We have the great chess remix, Onitama, at length here on the Zatu Games blog. For a review of the core game, click here, and then here for a quick on ramp to learn how to play. As with many board games out there these days, the base game you get right out of the box is only the start of the actual experience. Onitama Way of the Wind brings a new piece for both players to share and a whole new way to play!
Pieces Of The Puzzle
Onitama Way of the Wind includes ten new movement cards and the Wind Spirit Piece.
The new movement cards are made of the same thick card stock and the same size of the original game's cards. Of those ten cards, two are the same style of movement cards found in the main game, for moving just Student and Master pawns. The other eight movement cards include two sets of moves. I'll explain how those work further along in another section.
The star of the expansion is the Wind Spirit piece. It's shaped like an otter on a base that looks like roiling waves or whirlwinds. Choosing an otter definitely appeals to how the Wind Spirit works in game – very devious and tricky, while the rolling winds allow it to breeze into nearly any space. It has a blue colour similar to the blue pieces, but has a translucent finish which helps distinguish it from the blue faction in the base game, while also making it seem ghostly or made of elemental energy.
Like Wind & Waves
I've seen some updates and expansions to games that are so deep and meaty, they look at the core rules of the original game and tell you to flat out ignore them, but thankfully this very zen remix on chess is not doing that. This expansion provides optional rules for a separate way to play the game.
The two cards that come with the expansion offer new moves in addition to the ones in the base game. I've actually shuffled those move cards into my move deck and play it whenever I play the base game, they're well balanced and do not feel out of place at all.
The new movement cards all correspond to the Wind Spirit and your original Students and Master card. On your turn, you move your regular pieces, but then you may also move the Wind Spirit, and finally cards switch around for you and your opponent.
The Wind Spirits moves are usually much bigger than the Student or master's. Being made of the wind means they can fly or zip around with good speed, but it's a trickery elemental, and has kept itself neutral between these two martial arts school's squabbles. When the Wind Spirit lands on a Student pawn, it sort of blows the Student away, to where the Wind Spirit was. In other words, the pawn and the wind spirit swap places.
It's important to know that only Students can be swapped this way. The Wind Spirit cannot land on a Master piece space. Masters are experts of martial arts and can dodge the wind itself. Also, this switch can only happen if the Wind Spirit lands on a Student. You can't have a piece land on the spot the Wind Spirit is on. This is an upside, as it allows crafty players to block certain paths or the enemy temple to stop a Way of the Stream victory.
This opens up a great deal of strategy for anyone who plays Onitama. The level of strategy included in the base game, leveraging the moves you have in front of you whilst trying to give your opponent moves that either hamper or their plans or set you up even further. By moving up to two pieces a turn, you can use the Wind Spirit to make all kinds of set up and tempo based plays. You can send your opponents away from your master, or deliver yours to an advantageous space.
On top of that, this expansion has other ways of playing on top of the expansion's base rules. When setting up a game with the Wind Spirit, the spirit itself starts in the centre of the board, but you deal out three regular movement cards and two Wind Spirit movement cards. The box suggests using more to get varied and fair use out of the Wind Spirit, or to use fewer or none, and take your turn moving your pawns or the Wind Spirit. Many options are abound in the flowing wind.
Conflict Is All In The Mind
Onitama Way of the Wind Expansion adds a level of complexity to an already very rich and layered game. In this gaming market where things are designed for four to six players, a duelling game like this getting this much love is incredibly refreshing. This particular expansion does not distract or rewrite the game rules as some are prone to do. Instead it adds a new layer of complexity that rewards deep strategic thinking, whilst looking and feeling true to the game's aesthetic and play patterns.
Fans of Onitama, but want to mix up the challenge will love this expansion.
That concludes our thoughts on Onitama Way of the Wind. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Onitama Way of the Wind today click here!