Onitama - The Strategy Board Game

App review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
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Fast, fun chess-like game will keep players thinking.

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Educational Value

Similar in many ways to chess, Onitama can help to teach strategy, planning, and critical thinking skills. Understanding how the available cards affect the movement of the pieces, while analyzing what moves are available to the opponent can also help hone decision making skills.

Ease of Play

The game's relatively simple to pick up and play, with a good tutorial that teaches the mechanics. The difficulty comes in planning out a strategy and thinking ahead of your opponent.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

The base game is completely free to download and play. There's an expansion pack available with additional cards for a small price, as well as a few cosmetic skins for the game pieces.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Onitama: The Strategy Board game is the official mobile adaptation of the popular board/card game of the same name for download on iOS and Android based mobile devices. Onitama is a fast-paced chess-like game where players take turns using limited sets of movement to defeat the opposing team's army of pupils and their master. The game's easy to pick up to play and includes a robust tutorial for newcomers. Players can take on the computer at varying difficulty levels, or play against others in either local pass play or online matches.

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What's it about?

ONITAMA: THE STRATEGY BOARD GAME brings the popular board game to mobile devices. The game takes place on a 5x5 board, with players each controlling a Master and four Pupils. Using a constant cycle of movement cards, players must use strategy and skill to either capture the opponent's Master or to move their own Master into the opposing shrine. The mobile version adds multiplayer for two players via either local pass play on a single device or global online matchmaking.

Is it any good?

At a time when there's many complex and complicated games looking for attention, it's easy to forget that some of the best games may be the simplest to play, but they can still make you think. Onitama is one of those games. At first glance it doesn't seem like much. It's got a threadbare presentation, basic gameplay, and no flashy bells or whistles to speak of. And yet, the minute you finish your first match, you can't wait to get another one started.

It's hard not to get a chess vibe when playing Onitama. While there are some basic similarities (and both games require planning and strategy), Onitama is its own unique experience. Matches tend to be much shorter, usually clocking in at between five and fifteen minutes. This is a perfect fit for the mobile market, where players might want to get in a quick game while stuck in a waiting room, riding the bus, or any other time and place you might want a good, quick distraction. Pass play multiplayer is great too, with players able to share the fun on the go. Online play, while fun, can require a little more patience while players have to wait for their opponents to take their turn. It can be even more frustrating to wait for a turn, only to have the other player drop out without warning. Still, for those looking for a chess-lite experience with a lot of depth, Onitama is a perfect pick.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about board games and family game night. What are some ways that families can use board games and card games to come together and bond?

  • What are some of the types of skills that kids can learn from board games? How can learning games like chess translate to helping kids in the real world?

App details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strategy

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