top of page

Official Onitama Rules

Onitama is a fast-paced, abstract strategy game for two players that challenges you to outwit your opponent through tactical movement and cardplay. Here's a breakdown of the rules to guide you on your path to mastering Onitama:


  • Game Board: A 5x5 grid representing the battlefield.

  • Playing Pieces: Five pawns (identical) for each player, one designated as the "Master" pawn.

  • Move Cards: A deck of double-sided cards depicting various movement patterns for your pawns.


Your goal is to achieve victory by either:

  • Capturing Your Opponent's Master Pawn: Eliminate your opponent's Master pawn by moving your own pawn onto the space it occupies.

  • Moving Your Master Pawn to Your Opponent's Starting Space: Occupy the space on the opposite side of the board where your opponent's Master pawn began the game.


  1. Place the Game Board:  Lay the board flat between the two players.

  2. Choose Colors:  Each player selects a color and takes the corresponding five pawns, placing one pawn designated as the Master in the center space on their side of the board. The remaining four pawns are placed on the adjacent spaces in the front row.

  3. Shuffle the Move Cards:  Mix the Move Cards face down and place them within reach of both players.


The game follows a turn structure with two distinct phases:

1. Choosing a Move:

  • Draw Cards: Each player draws two Move Cards from the deck and keeps them hidden from their opponent.

  • Select a Card:  Analyze the movement patterns on your cards and choose one you want to use for this turn.

2. Move Your Pawn:

  • Reveal the Card:  Place the chosen Move Card face-up on the discard pile next to the board, revealing the movement pattern to your opponent.

  • Move Your Pawn:  Select any of your five pawns (including the Master) and move it according to the pattern shown on the chosen Move Card. The movement can be in any direction (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal) based on the pattern's arrows and spaces. Pawns cannot move through other pawns (yours or your opponent's).

Special Rules:

  • Capturing:  If your pawn's movement ends on a space occupied by your opponent's pawn, that pawn is captured and removed from the game.

  • Off-Board Movement:  If a pawn's movement would cause it to exit the board entirely, the move is illegal.

  • Same Space:  You cannot move a pawn onto a space already occupied by one of your own pawns.

Winning the Game:

The game ends immediately when either player achieves one of the victory conditions: capturing the opponent's Master pawn or moving their own Master pawn to the opponent's starting space.

Additional Notes:

  • Secret Selection:  Players choose their cards simultaneously and reveal them only after selecting a pawn to move. This adds an element of mind games and anticipation.

  • Card Discard:  The used Move Card is discarded after each turn, making previously used patterns unavailable for the immediate future.

  • Strategic Depth:  Despite the simple rules, Onitama offers surprising depth as you plan your movements, anticipate your opponent's choices, and manage your available cards.

With a bit of practice and strategic thinking, you'll be well on your way to mastering the art of movement and achieving victory in Onitama!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see our disclosures here.

Browse Related Games!

bottom of page