Last year, I had a chance to review the GI Joe Deck-Building game from Renegade Games. I went into it with a healthy dose of skepticism as it was a licensed deck builder and many of those (from various companies) have been mediocre if I’m being generous. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the game design and it even made my list of my Top 10 Games from 2021.
This year, game designer Matt Hyra has brought us the first expansion for this great game, and it’s based around the iconic Joe villain Serpentor. While, unfortunately, it doesn’t bring us the GI Joe Space Shuttle Command Center, it does have a lot going for it. Let’s dive into the Shadow of the Serpent Expansion!
While I was only expecting some new Joes and Leaders, Shadow of the Serpent surprised me with 2 full mission episodes (dubbed Mission 3 and 4) as well as 2 new leaders in the form of Hawk and Storm Shadow. I was a bit confused by this last one, as I always thought Storm Shadow was a villain, but I guess he flipped sides at some point? I’m apparently a bit behind on my GI Joe lore. There are also 20 new cards for the main deck, some new complications, and also new bad guys to deal with.
In addition to the expected Serpentor, players will also face off against Dr. Venom, Firefly, and a new type of Cobra trooper: Ninjas. The ninjas have a special ability that they block tiles in your command center. What’s a command center you say? It’s a set of tiles that will make up your base. Each tile provides the group with a special ability, but it must be built first. Some of these costs up to 10 recruit points to construct. Thankfully, a new mechanic called Group Items allows all players to contribute to the purchase of a tile or card.
Game Experience with the Expansion:
At a risk of spoiling the end score, the Shadow of the Serpent Expansion is everything I’m looking for in a board game expansion. It provides a wealth of variety options all without forcing me to learn a new game in the process. From missions, to leaders, to bad guys, it just provides more of everything in the game.
And not only that, it even throws some new stuff at the players in the form of the Command Center tiles. These, while expensive, can provide some really good abilities. Such as the Stockade that locks up Cobra officers, preventing them from coming back into the game. Or the repair bay that lets you return vehicles at the end of the round, rather than sending them to your discard pile.
I’m sure you are thinking that using the Command Center will probably make the core game easier… and you’d be right. The core cards aren’t made to take advantage of the command center tiles so the game recommends you play on expert mode to balance things out. That being said, even with the new command center tiles, the new missions are no pushover. We lost our first 2-3 games before we were able to finally take down Serpentor.
The missions themselves are about what you’d expect and have a similar feel to the original ones. Mission 3 focuses on Serpentor, how Cobra creates him, and then you have to deal with the fallout as he proceeds to run amok. Mission four is more focused on the command center and ninja troopers. I really liked how each of the two missions centered around a different aspect of the expansion.
As I said above, the Shadow of the Serpent Expansion was a 100% win in my book. It adds new variety, easy to incorporate mechanics, and was just a ton of fun to play. I really don’t have a ton of bad things to say about GI Joe Shadow of the Serpent Expansion. If I had to find a gripe, it would be that the color background of the new officers doesn’t match the others, but as they have zero gameplay effect, I don’t much care. Super picky gamers might be bothered by it though.
If you are a fan of the GI Joe deck building game, then the Shadow of the Serpent Expansion is a must own. Yo Joe!
• Incorrect background color on Cobra officers