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  • Writer's pictureDustin Perkins

Tabletop Review - Onitama


Developer: Shimpei Sato

Publisher: Arcane Wonders

Available on: Tabletop


Assert Your Martial Prowess


Onitama is a two-player abstract strategy board game designed by Shimpei Sato and published by Arcane Wonders. It combines elements of traditional games like chess with martial arts strategies, providing a fast-paced and deeply strategic experience. Onitama features unique movement cards that bring fresh strategies into every match.


What’s Inside?


The components of Onitama are thoughtfully designed to enhance the overall gaming experience. The game board, a sleek 5x5 grid on a rolled cloth playmat, provides a compact yet spacious battlefield that is both visually appealing and practical. Each player commands five well-crafted pawns, consisting of one distinguished Master pawn and four loyal Student pawns, all made from durable, high-quality materials that feel great to handle. The heart of the game lies in the 16 unique movement cards, beautifully illustrated and easy to understand, adding endless strategic variety and excitement to each game. The game is contained within an elegant side-folded box that opens to reveal thoughtfully crafted storage for the game components.


The Way of the Master


In the game, two players engage in a strategic duel, each commanding their Master pawn and four Student pawns. The gameplay revolves around five movement cards drawn from a deck of 16, with each player holding two cards and one card placed in the center. On their turn, a player moves one of their pawns according to one of their available cards and then swaps that card with the center card, constantly changing the available moves. Victory can be achieved in two ways: capturing the opponent’s Master pawn, known as "The Way of the Stone," or moving one's Master pawn to the opponent's Master pawn's starting space, called "The Way of the Stream."



Onitama's strengths lie in its elegant simplicity and strategic depth, offering a fresh and engaging experience every time with its varied movement cards. The game is easy to learn, making it accessible for beginners and enjoyable for more experienced players looking for quick, tactical duels. Its compact design and short playtime of 15-20 minutes make it perfect for quick sessions or on-the-go gaming. However, some players might find its strategic depth less complex compared to other abstract games like chess or Go. Additionally, the initial draw of movement cards can introduce a slight luck factor, potentially favoring one player, though skilled play can usually mitigate this.


Onitama excels in accessibility, making it an ideal choice for a wide range of players. The rules are simple and intuitive, allowing new players to grasp the mechanics quickly, and the game's design ensures that it remains engaging for seasoned strategists as well. Recommended for ages 8 and up, Onitama is perfect for family game nights, introducing younger players to the joys of strategic thinking without overwhelming complexity. Since each game lasts only 15-20 minutes, it is a convenient option for those with limited time or for playing multiple rounds in one sitting. The compact size of the game also makes it easy to transport.


Verdict/Conclusion


Onitama is a delightful blend of simplicity and strategic depth that makes it a standout in the realm of abstract strategy games. Its easy-to-learn rules, quick gameplay, and elegant design create a consistently enjoyable experience for both new and seasoned players. The dynamic movement card system ensures that each game is unique, keeping players engaged and challenged. Whether you're looking for a quick, portable game or a new addition to your game night lineup, Onitama is a fantastic choice that promises hours of strategic fun and replayability.


Onitama is a Must Buy!


Special Thanks to UberStrategist who provided a copy of Onitama for the purpose of this review.

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