Mansions of Madness Path of the Serpent Expansion review
Path of the Serpent is the 3rd large expansion for the second edition of Fantasy Flight Games’ Mansions of Madness. It takes you deep in the heart of the jungle looking for artefacts, searching temples and dealing with the strange creatures that live there.
Not Your Standard Spooky Mansion
For those not in the know, Mansions of Madness is a co-operative mystery solving adventure game for 1-5 players. It is set in the world of horror lore written by H.P. Lovecraft. Strange things are almost always afoot, and it is up to you and a group of friends to put things right. The game uses a companion app to keep track of the game state as well as randomise events, encounters and puzzles. It is a very similar system to the one found in the new Lord of the Rings adventure game, also by Fantasy Flight Games.
The companion app contains many different stories to play through and this expansion unlocks three more to play. These scenarios are on the medium to tougher end of the spectrum. Don’t go into these expecting a walk in the park, unless the kind of parks you walk in are known to be full of 8-foot-tall snake men. The three scenarios play in-between 2-3 hours a piece and can be replayed as many times as you like. The app will randomise them up a little bit each time by changing the puzzles, map layout and encounters. The main story will be pretty much the same though.
Welcome to the Jungle
So what do you get in the box? Well there are a lot of map tiles, almost as many as you get in the core game. First up are 4 new adventurers, each with their own unique special abilities that are themed towards this outdoor jungle setting. There are 2 new conditions that can be inflicted on you, poisoned is bad and fearless is not so bad. And finally there are 3 new spell types. Summoning allows you to move another investigator or monster to your space. Banishment allows you to move monsters and investigators away from you. Lastly call the storm allows you to chuck lightning bolts around the map as well as damage any monsters who spawn too close to you.
As far as cards go there are a selection of unique quest items as well as some more generic standard items. These standard items can be mixed in whichever scenario you are playing. Lastly there are a few new damage, horror and insanity cards that can added to your standard decks as well.
5 O'clock Shadow
Tokens for jungle themed doors and walls are included in the box. Also, tokens for the various non player characters that you will meet on your adventures. There are also markers included for rubble and overgrowth. These are two new mechanics that are introduced in this expansion. If a rubble token is present, it will stop an investigator from searching, exploring and interacting in that space. These tokens can be cleared by heavy weapons or an investigator can do a strength check to try and remove the rubble by hand. Overgrowth tangles all around the investigators as they move around. If they move out of a space with overgrowth there is a chance that they may unknowingly drop a random item. Overgrowth can be removed with a bladed weapon or you can always just kill it with fire.
These new tile modifiers are definitely thematic considering that over the course of these stories you are supposed to be exploring long lost temples and sprawling jungles. That said I did find that they just slowed the game down and started to become a real annoyance. Maybe it was just me being unlucky, but I never seemed to have access to the right tools to deal with them when I needed them.
They did the Monster Mash
The last things you’ll find in the box are the monsters. And there are some big ones. There are four different monsters included in this expansion. Two flying feathered serpents, three serpent people, two big temple guardians and one massive ancient basilisk. The guardians and basilisk have to be glued to their bases, so bear that in mind.
The models are where I am going to have a little moan, actually. You see recently, Asmodee games, the parent company of Fantasy Flight Games, have announced that they will no longer be providing help with missing or damaged components for their games. And although it has never happened before now, I have to mention that one of my models was snapped in two.
Previously, I could have got myself a replacement sent out. Now it is a lot more complicated and involves trying to go through the store where you purchased it. The store will now have to then open up a box, if they still have it, to issue you a replacement. Needless to say, I reached for the plastic cement and now will make do with a slightly wonky explorer. It will most likely not happen to you. It hasn't happened to me before now in the 10 years or more that I’ve been buying and playing board games. But it is something that could happen, and I fancied a moan.
Anyways, back to important things. How does this game compare to the two other large box expansions for Mansions of Madness? I’d say it’s mixed bag. If you are playing with it with only the base game content it is fantastic. The new mechanics really play well off of each other and although the setting is not unique, it is interesting. However, when you try and mix it with lots of other content, I’ve found that it can get a bit diluted. You will struggle to take advantage of and appreciate some of the unique features of this expansion. As far as I can tell the app does try to mitigate this and perhaps succeeds to a degree. That said I definitely have enjoyed this expansion most with just the base game attached.
I’ve so far only played the two simpler scenarios from this expansion on the app and have enjoyed them both. I don’t want to spoil any aspect of the story but will just say that “Into the Dark” adds a really nice twist to the darkness mechanic. I have gone back and played the first scenario from the base game again to see how it gets modified by the expansion. Unsurprisingly, the jungle map tiles stay in the box but some of the items from the expansion did make an appearance giving new options.
This is where I found this expansion to be a little weaker as it doesn’t seem to modify the other missions quite as much as some of the other expansions do. Meaning that although the new missions are great, it doesn’t really give you much of a reason to go back and replay any of the older ones. From my experience you will only get a slightly different experience.
To Wrap Up
Is it an essential expansion? I wouldn’t say that this is the first expansion most people should buy for Mansions of Madness. If you really like the jungle and temple setting then go for it, you will not be disappointed with what you find in the box. But personally, I have enjoyed the new mechanics added by Streets of Arkham more. Also I found that Horrific Journeys has modified the app experience substantially more than Path of the Serpent has done so far. However, if you own both of those expansions, you should definitely consider picking this up. Path of the Serpent is a solid expansion which adds some great new investigations into Mansions of Madness. The new mechanics are thematic if a little frustrating at times but on the whole this expansion adds a lot of new content to enjoy to your game.