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on 24 November 2009
I bought this pack for one reason, really: the Hanafuda deck of cards. I was searching for a deck and I stumbled upon this.

The Hanafuda deck is nice, though there's nothing fancy about the card backs, the design follows tradition nicely. Unfortunately, they don't have a separate case of any kind (the expectation being that they'll always stay in the box, presumably).

The chess pieces are, disappointingly, on thin punch-out card which can be fiddly to handle - especially for games such as Shogi. Had the pieces been on punch-out board as opposed to cheap card, I'd be giving this product 5 out of 5. However, the boards themselves are sturdy and practical (though the Xiangqi board has been illustrated; I would have preferred just a traditional look).

The book provides a nice background about each of the games. Already a keen player of Shogi, I was pleased to see the section on Shogi discuss the other variants, even if you can't technically play them with the 9x9 Modern Shogi set provided, but it certainly whets the appetite for newcomers.

My only qualm with the book comes from the fact that sometimes it isn't entirely clear how a game is intended to be played. For a lot of the games, such as the chess games, a description of how the pieces move is sufficient; most of us know how chess works. However, when it comes to the Hanafuda games I feel it's not immediately obvious. I had to look up the rules online and then, looking back at the text, could see what they meant. Some examples of play could have been good here.

Overall, this is a brilliant introduction to these games and I heartily recommend it to anyone with an interest in games. The Hanafuda deck is great as is (albeit sans box), but you may want to invest in some proper 'oriental' chess sets if you intend to play them regularly.
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