This is a "facts-only" review of XiangQi. As such, I will try to keep this review as non-biased as possible.
I will not be going over the rules specifically as these can be found elsewhere. There are two excellent files with the rules right here on BGG and the Wikipedia entry for the game is a fantastic primer to the rules and piece movement.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiangqi
This is a "living review" and as such will be updated to reflect the XiangQi community's input.Full disclosure:
Games played: 50+
Number of players played with: 2
People Taught: 10+
Average play time: 30 minutesThe concept:
XiangQi, or Chinese Chess (if you want to be boring) is an ancient game of capturing your opponent's general. You spend your turns moving pieces in a very similar fashion to western chess, with several noticeable differences in gameplay.
The river dividing the game board provides a natural barrier that some of your pieces can not pass through (your elephants) but also strengthens your pawns after they reach the other side of it.
The palace is a mechanic that keeps your general (the western equivalent of a chess King) from wandering all over the board. In it resides the general and his two advisors, and the interactions between these two types of pieces has lead to many "three stooges" situations in games I've played.
The cannon is a unique (to my knowledge) piece that literally leaps over an intervening piece to capture another piece any distance away (so long as there are no other pieces between the fulcrum and the target).
Games of XiangQi tend to escalate very quickly into threat, counter-threat, mate situations and as such the game moves much more quickly than your standard chess-like fair.The Bacon Points:
XiangQi is a tactics-heavy/strategy-medium game
XiangQi offers enough differences from standard western chess to keep it unique even for chess grognards.
XiangQi features game piece interactions that usually require keeping an eye more closely on all the moves available to a player, as opposed to just brushing off some moves as worthless.Subjective Bacon:
XiangQi is difficult to acquire in most cities in the United States and when found, often features Chinese symbols as opposed to easily recognizable pictures or figures. This makes the entry level learning period for XiangQi higher than many other abstracts.
Finding a decent local XiangQi partner may be difficult in the states as not many people are aware of it or willing to take the time to learn the game. (if anyone knows of a decent active online website, feel free to post it in the reply to this review)If you like X, you may enjoy XiangQi:ChessArimaaShogiGoHiveTZAARArmy AntsAfter trying XiangQi, if you find you want X, you should try Y:
Less Daunting PiecesChessHiveTZAARArmy Ants
or a "westernized" version of the game
More PortabilityHiveArmy Ants
More long-term strategyGoArimaa
Alternative tactics and combosShogiChessHive
Better ElephantsArimaaThe OP's Opinion
XiangQi is an excellent game. While it may be a bit daunting at first to learn which piece is what, after your first few games, you'll know what's what with little effort.
This game is a real head turner no matter whether you're playing with a nice wooden set or pieces of printed paper. The copy I acquired from a local Asian imports shop in Orlando, FL is exquisite for the price I paid ($10 USD) and has gotten more people interested in the game than anything I could otherwise do to convince someone. It's easily been one of the best bargain board game investments I've ever made.
As far as my long-term love for XiangQi, in the past few years it has taken a back seat to the more philosophical styling of "Go", and more recently the brain turning complexity of "Arimaa". It's still a game I'll bust out from time to time, and if a friend is ever in the mood to play, I'll gladly teach them a lesson or two.
In short, XiangQi never gets old and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fast-paced aggressive abstracts.An aside
I'm a strong advocate of playing games in public places. My abstract gaming friend and I will regularly play in restaurants. I find that it's not only a great conversation starter, but it really helps to spread the word to the masses that there's more to life than just video games and television. It's brought more people to our gaming group than forum hopping alone could have ever done. If you're ever looking for more players of any game, don't be too shy to take that game with you out in public. People are curious animals, and I think you'll be pleased by the different types of people you'll meet