Asmodee has been consistently sucking up a lot of properties in the board gaming world, and that has a few people worried since a single company owns so many great games. It most definitely has caused issues for smaller gaming shops that have trouble ordering their wares. But in the Android world, I have found little to be worried about as all of their digital translations have been fantastic. Not only are all of their games fairly monetized, but they also have a high level of polish that is difficult to match. Onitama is their latest game to be released on the Play Store, and it definitely holds to Asmodee's standards. Not only is it a well designed digital translation of an interesting strategy game, but it also happens to work great on touchscreens and is frankly a hoot to play.
For those of you unfamiliar with this Japanese-themed board game, Onitama is described as a fast-paced strategy game, which it kind of is. More or less it mashes up the gameplay of Chess with a limited strategic movement set that is dependent on two random action cards. You and your opponent have access to a king and 4 pawns. You can move all 5 of your pieces on the 5x5 board, but only to the predestined spots available to you on one of your two cards. You simply pick a card and move one of your pieces to a spot on the board that the chosen card allows. You will, of course, want to move your pieces strategically so that you can claim the center tile on the opposite side of the board or take out your opponent's king. Of course, your adversary is doing the same, so you have to think your available moves through carefully.
Now it may be me, but I found each game I played moved at a slow pace, but when compared to Chess I suppose it is quicker. What game wouldn't be?
From the outset, you are taught the rules of the game in a quick tutorial. From there you can choose to play a single-player game against the AI, or you can select pass and play to engage with a friend locally on a single device. Heck, there is even an online mode that allows you to play against live opponents from around the world.
Another great feature of this game is that it is free-to-play. Now I know what you are thinking, but rest assured the monetization is entirely fair. If you choose to play for free, you will have a limited deck of movement cards available to you, but it is worth pointing out I didn't find any reason playing for free with the limited deck isn't worthwhile. And for those of you who would like to get the full experience, there is the Harmony Bundle for $1.99 that unlocks the Sensei's Path deck (this adds 16 new movement cards) and two new themes for your pieces. You can also choose to purchase the deck and themes separately.
One issue I had is with the online mode. Asmodee asks players to register for an Asmodee account to log in for online play. While I can appreciate that this is probably the easiest method for them to have an online mode that could work across operating systems, I am sure most Android users would have preferred to use their Google Play account to sign-in instead. So yeah, Google Play Games Services are not supported. You will need an Asmodee account if you want to go online.
While I wouldn't describe Onitama as "fast-paced," it is a solid digital translation of an enjoyable strategy board game that offers a solo mode as well as two-player online and local play. On top of that, the monetization is pretty great as you can currently unlock all of its extra content for $1.99. And sure the missing GPG support isn't optimal, but when that is the only issue, I can't really complain. If you enjoy strategy board games that play similar to Chess, Onitama is an excellent choice.