Onitama: Sensei’s Path Review – Enter the Kirin
Onitama is a truly special game. Its tagline is that it is “an elegant and simple game of martial tactics” and, if describing Onitama, that hits the nail on the head. It is an elegant game. It is a simple game. It is a game about strategy and martial tactics. It is, for want of a better term, a beautiful game.
This today, however, is not a review of Onitama. I have written that in the past and you can read me going on about how amazing the game is here. I won’t be going on about what it is like playing Onitama today. It is still the same game of either taking the opponent’s master or taking over their shrine in Onitama. but instead this short article will focus on the expansion – Onitama: Sensei’s Path.
What is Onitama: Sensei’s Path?
Onitama: Sensei’s Path is an expansion pack for the hit game Onitama by Shimpei Sato, which adds 16 new movement cards to the game. In the UK it retails for around £12-£13.
The new cards added include whole new types of movement, including a lot more ‘jump’ style cards allowing for the pieces on the board to move faster and further than before.
The cards come in a small magnetic clasp box like with the main game. It is just big enough for the cards it holds. Once again the cards are designed in that Onitama way, with the movement on one side and Japanese script/animal name on the other. Once again, there is the quote at the bottom.
What are the New Onitama Cards in Sensei’s Path?
There are now three additional new sets of, what could be considered, basic moves. These are:
- Rat and Mouse, which are left and right focused versions of a up, diagonal down, sideways move..
- Bear and Panda are left and right versions of a more aggressive version of Rat/Mouse where the sideways move is up one and next to the forward movement.
- Dog and Fox are left and right versions of a card that allows forward, middle, or backward on the same column of squares.
There are now more jumping moves, similar to the Crab in the original game. These are variations of the above but with additional jumping.
- Viper and Seasnake being like Rat and Mouse but with a jump in the left/right direction.
- Iguana and Tanuki (Tanuki being a form of Japanese raccoon dog) being like Bear and Panda but with the additional forward movement being a jump sideways.
There are also two cards offering wavey patterns left and right with the variations being on whether the wave is focused forward or backwards. These are Turtle and Phoenix.
Finally, there are two unique cards. These both contain types of jumps forwards and sideways – Kirin and Giraffe.
Is Onitama: Sensei’s Path Worth It?
Onitama: Sensei’s Path is an interesting expansion. In regards to physical components, for the price, it can be a toss up as to whether to get the Sensei’s Path or not. Sixteen cards for £13 feels like a high price, at around 80p per card. It can feel a bit steep, so, in order to justify that cost, let’s look at what the Sensei’s Path adds to the game. There are certainly a few things to note.
Sensei’s Path has been brought in to diversify the game of Onitama. In the original game the cards could be split into different categories. There are 9 different patterns. For instance: Ox, Boar, and Horse are all variations on the theme of one space in three directions. Frog and Rabbit are the same bouncing pattern.
In the original game, five of the different patterns, were original patterns. These were Tiger (which I have written a strategy for here), Crab, Monkey, Dragon, and Elephant.
Sensei’s Path brings an additional 8 patterns to the game, plus two more in the form of Sable and Otter, being variations on Frog and Rabbit.
These add a surprising amount of variety, and it also presents the option to mix the cards together or whether to keep them separate and have two different versions of Onitama. There are strengths and benefits to both, with each presenting different strategies, allowing for completely different games. Or, if they are mixed together, they add more variety to the game.
One of the reasons I like Sensei’s Path is because it counteracts the Tiger card. There was a problem with the Tiger card because of its nature of getting near the middle of the mat and then being able to win the game in a couple of turns. This was a solid strategy for winning, but to oppose someone playing that strategy you had to play a couple of very careful first moves, as well as recognise what was happening straight away.
Instead, with the addition of the extra cards, there are now all kinds of strategies that open up. Tiger is no longer the only incredibly dangerous card to be facing off the bat.
Conclusion: Would You Recommend Onitama: Sensei’s Path?
The question as to whether I would recommend Onitama: Sensei’s Path comes down to one question – do you really enjoy Onitama?
If you really enjoy Onitama and you really play it a lot, then Onitama: Sensei’s Path will be a delightful variation of the game. It will add more replayability to an already replayable game.
That being said, Onitama: Sensei’s Path is not an essential addition. It does not fix the game, as the base game is more or less flawless, and nor does it change the core mechanics. This makes it more of a luxury expansion (a bit like some of the Mysterium expansion packs) rather than a necessity.
In my humble opinion, is worth the money. If you love Onitama it is a must. Otherwise it is a nice to have.
So, what do you think? Is Onitama: Sensei’s Path something you would like, or is it something you can live without? Let me know in the comments below.