Review: Arcane Wonders – Onitama

Onitama is a abstract strategy game, designed by Shimpei Sato, Bryan Pope, and William Niebling and published by Arcane Wonders.
By Aaron T. Huss

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Onitama is a strategy game akin to chess, but with a twist. Instead of predetermined movement, each pawn’s movement is based on the cards available to you. These moves are martial arts themed as are the pawn’s (one master and 4 students). As a fan of chess, Onitama is like a 21st century approach to the classic game, bringing in new themes and the ability to expand the game and thus increase replayability. To keep things interesting, the cards you can choose from are limited and rotated throughout the game. The game plays with only 5 cards, but you only have 2 available to you at any one time. Additionally, this method of rotating cards means your move strategy needs to not only consider the other player’s movements but also the next movement card that will be available to you.

Game play is not very long as each player only has 5 pawns and there are two ways to win. But then, it’s meant to be a fast game. The best part is when you play back to back games, it’s different each time as the move cards available will change. In the time it takes to play a full game of chess, you could probably get through 4 games of Onitama and they’ll feel different each time.

I played Onitama with my 7-year-old and 9-year-old. They both picked it up quickly and had fun, giving me a run for my money. I found it quite enjoyable and a great replacement for a long game of chess. It’s also a much more fun theme and leaves room for expansion.

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