Mastering Movement: A Review of Onitama

Onitama

Onitama is a two player game where each move you make gives your opponent another option.

Gameplay

The playing mat is laid out in the center of the table. Each player takes one master and four student pawns and lines them up at their end of the mat. The deck of movement cards is then shuffled and two are dealt to each player, with a fifth card being placed over to the side of the board. The rest are returned to the box.

Each movement card shows where it allows a pawn to move. On your turn, you select one of your movement cards and move one of your pawns accordingly. You then set the card to the side of the board and take the other card that was previously there. On your opponent’s turn, after they have moved, they will discard their movement card to the side of the board, and take the one you just used. In this way, movement cards keep cycling between you and your opponent. Using a particular movement card means that your opponent will get that card next, so you need to choose wisely.

In order to win the game you must either capture your opponent’s master pawn, or bring your own master pawn to a particular tile on your opponent’s side of the board.

Onitama Components

Review

Ontima’s rules are incredibly simple. It’s a matter of minutes to teach and the movement cards all have clear diagrams to show where a piece can move with it. The mechanics of the movement cards, passing them over to your opponent, leads to some interesting choices and strategic moments. You have to think several steps ahead and carefully consider all your options.

Some of the movement cards are similar to one another and there are better combinations to play with than others. The game could be improved if the rulebook suggested some good combinations of movement cards for you to try if you don’t want to randomize them.

The components are lovely. The play mat works really well with the game and the pawns are all nice and solid, which makes them fun to play with.

If you enjoy games packed with plenty of strategy, or a good head-to-head two player game, Onitama will be a great fit for you between its smooth gameplay, top-notch components, and challenging choices.

Pros: The movement cards are a great mechanic, the components fit the game well

Cons: Some combinations of movement cards work better than others

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.