Since as far back as the 15th century, the Japanese have been gathering around the Shogi board to pit their wits in an ancient strategy game that is often known as the country’s most widely-played version of chess.
As in regular chess, the aim of the game is to checkmate your opponent. Unlike regular chess, however, capturing your opponent’s pieces means you can use them for yourself, helping you out as you plot, plan, and maneuver your way to victory.
To do that, of course, you need a good quality Shogi board and game pieces.
That’s where we come in.
In today’s guide, we’ve looked at what we consider to be the very best Shogi board game sets around for both newcomers and experienced players alike.
Before we get into that, however, let’s take a closer look at this classic game.
What is Shogi?
Also known as Japanese chess or the Game of Generals, Shogi may be a staple of Japanese culture, but it’s popularity in the United States is a much more recent phenomenon.
Having originally been brought to the country in the aftermath of World War II by soldiers previously stationed in Japan, the game continues to attract new fans thanks to its frequent appearance in manga and anime series.
Not that this is the only reason why more and more people are lining up to play this classic board game. With its emphasis on strategic thinking and decidedly oriental feel, the Shogi also appeals heavily to fans of games like Go and Mahjong, while the beautifully designed Shogi pieces also appeal to anyone who simply appreciates quality craftsmanship in the games they play.
Speaking of which, here’s our look at the very best Shogi board game sets and pieces to help you enjoy this all-time classic for yourself.
The Best Shogi Board Game Sets & Pieces
1. Kumonshuppan Shogi Japanese Chess Pieces
Make no mistake about it; this didn’t become one of the web’s best-selling Shogi sets by accident.
Offering a winning combination of premium quality manufacturing and impressive design, Kumonshuppan has put together an exceptional product that, though it may be tailored towards newcomers, is perfectly serviceable for more experienced players.
Both the Shogi board and the playing pieces are built from a satisfyingly thick real-wood to ensure sturdiness and durability that is almost unmatched by any other set we looked at. That’s before we even begin to mention the expert craftsmanship, with wonderful attention to detail paid to every piece.
For beginners, the only downside is that the instructions are printed in Japanese only. Fortunately, we’ve produced our own step-by-step guide on how to play Shogi, so that never needs to be an issue for you.
On the upside, however, Kumonshuppan has kept portability in mind by including a resilient wooden box to store your Shogi pieces. That box fits neatly into the board, which itself folds and locks securely to make it easy to carry.
All in all, the best comprehensive Shogi game board and pieces we’ve come across and a great value-for-money game.
2. Nintendo Shogi Japanese Chess Folding Board
Yes, it’s true; the same people who brought you Super Mario, the Wii and The Legend of Zelda also bring you one of the best Shogi game boards out there.
Sure, Nintendo may be better known for their electronic games, but with this wooden folding Shogi board, the Japanese company proves that they’re just as good at traditional ones.
Measuring 14mm thick, this standard-sized board is small and light enough to be carried and stored away easily while at the same time remaining as well-built as any quality board out there, ensuring you’ll get years of use out of it.
If there’s one thing we like best about this one, it’s that some lightweight, portable Shogi boards tend to be built from plastic or similar materials. While this may be practical and cost-effective, it also detracts from that authentic Shogi experience.
With the Nintendo board, there’s no such problem. This is definitely the real deal, boasting an authentic look and feel that makes it a perfect choice for any serious Shogi enthusiast.
3. Shogi Japanese Chess Game Set with Wooden Board and Koma Pieces
If you’re looking for the best Shogi set to give as a gift, this beautiful Shogi Japanese Chess Game Set with Wooden Board and Koma Pieces from Gentosha Inc. is definitely a worthy option.
Before you so much as even get into the game, everything is packaged in a highly attractive box that’s sure to strike the right chord with the traditional game fan in your life.
Fortunately, the quality doesn’t end there.
Open up that box, and you’re presented with a deluxe, solid-wood board measuring roughly 12.5″ x 13.5″ that truly does look the part. What sets this apart from other Shogi boards, however, is the layer of fabric on the board’s underside, which helps prevent it from being knocked around the table when in use.
The Shogi pieces all have that authentic Japanese aesthetic that is the hallmark of any good quality set, and even the storage box for your pieces is of a higher quality than many others.
