Sensei’s Path is the 2017 expansion for the tactical grid movement board game Onitama, published by Arcane Wonders. Designed by Shimpei Sato, this expansion doesn’t look to completely change the base game, with the 2 player count and 10-15 minute playtime uneffected. However, is there enough to notice the expansion? Let’s find out!
A new range of new animals have found their way into the deck, ranging from a small movemented rat to an extremely defensive turtle. A total of 16 new cards are included in the Onitama: Sensei’s Path expansion box, the same amount as the base game. In keeping with the rest of the Onitama cards, the majority of this expansion deck are effectively mirror versions, with 14 of the cards making up two sets of mirrored cards. The final two, the Giraffe and Kirin (a Japanese mythical hooved creature), do stand out as unique – much in the same way that the dragon and monkey do in the original deck.
During setup the expansion deck is shuffled into the base game deck, to give a total of 32 cards to draw from. Only 5 are drawn from the deck, as with the original ruleset, with play unaffected other than differing movement cards. In an attempt to measure the real impact of owning the expansion, and to specifically try out the new cards, I started to play purely from the expansion deck for a few games. Whilst this produced the original excitement of new movement types coming up for a handful of games it isn’t completely representative of games after combining the decks.
After combining it is the variations and chances for new combos that the cards bring. Like when playing the original each game players will have to once again watch out for new “stupid” moves that open up opportunities for their opponent. I never thought there were moves missing from the original deck, the way they are designed is almost to have not everything possible. The brilliance of doubling the pool of cards is that mirrored cards are far less likely to appear in the same game. On top of this, it lowers the percentage chance of some of the unique cards, like the Tiger from the original deck or the Giraffe from the expansion, coming up in a couple of games running.
In order for all players to get all of the available cards this expansion also includes two promo cards, which were previously only available as a reward for backing the Dice Tower’s 2016 crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. The promotional cards are the Phoenix and Turtle, which overall don’t drastically change anything – though the turtle is the only card with no forward movement on it. This being said as this expansion is all about increasing the deck size and having these only helps to increase variety from one game to the next – even if the turtle has lost me two games already…
It is almost shameful that Onitama Sensei’s Path comes in a box in the way it does. This could fit into a small deck of cards box. Instead, it mirrors the base game box but in miniature form, still coming with magnetic closure. Either way it’ll end up in the bin rather quickly, as there is nothing stopping gamers storing the shuffled in expansion cards in the base game box. As pet peeves of mine are wasting shelf space and over-the-top redundant packaging this irritatingly must tick one box, through a tangent from the expansion itself.
Onitama Sensei’s Path is an expansion that once shuffled in can be forgotten about. Forgotten may be too strong a word. Still, there is no purpose for ever taking the cards out of the deck, as no rules are changed. For better or worse, a brand new player could play with a mixture of original and expansion cards and be none the wiser. On top of this, after a tenth game, being able to tell the original and expansion cards apart becomes a struggle. If you are a gamer whom rates Onitama incredibly high, and gets it to the table often, the extra variety may be noticed. Otherwise, despite being enjoyable this really is just more of the same, coming in an over the top box.
[Editor’s Note: Onitama Sensei’s Path was provided to us by Asmodee for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £11.99. It is also available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]