Xiangqi vs. Shogi: Which Game to Choose?

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If you are looking for a new strategy game to play with a friend or family member, a game where you really have to use every last brain cell available, then two great options to consider are Xiangqi and Shogi. If you are familiar with chess, then you might like either of these Asian chess-like games.

That said, these two games are quite different from each other, which means that you also have a choice to make. Let’s do a side-by-side comparison to figure out which one is better for you.

Similarities of Xiangqi and Shogi

First off, let’s take a closer look at what similarities Xiangqi and Shogi share, and yes, there are a few notable ones.

1. Both Are Very Similar to Western Chess

One big similarity that both of these games share is that they are quite similar to Western chess, something that you probably know all too well. Of course, there are some big-time differences between Shogi and chess, and even more differences between Xiangqi and chess. However, all three share the same type of gameplay, the same theme, and both involve moving a variety of pieces around the board with the aim of incapacitating the opponent’s King.

Playing Shogi - Japanese Chess

2. Both Are Two-Player Games

One of the most basic similarities that both of these games share is that they are both strictly two-player games. OK, so some people do play these games against themselves, but that of course does not really count.

3. Both Are Strategy Heavy

Another shared trait between Xiangqi and Shogi is that they are both very heavy in strategy. Both games involve moving a variety of pieces in their own specific ways to eliminate the opponent’s pieces, with the endpoint being to capture the king. However, Shogi pieces generally have less range of movement, which some might say makes it a bit easier.

Whatever the case may be, these games are both all about positioning, tactics, and thinking ahead several steps. In other words, both Xiangqi and Shogi are fairly difficult games that require a lot of rational thought.

4. The Endpoint Is the Same

Yet another similarity that both of these games share is the endpoint of the game. Now, the way in which a player wins these games can be the same or different (we will explain the differences section), but the point is to capture the King. In both games, once the King of the opponent is captured, the player to capture the King is declared the winner.

5. Both Are Based on War

The other similarity that both Xiangqi and Shogi share is that they are based on war. These are strategy and war tactics games that were originally designed as training tools for military commanders. They are games designed to help commanders practice strategy and think on their feet.

Xiangqi vs. Shogi: Which Game to Choose?

Differences Between Xiangqi and Shogi

Now that we know what makes Shogi and Xiangqi similar, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.

1. The Pieces Look Different

One of the most basic differences between these two games is that the game pieces themselves have different shapes. In Xiangqi, all of the game pieces are round, whereas in Shogi, the pieces kind of look like little pentagonal shields or kind of like military banners fluttering in the wind. However, a similarity that they share is that they are flat and have writing on them to indicate which piece they are supposed to be, unlike in chess where each piece is carved into a specific shape.

2. Different Pieces and Different Movement

Another difference between these two games is that in Shogi, you have twenty pieces, which include one King, two Gold Generals, two Silver Generals, two knights, two Lances, one Rook, one Bishop and nine Pawns. In Xiangqi, each player has a total of 16 pieces, which consist of one kind, two guards (aka advisors), two elephants (aka bishops), two knights (aka horses), two rooks (aka chariots), two cannons, and five pawns (aka soldiers).

Now, although we are not going to detail exactly how each piece can move, it is worth noting that the game pieces in Xiangqi tend to be a bit more mobile, with the majority of pieces in Shogi only being able to move one square at a time.

Xiangqi Chess Pieces

3. Different Board and Board Movement

In Xiangqi, the gameboard has nine vertical lines and 10 horizontal lines, so no, the board is not a square, and moreover, movement actually happens along the lines, with game pieces resting on the intersections of lines.

Shogi on the other hand has a perfectly square playing field consisting of a nine-by-nine square grid, and in Shogi, just like in chess, the pieces sit on the middle of those squares, not on the intersections like in Xiangqi.

4. Different Road to Victory and Other Rules

Ok, so to be clear, there are way too many differences in rules between these games for us to list, especially when it comes to moving pieces, capturing opponent’s pieces, and winning. However, one of the most important differences is that in Shogi, a player wins by checkmating the King, just like in chess. In Shogi, a stalemate does not result in a win.

However, in Xiangqi, a stalemate does not result in a draw, and the player causing the stalemate (through check) through his or her moves (after three consecutive checks), is declared the winner. Yes, normal checkmate is another way to win Xiangqi.

5. Overall Difficulty

Because the pieces in Xiangqi can move more, because the board is unique, because of more complex rules, and due to there being two ways to win, it is generally considered the more difficult game to play.

Xiangqi vs. Shogi: Which Game to Choose?

When it comes down to it, if you like chess, you will probably like both of these games too. However, in terms of which one of these to choose, it is kind of up in the air. Both games are very similar with somewhat different rules and pieces, but the basic gameplay (especially the theme) is very similar. That said, Shogi is easier, so if there are kids involved or you just want to learn fast, then it is probably the better choice out of the two.


The bottom line here is that both of these Asian chess-like games can be a whole lot of fun to play. Sure, they might be fairly difficult to learn, but that said, just because they are a bit hard to master does not mean that they cannot provide you with great entertainment.