Though we started this review by recommending the Gentosha Inc. as the best gift option, it’s also one of the best complete sets out there for the serious Shogi player looking to upgrade to a top-of-the-line set.
4. Shogi Folding Board
Though you’d never tell from the name alone, the Shogi Folding Board from Worldwise Imports also includes a full set of pieces making one of the best Shogi sets for those new to the game.
The pieces themselves are intricately carved rather than painted, lending them a certain artisan charm that means the whole piece would look right at home sat next to a high-quality chess set or backgammon board.
Meanwhile, the board itself is everything you’d hope it to be:
Strong, resilient, and built-to-last while retaining a smooth, attractive finish that only enhances the set’s aesthetic appeal.
If there’s anything negative to say about this, it’s that Worldwise Imports haven’t seen fit to include any decent storage options. While that’s a little disappointing, the game does come with a set of English-language instructions included, meaning it’s definitely worth keeping this one on your radar if you’re getting set to play Shogi for the very first time.
5. NUOBESTY Magnetic Japanese Shogi Game
The best budget entry on our list, the NUOBESTY Magnetic Japanese Shogi Game measures just 9.84″ x 9.84″ x 0.79″, making it the ideal choice if you’re looking for a travel-friendly version to help you while away the hours on those long trips.
Small and budget-friendly though it may be, the game’s designers haven’t scrimped on the important stuff. The wood-style finish of the magnetic Shogi board makes the whole thing as attractive as it is practical, while the plastic pieces are both built and painted to a high standard.
Though it’s size may put you off if you’re looking for a quality kit that you can make a permanent part of your games room if you want an easy and affordable way to play Shogi on the go, you could do far worse than pick this one.
6. Japanese Chess Classical Honkaku Shogi Game Set by Hanayama
Whether it’s Shogi or chinese checkers or anything else, trying out any new game often means plunking down a serious amount to buy a decent quality set on which to learn.
That’s all well and good if you fall in love with said game as much as we’ve fallen in love with Shogi, but if it turns out not to be for you, then that usually means you’ve spent more than you would’ve liked for something that’s destined to simply take up space in your closest for the next several years.
The Japanese Chess Classical Honkaku Shogi Game Set by Hanayama is a great solution to that problem. A full-size plastic board with plastic Shogi pieces, this one may not boast the kind of immaculate quality and durability that you’d get with a traditional wooden set, but neither will it impact your wallet in the same way.
What it will do, is provide a quality gaming experience with none of the frustrations that can often arise when playing on a travel-size Shogi set. That way, you and your loved ones can try out the game with very little to lose and think about upgrading to a top brand set only if you find you really enjoy it.
7. Nintendo Wooden Shogi Piece Set
Missing a few Shogi pieces or simply looking for the perfect set to compliment that gorgeous Nintendo Shogi Board we looked at earlier?
Look no further than the Nintendo Wooden Shogi Piece Set, a full set of beautifully made wooden pieces with enough for both players in a standard one-on-one game.
If there’s one thing we love about these, it’s that they handcrafted look about them, with each piece cut to a slightly different shape and size depending on its rank. This lends the whole set a traditional, DIY look that adds a certain air of authenticity to your game.
If you’re new to the game, you’ll obviously need to buy a board as well, but if you’re simply looking for a quality replacement or upgrade to your existing pieces, this is one option you can’t ignore.
8. Yellow Mountain Imports Wooden Shogi Set
From marbles to Mahjong tables, Yellow Mountain Imports always deliver the goods when it comes to some of our favorite traditional games. So it should come as no surprise to learn that, when it comes to the classic game of Japanese Chess, the company once again excels.
Like the Nintendo set above, each of these handsome Shogi pieces have been expertly handcrafted to replicate the genuine experience of playing the game the way it’s been played for centuries, with the characters painted clearly in black and red.
Unlike the Nintendo set, Yellow Mountain Imports have included a paper Shogi board with this one, which is perfect for travel. However, as nice of a touch as that is, the paper board is only ever intended as a handy bonus feature. It’s the pieces themselves that are the star of the show here, offering the same outstanding quality and craftsmanship that we’ve come to expect from one of the top traditional gaming brands in the market.
