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Subject: 20X Reviews #75 - Onitama After 20 Plays rss

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Peter Barringer
United States
Evansville
Indiana
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Check out a Geeklist containing all my other reviews here: 20X Reviews - A Geeklist

Time to 20 Plays: 2.5 Months



How to Play: In Onitama, players each control four pawns and one master. A player can win either by defeating (taking) the other player’s master or by moving their own master onto the space where the opponent’s master started. This is accomplished by playing animal-themed martial arts cards to move a player’s own pieces:



The trick is that a player must take the card s/he uses and give it to the other player after using it. At all times, the card that was most recently used occupies a middle area on the side of the board, where it cannot be used for one turn. The rest of the game operates much like chess, in that you move pieces in order to remove your opponent’s pieces from the game.

I've played it so much because:
1. It packs a similar punch to chess. I like chess, but Onitama distills everything good about chess (in my opinion) into a 15-20 minute game with a much lower barrier of entry. I don’t know any chess strategies, so I can’t beat anyone who has studied the game. However, Onitama simply requires high-level abstract thinking and planning.
2. It’s surprisingly strategic. A good Onitama player can look at the five cards on the table and plan a basic strategy from the beginning. That initial strategy works out sometimes, but you will need to adjust (sometimes significantly) based on your opponents’ choices. Since the movement cards are shared between players at various points, planning when to use a specific card is crucial. I usually think 2-3 turns ahead at all times. Even then, the opponent might use a card I didn’t anticipate or move somewhere I didn’t plan for.
3. The production value is excellent. I find all the components in this game to be of excellent quality, especially at this price point. The pieces are chunky and solid, the playmat is more than adequate, and the oversized movement cards are a nice touch.
4. You can play a game in 10 minutes. I’ve played all of my twenty plays against the same opponent. We’re both so experienced that we can knock out 2-3 games over our 30-minute lunch break.



I'd play it more if:
1. Players couldn’t hoard cards. This is a minor criticism that can be anticipated for by good players, but if one player gets a powerful movement card, s/he will often simply hoard it.

Rating:

Overall: I’m surprised by the staying power of Onitama, especially now that I’ve purchased the expansion, which provides even more movement cards. It defies logic, but every game feels at least somewhat unique. I’ve played twenty times in about 80 days, yet I keep coming back. The nice components (especially for the price) and the quick gameplay are certainly two major reasons why, but Onitama has a certain indefinable characteristic that makes it appealing to me. Among two-player games, I’d prefer to play deeper titles such as 7 Wonders Duel (see my review here), but Onitama has entered my top tier of two-player games after only a few months. I highly recommend it, as well as the Sensei’s Path expansion, for anyone who plays with two players.
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john newman
United States
Lafayette
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Peter, another solid, succinct review. I have not played Onitama yet. I am not a big fan of abstracts, but after playing Azul, Hive, and Santorni I have been much more open to them. I have heard very good things about this. Your review makes me want to try it out even more.
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Peter Barringer
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johnpnewman wrote:
Peter, another solid, succinct review. I have not played Onitama yet. I am not a big fan of abstracts, but after playing Azul, Hive, and Santorni I have been much more open to them. I have heard very good things about this. Your review makes me want to try it out even more.


Hey John, I typically don't like abstract games either. Ironically, Santorini and Azul are two of my absolute favorites. I think you would like this one, especially if you enjoy Hive.
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