner and what is coming up next thanks to the card system. I really like that! It plays nice and quick, and is an absolutely beautiful game to play...this is one I enjoy taking to a cafe and playing with my man over a coffee - best of 3 of course!