9. Yellow Mountain Imports Shogi Japanese Chess Game Set
If you’re as big of a fan of Yellow Mountain Imports as we are but need a full Shogi set rather than just the pieces, this complete Shogi Japanese Chess Game Set is the option for you.
The actual pieces are practically identical to those featured in our 8th-placed pick, only this time they come with a wonderfully designed wooden Shogi board that is as elegant as it is sturdy.
Along with our 10th-placed choice, this is one of the few Shogi boards to feature built-in drawers to store your tiles. It’s also one of the only sets out there to offer such a high level of attention to detail, with both the board and traditional Koma playing pieces ornately carved and exquisitely finished to a high standard.
10. Hanayama Classical Honkaku Shogi Set
At first glance, the Hanayama Classical Honkaku Shogi set looks just like any other. Sure, both the board and pieces are sturdy, well-made, and reasonably well designed, but then so are the ones you’d find with just about any other set on this list.
Look a little closer, however, and you’ll discover that the plastic Shogi board actually contains two in-built draws that are perfect for storing away your tiles. This, and the lightweight design makes it another great option if you’re looking for a portable set you can carry around with you.
Draws aside, the real highlight here is the gorgeous tiles. Each piece is clearly printed with larger-than-average characters, making it a great choice for playing with older relatives or even introducing your young ones to this ancient Japanese game for the first time.
Shogi Set Buyers’ Guide 2020
If you’ve read this far, you’ll likely agree with us that not all Shogi sets are created equal. Whether it’s the manufacturing quality or simply the practical limitations created by the board’s size, each one has something different to offer.
With that in mind, here are a few factors to consider when buying a Shogi board, a set of Shogi pieces, or a complete board and pieces set.
In our opinion, the best Shogi sets out there are those crafted from genuine solid wood. Not only are they the most attractive option, they also tend to be the most durable and damage-resistant.
Still, wooden options tend to be at the higher end of the price scale and aren’t always practical for every occasion.
If you’re introducing the game to younger children or you’re looking for a portable set you can carry around with you; plastic may be the way to go. However, it’s worth remembering that although plastic sets tend to be more affordable, they’re rarely as resilient and may need replacing much sooner than their wooden counterparts.
If you’re planning to take your game to your friends’ place or on vacation, then you’ll need it to be portable.
Again, material plays a factor here, as wooden sets tend to be heavier and thus a little more cumbersome to carry around. However, that’s not the only thing to consider.
Size also plays a role. Some boards are larger than others, making them great for playing at home, but not so ideal for slipping into your travel bag or moving from one place to the next. With that in mind, you may be better off looking for a travel-friendly game set like the NUOBESTY Magnetic Japanese Shogi Game.
Its small size may not make it the focal point of your game room, but it’s certainly a great choice for gaming on the go.
Last but by no means, it’s worth considering the way the price tag influences your buying decision.
As with most things in life, the best quality products are those that will cost you the most money, but that doesn’t doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always a good idea to spend as much as you possibly can.
For example, if you’re a beginner and aren’t yet sure just how much you’re going to like the game, does it really make sense to throw all your cash at the most expensive, deluxe-brand set out there?
Probably not, right?
Instead, you might find it beneficial to pay for a lower-priced set to try the game out. If you love it, great, you can splash out a bit more on an upgraded set. If it turns out not to be your thing? Then all you’ve lost is a little time and a small amount of money.
Which is the Best Shogi Board and Pieces Set to Buy?
Considering all of those factors, the question of which Shogi set to spend your hard-earned money on all comes down to a combination of practicality and personal taste.
Just starting out and want a beginner-friendly set on which to learn how to play Shogi? The full-size board featured in the Japanese Chess Classical Honkaku Shogi Game Set by Hanayama makes it a perfect fit.
Planning to upgrade and simply need a better quality set of playing pieces? The Nintendo Wooden Shogi Piece Set is about as good as you’re going to get.
Experienced players looking for the best complete Shogi set your money can buy? Look no further than the Kumonshuppan Shogi Japanese Chess Pieces, a product with a winning combination of exceptional quality and remarkable design that makes it truly the best comprehensive Shogi set around.