15 minutes of tactical bliss: Onitama Review
An elegant and simple game of martial tactics for 2 players
Carved into the crags of the mist-shrouded mountains of ancient Japan lies the Shrine of Onitama. It is a place of enlightenment and skill, a site dedicated to the spirits that guide the Schools of Martial Arts across the land. Masters of these schools hazard the journey to Onitama with their most promising disciples to meet within its hallowed walls and to prove their superiority in battle against the others.
Onitama takes the elegance of games like Chess and removes the crippling analysis paralysis of having too many possible moves. Catch the other player’s Master (King) or get your Master to their Temple (their Master’s starting space).
The game revolves around move cards; instead of pieces having a fixed movement pattern like in Chess, a move card can be used to move any piece as shown on the card. On a player’s turn they have access to 2 move cards and their 5 pieces. A player has a theoretical 10 possible moves (assuming they are all valid or not pants on head stupid) to make on their turn.
Here is where things get interesting, there is a move card off to the side, the player who moves swaps the card they just played with the one on the side. Both players will be swapping with the card on the side so you are cycling move cards between yourself and your opponent and at some point, most likely handing them your demise.
It may sound a little convoluted in text but visually and in practice it is so streamlined, so intuitive that the game just flows into 15 minutes of tactical bliss.~ Kyle