Visual-spatial processing is so key to child development, and the approachability of the simple, but challenging, ruleset makes it something that kids and adults will both enjoy.
Theme and What is it?
Simplicity. Elegance. Cunning. Shobu’s abstract strategy is streamlined and brain-bending. From a Japanese word meaning a game or match, consisting of the characters for win (勝) and loss (負).
To play Shobu, you have a simple set of rules. You have two moves per turn, the first; passive, the second; aggressive.
The second move must mimic the same move motion, up to 2 spaces diagonally or orthogonally (ex. Both move 2 spaces forward or both move 1 space diagonally to the right).
The first move must be made on your side of the rope and the second must be on either of the opposite color boards.
The second move is aggressive in that it can push an opponent’s piece a space or even off the board.
The player who successfully pushes all 4 of the opponents’ pieces off any one of the 4 player boards wins.
That is gorgeous. Classic. Earthy. What is the gameplay like?
Game Build Quality
The components are my absolute favorite feature of this game and what attracted me to it in the first place. I love the organic feel of the smooth river rocks and the smell of the wood. Natural colored rope with frayed edges. Everything about the components feels raw and earthy.
Art isn’t core to this game so I will comment that the rulebook is clear and crisp and the overall black/white/wood coloring theme seems to echo the Japanese aesthetic.
The quiet focus is likened to chess and Tak, but the devious giggle from your opponent makes it totally fun before they knock you off the board. I love that my kids all loved it and every single time I’ve played with someone new, they asked to play again immediately.
Age Range & Weight
Shobu is very approachable and dare I say, durable. As a mom of 4 rowdy kids, I have seen many games painfully meet their end, but I think Shobu will stand the test of time. Since it is so durable, I think parents will be more likely to play it with their kids. Visual-spatial processing is so key to child development, and the approachability of the simple, but challenging, ruleset makes it something that kids and adults will both enjoy.
Again, simplicity is absolutely elegant in this game and I have played the heck out of it. It’s one that has leapt onto my top 10 and I am a massive evangelist for this beautiful, challenging game. My first 10 star!
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