Chess and Martial Arts.
Two fundamental activities that require swiftness, precision, and clarity. Put them together and you get Chess Arts! but that sounded stupid so they called it Onitama.
Onitama is the simple, fast-paced game for two players. Each player gets 5 pawns, 4 students and 1 master, one team red and one team blue. The game comes with a 5x5 board on a nicely crafted neoprene play mat, helping players feel more immersed in the game when given a good playing surface.
Now when comparing Onitama with Chess, one might think the students and masters just have specific moves and the goal is to take out the opponent's master. Close, but here's the twist. Along with the play mat and pawns, you are given a deck of 16 cards that all have different move sets on them, laid out on a 5x5 grid just like the game board. Each card with have a black square in the middle, representing the pawn, and shaded squares on the grid, representing possible moves the pawn can make.
At the start of the game, the deck is shuffled and 5 cards are drawn out, 2 to each player and one to the side, always showing. Whichever color emblem on the corner of the cards shows up most, that player goes first. Once a player uses a move card, they place that card to the side and claim the other one. The other player takes their turn and and trades cards as well. Student pawns can be taken out if they occupy a square that you can move to, giving your opponent less to work with. The goal of the game is to take out the opponent's master, just like in Chess, but you may also win by getting your master pawn to the opponent's shrine (middle square on the opponent's side of the board).
Onitama claims to be a game for ages 14+ but could quite easily be a game for possibly kids as young as 8. It is a great game to help with cognitive thinking and strategy, with the replay value of discovering all the different combinations of cards that may come up. There are cards that consist of simple moves and ones that are more radical and widespread. This game is a great one to have on your shelf. It's for hardcore strategy gamers to the more casual first-timers. I, myself, was able to get my father to play this, and his game of choice is Rummy. It's the perfect game to introduce a significant other into if they don't like long games with intricate rules and gameplay, just be ready to play it over and over because someone's on a losing streak (example: my girlfriend). The pawn pieces are thick and durable and the play mat is small enough to roll up into the box itself, making it perfect for travel.
This game couldn't be more recommended even if the box was made out of diamonds. It's a beautiful, simple game perfect for any kind of gamer and any age, no matter what the box tells you.
Also out now is Onitama: Sensei's Path, an expansion that adds on 16 more move cards, raising the number of move combinations and replay value. Pick up Onitama today! You won't regret it.