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Onitama Review: The Martial Arts Strategy Game - A Perfect Alternative to Chess

If you're anything like me, chess may seem a little intimidating. It's not overly complex, but the numerous rules can be overwhelming. However, I enjoy the strategy in games like chess. Onitama, the two-player martial arts strategy game, is an ideal choice for those seeking a strategic game similar to chess without the burden of memorizing specific rules.

The first thing that struck me about Onitama is the high quality of the board game and the box that it comes in. The mat is a nice roll-out rubber mat, and the pieces are nicely detailed. Onitama has two paths to victory: capturing your opponent's sensei or positioning your own sensei on your opponent's sensei's seat. I discovered that the former approach was relatively simpler to achieve, although with the right cards, maneuvering the sensei across the board might prove to be the wisest course of action.

The game board consists of a five-by-five grid. Each player possesses four pupils and one sensei. To start the game, five cards are drawn at random. Two cards are given to each player, while the fifth card is placed aside next to the board. The remaining cards are unnecessary. The player who goes first is determined by the indicator at the bottom of the fifth card (either red or blue).

Every card in the game represents a martial arts move, and the movement on the board is determined by the spaces indicated on the card. For example, the horse card allows a player to move one space forward, one space back, or one space to the left. Once a player chooses a card, it is placed to the side of the board, and they take the current card that is at the side of the board. Certain cards, such as the dragon technique, enable players to make significant leaps across the board. The challenge lies in deciding when to play that card; playing it too early would mean surrendering the card to your opponent.

I really appreciate the simplicity and elegance of the gameplay in Onitama. It's amazing how quickly my eight-year-old son grasped the concept of the game. He has been developing an interest in chess, but the numerous rules and strategies for each piece proved to be overwhelming for him. However, in Onitama, he was able to present a formidable challenge. Although, I did manage to defeat him in the end, and I am proud to say that I remain undefeated in my household. Numerous grasshoppers have attempted to dethrone me, but none have succeeded. Each game is short, typically lasting between ten to fifteen minutes. However, when playing against my wife, our matches tend to be slightly longer because we both adopt a more cautious playing style compared to our children.

Final Grade: A+

Onitama is the perfect strategy game for individuals who enjoy the concept of chess but find its rules and gameplay overwhelming. Each game lasts approximately ten to fifteen minutes and offers a relatively short playing time. The game's board, pieces, and even the box are quality made. And its incorporation of martial arts elements adds to its appeal. Onitama is a fantastic strategy game that deserves a place in every gamer's collection.

Review copy provided by ÜberStrategist PR



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