Brush up on your flying chariot versus incense chariot tactics with this close-quarters version of the complex Japanese relative of chess.

One of the aspects of Japanese culture I always wanted to get in on was the traditional board game of Shogi. A cousin of western Chess, its basic gameplay is very similar. Each player must strategically position their pieces in order to put their opponents king into checkmate.

Unlike chess, Shogi has a slightly larger board with more pieces, all of which have similar movements to chess pieces. However, when reaching a certain area of the board they become “promoted” (flipped over to reveal a new name) and their range of movements change.

Image: Wikipedia/Tamago915

If that weren’t enough, any pieces captured by an opponent can be put back onto the board adding to their own. It would be like one player controlling both queens in a game of chess.

Although these variations make Shogi a more deep and unpredictable game than chess, it also makes the game very daunting for beginner players. After trying some Shogi apps to get used to it, I quickly got tired of having my ass handed to me by the beginner-level AI represented by an anime 5-year-old avatar holding a teddy bear and blankie.

However, a new version has been released that might open a door for easily frustrated souls like myself. It’s called 9-Masu Shogi and is played on a tiny three-by-three square board using only eight of the original Shogi’s types of pieces.

As you can see this seems to leave very little in the way of options and gameplay is mercifully short for novices. Movements and the goal of checkmate remain, but unlike regular Shogi there are 40 different starting positions to choose from.

This also allows players of differing ability to use handicaps, and choosing an opening arrangement adds an extra layer of strategic depth for seasoned players. As an introduction to Shogi, a training tool, or as a an entirely new variation of the game, 9-Masu Shogi has a lot to offer.

Made in cooperation with and endorsed by the Japan Shogi Association and with rules developed by high-ranking player Teruichi Aono, it has been well accepted by the Shogi community in Japan. Sales have also been strong with demand on the rise.

So put down those Pokémon and get with the game that all the cool sexagenarians are down with. But first, you might be wise to ease into it with some 9-Masu Shogi.

Source: PR Times via Narinari (Japanese)
Images: PR Times (unless otherwise noted)