Onitama – Game of the Week
I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely gravitate towards abstract strategy games. While games like Chess, Checkers, and Blokus have been played for years, I usually want a solid theme to suck me in first.
That being said, I’m not opposed to trying new things. Some eurogames are about a themeless as they come and they still can be enjoyable. However, even those games at least pretend to have a theme. Sometimes abstract strategy games don’t even bother with the pretense (Chess, Go). And yet other times, they will give us something to cling to (Tash-Kalar, Through the Desert). Our Game of the Week falls into the second category.
Enter Onitama, our newest Game of the Week. This two player only game is published by Arcane Wonders and designed by Shimpei Sato. It is also part of the Dice Tower Essentials line of games. Dice Tower Essentials are games curated by The Dice Tower group that they consider to be “essential” in every gamer’s collection.
What is the Game?
Onitama is a two player game of perfect information with a random setup. What is perfect information? It’s a way to describe a game where everything you need to know is right there in front of you. There is no randomness or hidden information. The random setup comes in the form of the game’s five movement cards, which are dealt out at the start and used for the entirety of the game.
The theme that Onitama gives us is one where players each control a Monk and four of their followers as they try and defeat their rivals. To accomplish this, a player must either capture all five of their opponent’s pieces, or get their Master Monk to their opponent’s Master’s starting position.
Why Should You Play It?
Because it’s fun, accessible, and really clever. Onitama is one of those games that you aren’t just going to want to play once. One of the reasons is because of the fantastic movement mechanic. All the moves in Onitama are handled through 5 movement cards. Each player starts the game with 2 of them face up in front of them, with a 5th card placed near the side of the board. After a player takes their move, the card they used is swapped with the 5th card. That means that players will be trading cards back and forth during the game.
This allows for a lot of deep thinking strategies to evolve. You not only have to be aware of where your pieces are on the board, but what cards you will be giving your opponent after you play.
Yet even with this depth, Onitama is still a breeze to play and learn. It can be enjoyed by casual players just as easily as players looking for a “thinky” game. It actually makes a great filler game to play while you are waiting for others to arrive for your game night, or when you have 20 minutes to kill. Onitama is clever, enjoyable, portable, and has great production values. And that’s why it’s our Game of the Week.