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Easier Versions of Shogi

9 Masu Shogi

Played on a 3×3 square, uses only 8 of the original types of pieces.
The movements and goal of checkmate remain but there are 40
different starting positions.
The game was developped by Teruichi Aono, a professional shogi player
and has been endorsed by the Japan Shogi Association.

Doubutsu Shogi ( ” Animals ” Shogi )
English name : Let’s catch the Lion

Played on 3×4 squares.
Both players have only 4 pieces :
Chick, Giraffe, Elephant & Lion
The goals : catch the opponent’s lion
or move your own lion to the other side
How to play :
The giraffe moves like a rook ( but moves only 1 space ).
The elephant moves like a bishop ( but moves only 1 space ).
The chick is like the pawn of Shogi,
and is promoted to chicken ( = the gold general in Shogi ).
The lion is like the king but he can win essentially by promoting,
as long as it doesn’t leave him in check.
You are still able to drop in pieces that you captured from your opponent.
Unlike in Shogi, you can drop a chick for mate or have two chicks in a column.

Kyoto Shogi

Played on 5×5 squares.
Invented by Tamiya Katsuya in 1976
See Wikipedia :
for detailed information

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Gujin Shogi : A Strategy Game Not Really Related To Shogi

What the game has in common with shogi is the shape of the pieces, the military theme
and the fact that it was invented in Japan ( apparently before WW2 )
The goal is to capture the enemy flag and the game requires a third person acting
as an empire.
Each player has 23 pieces : 1 flag / 12 officers / 2 planes / 2 tanks / 1 cavalry /
2 engineers / 1 spy / 2 land mines
There are hidden pieces ( spies ), the system is hierarchical, stonger pieces
defeat weaker ones with some exceptions and special actions ( for. ex. a plane cannot
of course be destroyed by land mines, engineers can desctivate land mines )

One popular version in Japan is the one sold by Hanayama

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Hanafuda sulphurous reputation as the game of the yakuza.

The hanafuda cards date back from the late 18 th century, before contact with the
Europeans, cards games were known to the nobility as a sophisticated pastime
but ignored by the people.
The Portuguese introduced the 48 cards hombre deck

that was soon widely used for gambling
and banned by the Shogunate, as were many following Japanese decks, in a cat and mouse
game between the authorities and the gamblers.
The hanafuda cards got no numeric values, only pictures and thus escaped an official ban but were
not specially popular until Nintendo was founded with the purpose of making hanafuda cards in 1889.
Gambling was still banned and hanafuda cards that were mainly used for this purpose gained a
strong association with the Yakuza gangs that run illegal gambling parlors.

The Yakuza have tattos based on hanafuda designs, even today, the cards are strongly
associated with the underworld and that deters many respectable Japanese from playing with them.

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Kabufuda Cards ( not to be confused with hanafuda )

Kabufuda are traditional Japanese cards derived from European cards brought to Japan by
the Portuguese in the 16th century that were quickly banned by the shogunate because they were
used mainly for gambling.
So the gamblers played a cat and mouse game with the authorities, inventing new decks that were
soon banned until hanafuda appeared in the 18th century ( hanafuda cards have no numeric values
so they escaped being banned but were ultimately used also by gamblers )
I don’t know exactly what place kabufuda have in the line of decks invented to escape the gambling
ban but they survived until today and are still manufactured, mainly by Nintendo.

Nintendo Kabufuda

A deck of kabufuda cards have 40 cards numbered from 1 to 10, not suited, so there are 4 cards for each value ( in the set made by Nintendo there is 1 extra card, a Jack, that is usually not used )

Kabufuda cards are typically used for gambling games, like Oicho-Kabu, that is similar to Baccarat,
the goal being to reach 9 points.
The worst hand in Oicho-Kabu : 8-9-3 is phonetically expressed as ya-ku-za and is the origin of
the name of the Japanese gangsters who were the ones running the gambling dens in the days.

The Nintendo set bears the image of Napoleon ( along with the two ” Daitoryo ” hanafuda decks,
black & red ).

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The 8 Hanafuda Decks by Nintendo ( + 1 Kabufuda )

Every set exists in 2 colors : black & red ( ocher )

From top to bottom :

  • Daitoryo ( Napoleon ) ( “daitoryou” means “president” in Japanese )
  • Tengu ( the Tengu is a long nose supernatural being )
  • Miyako no Hana ( ” miyako ” means ” the capital ” and “hana” means ” flower(s)” )
  • Mario
  • Kabufuda

The Miyako no Hana sets are cheaper than the others
( about 30 % cheaper, usually ) because the quality of the
paper used for the cards is not as high.
( they look and feel exactly the same though, maybe they don’t last as long … )

There is also a Kabufuda set ( at the bottom of the photo ),
in black only, the box looks almost the same as the Hanafuda
Daitoryo but for the small white pastille on the front with the 2 kanji :
kabu-fuda one above the other ( see photo ).

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The Highest Quality Shogi Boards

The highest quality shogiban ( and also goban ) are made of Kaya wood

( Torreya Nucifera or Japanese Nutmeg-yew ), that grews in the Miyazaki

area in southern Kyushu.

It is believed that the ” Hon-Kaya ” ( i.e. the Japanese Nutmeg-yew ) is

superior to the ” Chinese-Kaya ” a similar tree that grows in the Yunan

province in China and that the boards made of the Chinese wood are

only second best ( maybe the Chinese think differently, I don’t know ).

The ” Hon-Kaya “, because of the environment ( significant temperature

differences, lots of rain and sunlight, rocky mountainous area so each

annual ring is very close and dense, is believed to be the ideal and best


Even the snapping sounds of the pieces and stones are the most

satisfying on these kaya boards.

In order to make a board, a large chunk of between 200 and 800

years old Kaya wood is needed ( the cutting down of natural

Kaya trees is now strictly forbidden in Japan ), not surprisingly

This 18,7 kg Hon Kaya Shogiban with legs is for example priced at 380000 JPY

the prices are quite steep.

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The Most Popular Mobile Shogi Apps in Japan

The apps from UNBALANCE Corporation seems to be by far the most popular in Japan

both for Android & IOS, they make Shogi apps but also Go & Mah Jong ones.

For Shogi, try to type ” Kanazawa Shogi ” in your app store.

In the Japanese Android Store, I get :

Kanazawa Shogi Lite : free with ads & in-app purchase
Kanazawa Shogi 2 :¥ 600
Shogi Lv. 100 : ¥ 360