Recommend
27 
 Thumb up
 Hide
10 Posts

Arimaa» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Review of Arimaa rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Randatollah
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Like most people, I have a chess set in my home. I don't even particularly like the game – it's quite tense and strategic, but not my idea of fun. Why do the pieces have to move in so many different ways? Why do the early and late stages of the game have to drag on so long? To my mind, chess is a flawed game. And since I've discovered the wider world of boardgames, I see no reason to go back to that particular classic.

Fortunately, there are other uses for my chess set. Some I discovered within the covers of the fantastic Sid Sackson book, A Gamut of Games. Another I stumbled across while perusing the rankings of abstract games here on BGG. Its name is Arimaa, and frankly, it sounded ridiculous on first pass. Arimaa is a game in which two sets of animals attempt to push each other into pits. It is a game whose objective is to advance a bunny to the opposite end of the board. What is this silliness?

I will tell you right here and now that Arimaa stops being silly the moment the opening move is made. You're not going to waste effort thinking about the idea that this is a dog and that is a camel. All that matters is the relative strength of the pieces. Arimaa is an absolute brain-burner of a game. In that sense, it is very much like chess. However, it diverges from its venerable predecessor in many way.

The differences between Arimaa and chess begin with the board. To the standard 8x8 grid, a slight modification is made. Four of the squares near the center of the board are demarcated as pits. I use black checkers to mark them, although any number of other items might serve that function. These pits are a focal point of the wrangling of the game. They are where you will attempt to fling your foe's animals to remove them from the game.

The next difference is in the pieces. In Arimaa, the pieces differ primarily in terms of strength. Each player has one elephant, one camel, two horses, two dogs, two cats and eight bunnies. You can probably figure out which pieces are stronger than which. The ranking of strenght has implications for pushing and pulling, as well as freezing pieces, two critical elements of Arimaa that I will get to shortly.

The third difference is in setup. Like in chess, the Arimaa pieces are arrayed across the first two rows of the board. Unlike chess, Arimaa allows you to arrange the pieces however you want in those first two rows. White arranges all of his pieces, black arranges hers, and then white makes the first move.

The fourth difference between chess and Arimaa is in how the pieces move. This difference is drastic. Arimaa pieces all move in the same way: orthogonally one space at a time. The only exception to this is that bunnies cannot move backward.

One critical aspect of movement in Arimaa is pushing and pulling. In Arimaa, stronger pieces can move weaker pieces of the opposing color. To push, the stronger piece moves into the weaker piece's square and the weaker piece is moved either away from the direction of the push or to one side. To pull, a stronger piece moves away from an adjacent weaker piece and moves the weaker piece into the spot it just vacated.

Arimaa also features an important limitation to how pieces move. If a piece is adjacent to a stronger enemy piece, it is frozen in fear unless it also has an ally adjacent to it. This prevents bunnies from charging past stronger enemies to easy victory. It is also a source of considerable strategic wrangling as one player attempts to capture the pieces of another.

The fifth difference between chess and Arimaa is that an Arimaa turn consists of up to four moves instead of just one. Also, you don't have to take all of your moves. I tend to have a turn or two each game where I stop at three, seeing no way to advance my position with that last move.

A big tactical consdiration related to the number of moves per turn is that a push or pull counts as two of your four moves. After all, you are moving two pieces: one of yours and one of your opponent's.

The sixth difference between chess and Arimaa is that capturing in Arimaa bears little resemblance to chess. To capture in Arimaa, you must push or pull an opposing piece into a pit. However, that piece isn't necessarily captured yet. If the piece has any allies adjacent to the pit, it is still safe. You might say the endangered piece is clinging to his buddy's paw or hoof or what have you. But once all adjacent allies move, or are moved, out of the way, the endangered piece falls into the pit and is removed from the game.

The final difference is that the victory conditions in Arimaa are quite different from chess. In Arimaa, you win by advancing one of your bunnies to your opponent's back line, or by capturing off of your opponent's bunnies.

I hope that my description has given you a fair sense of how Arimaa works. It really is an excellent way to get extra use out of the old chess set you have laying around. It is every bit as strategic as chess, but with exponentially greater possibilities to find new ways to play. This is because there is no set starting position. You can experiment with concentrating your strongest pieces in one area of the board, or spreading them out. Maybe you could find advantage from placing some of your bunnies on the front line. I also like that the first player advantage is mitigated by the second player getting to arrange his pieces after seeing how is opponent is lining up his. And once the game gets going, you can try to aggressively force a bunny across, or sit back and eliminate the enemy bunnies one by one. I have only begun to scratch the surface of this fine strategy game, and I look forward to the opportunity to discover more of its possibilities.
23 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian McCormick
United States
Lansing
Michigan
flag msg tools
badge
Tasteless Brute
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I LOVE Arimaa! Great review. This game is really good, but it's length can sometimes go for too long if you're looking for a quick one-off abstract.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Randatollah
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks, although I'm afraid your review puts mine to shame. Arimaa definitely can run on the long side -- in that respect, it's similar to chess.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
big_buddha wrote:
To capture in Arimaa, you must push or pull an opposing piece into a pit.

Minor correction: you don't have to push or pull the opposing piece there. It might have moved there voluntarily (which indeed sometimes is a sensible move.)

And that's a good thing that it doesn't matter how/why the opposing piece is on the pit; otherwise players would have to remember past history:

"Ha, your piece on the pit now has no adjacent friend, so it dies!"

"No it doesn't, I moved it there several turns ago!"

"That's not true, I pushed it there!"

"No, I distinctly remember moving it there!"

"No, I'm sure my camel pushed it there several turns ago!"

etc ...
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian McCormick
United States
Lansing
Michigan
flag msg tools
badge
Tasteless Brute
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
OP, I wanted point out one more way in which Arimaa is different than Chess (which you did touch on). Unlike chess (where you usually need a decent number of captures to win), I find that position means everything and most games end with 3-5 captures total. This is another aspect that sets Arimaa apart from chess. You aren't spending the bulk of your time finding ways to push people into a pit (at least, that's not how I play). Rather, you spend your time advancing your animals, trying to expose weaknesses in your opponent's defensive line so that you can rush a rabbit to the finish line.

I know that killing all of your opponent's rabbits is one way to win the game, but in my 30+ games of Arimaa against 1/2 a dozen different opponents, I have never, ever, ever seen the game end this way, not even close.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Aurendrosl wrote:
I find that position means everything and most games end with 3-5 captures total.

A cool thing is that this can vary by player style. I watched a couple of the commented games in the world Arimaa tournament and was struck by the contrast: one game was a bloodbath, with the majority of pieces on both sides eliminated. The other was a subtle pushing match with like only 2 pieces captured the whole game. It was quite interesting and eye-opening for me!

But yeah, position is very important, and it's quite possible to win even with a significant material disadvantage. I recently taught a newbie and I was not playing too attentively (my mistake, underestimating the newbie!) and he killed my camel, and proceeded to profit on that, killing more of my pieces. I could see I had no chance in a back and forth slugfest at that point, so I just started rushing a rabbit and horse and elephant forward and managed to weasel a way through to the goal after a few turns.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Randatollah
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
At this point, I've played more bots than real people. In face to face games, I have won by pushing a rabbit through due to my foe not knowing Arimaa tactics very well. I have also won by eliminating all of the other guy's rabbits when I couldn't figure out how to break through with one of my bunnies. One of the great things about Arimaa for me is that I have barely scratched the surface of its possibilities.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
George Leach
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
I want to play more face to face it's a great game but not so fun against bots.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Laurentiu Cristofor
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
big_buddha wrote:
The sixth difference between chess and Arimaa is ...


Why count the differences between Chess and Arimaa when the only thing they have in common is that they are both abstract games that can just be played with the same set of components?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Randatollah
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The counting was not really intended to emphasize the comparison/contrast with chess. It was just an easy (perhaps lazy?) way to have transitional statements for all of the paragraphs.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.