10 Games That Take Minutes to Learn and a Lifetime to Master



In the West, Shogi is sometimes called "Japanese chess." It was invented around the same time -- the oldest known pieces were found in a temple built in Horyuji in the 7th century A.D. But it developed separately from the version of chess that became popular in Europe.

There are some obvious similarities between the two games. Shogi and chess both have the same basic object -- to checkmate the enemy's king -- and they both are played on boards that are grids of alternating squares, with rows of pieces that symbolize medieval armies (though the Japanese game denotes the pieces with written characters, rather than carvings of figures). And both games are played by young schoolchildren and adults alike in elite competitions.

But that's pretty much where the similarities end. Shogi's rules are very different from Western chess and are designed to allow opportunities for a player who seems to be losing to reverse his or her fortune. After taking an enemy piece, for example, a player can add it to his or her army and place it on any space on the board. (Ownership of a piece is denoted by the direction in which it is facing.) Additionally, pieces can receive battlefield promotions once they reach certain squares, which gives them additional abilities. As gaming author Jack Botermans notes, "You can never be sure you are actually winning until you capture the enemy king" [source: Botermans].