There are few things better than a game that is so simple in its design that you wonder why you didn't think of it yourself, yet has a certain level in the depth of its play which keeps you wanting to pull it out and challenge anyone who is up for a game.
Oshi is very much that kind of game.
It was created in 2006 by Tyler Bielman, and produced by Wizkids. When the game first came to my attention it made me think it was probably a much older game design because the game mechanics are so startlingly simple.
According to the publisher's website, Oshi, which means 'Push', and “is inspired by a Japanese legend in which the Goddess Amaterasu gifted the first Japanese emperor with her ancient wisdom, in the form of a game. The game is said to have taught the emperor and his court to temper their influence and power with caution.”
All right that might be a little thick with the romanticism, but the game does play nicely.
The goal is a simple one, to be the first player to push seven points worth of your opponent’s game pieces off the board.
Each player begins the game with eight game pieces shaped to look like one-, two- and three-story Japanese buildings. Although made of plastic, they look very nice in ivory and blood red colours. It would be nice to see a higher-end version with wooden carved pieces, or a heavier plastic, but that is likely only wishful thinking.
The number of stories a piece has equals the number of spaces it can move, the maximum number of other pieces it can push and the number of points it is worth if pushed off the board. How simple is that? A three story piece is worth three points if 'captured', as well as indicating how far it can move. The key mechanic of course is pushing pieces around the board. A one-tier piece can only move one other piece, yours, or the opponent's, while a three can move three pieces.
The game has a feeling of tug-of-war, and to avoid simply having players caught in a constant loop of repeating the last move, you cannot simply reply to a move by mirroring it.
The game is played out on a wooden 9X9 board, which again begs for an ornate version, although the one provided is quite serviceable.
Overall, the game has a sort of vintage appeal in both play, and its look.
Now Oshi is not the most challenging game, nor one requiring hours of thought before each move, and in that regard that's part of the charm. It plays quick allowing for lots of replay time.
This is a game that will look good on the table, is quick to teach, quick to play, and has enough challenge and charm to be fun over the long term.
A good game for all but the youngest players, give it a try.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 11, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada