Kamisado is a strategy game for two players. There are basic rules. There are advanced rules. The basic rules can be explained in less than a minute: you can move a piece any number of squares in a straight line, either diagonally or vertically forward. After the first move, you can only move the piece whose color is the same as the square that your opponent’s piece landed on. The first player to get a piece to her opponent’s home row wins.

Each player has eight pieces. Each piece is a different color, matching one of the colors on the board. Which explains why the game itself is so visually appealing. The board unfolds into quite a large playing field (20″x20″). The plastic pieces are also large (two inches wide). They look like castles, each with a dragon nesting on top. On one set of pieces the dragons are shiny black, on the other, gold.

You can play a game in less than five minutes. Victory is satisfyingly sudden. Defeat, mercifully quick. You can play it with anyone old enough to understand checkers, and yet it is strategically deep enough to intrigue a chess player.

At first glance, the eight-page instruction booklet (10″ x 10″ – the same size as the board when it is folded) looks forbidding. But all you need read to play the game are a few rules. Once you’ve played a few rounds of the game, you’ll be more than motivated enough to read the rest of the booklet, as well as the accompanying eight-page booklet illustrating different moves. As you read more, you discover more possibilities and intricacies. You learn that a game can take many rounds to play. That the strange rings included in the game are used during these many-round games to crown a winning piece, and to give it extra powers for the next round. And on and on you go, discovering more and more nuances as your appreciation for the game, and your skills increase.

Everything about the presentation and packaging of the game reveals a deep appreciation for its play value and uniqueness. The size of the board and the pieces, the packaging, the art. Conceived by Peter Burley, with artistic design by Peter Dennis, Kamisado exemplifies the kind of thinking game that the Major FUN program was developed for – elegant, well-executed, easy to earn, appealing to a wide range of players, deep enough to play again and again.

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