Expansions – What are they good for?

Another article that I wrote for Board Game Crate. This is for #blogmas2020

If you’ve ever been to a games expo or one of the better games stores, you may have encountered countless expansions of one of your favourite games. As you peruse this dazzling display you see that each one promises extra bits, more cards, alternative boards and Cthulhu.

Although many of these expansions won’t exactly break the bank, the sheer number of expansions accompanying some games can hit the bank account pretty hard.

Expansions are content add-ons (DLC, if you like) for a game that either couldn’t be released with the original game due to costs or time or are subsequent ideas that have been made available later. The base game will work fine without them, but if you are thinking about getting an expansion, consider the following:

If you already love the game as it is and enjoy the particular nuisances of it, then expanding it may well change that, and not necessarily to your liking. Try it first.

If you’ve played a game so much that it no longer has any surprises for you, then an expansion can reinvigorate your interest in it by giving you new goals to aim for or extra things to do. Dixit can benefit with more cards to talk about, King of Tokyo/New York gets monster variety with the Power Cards, Catan can be reimagined with new gameplay, and everyone needs more Cthulhu (apparently).

Don’t feel like you have to get every single expansion to a game to make it work. Pick the expansions that work for you. You don’t like Cthulhu – then don’t get that expansion. Some expansions may also be doubled up (Smash Up) for increased variety.

If other players in your gaming group also have the game, it might be worth syncing your expansion lists so that you don’t double-up unnecessarily. When they come to you, you can play your expansion, and vice versa, thereby increasing your gaming experience further.

If player limits are a problem, some change the game to support a greater number of players (Small World, Cosmic Encounter, Catan).

If you encounter an expansion of a game you particularly enjoy, it might be worth picking it up on the off-chance, you may be surprised and you may regret turning it down. I am constantly lamenting not picking up the long out of print expansion StarCraft: Brood War when I had the chance.

Once you’ve got an expansion you may wish to keep it in its own box allowing you to play the original (vanilla) untainted game – particularly if introducing to new players. Or you can fully integrate it all into the base game box (if it fits) and play the complete experience. Cards from expansions are usually marked so they can be identified and separated out again if need be.

At the end, no one is forcing you to buy an expansion but their relatively low price tags can make them idea gift ideas or even the answer to that difficult question: So what do you want for your birthday?

Games Night 2nd November 2017

With the evening full of the expectancy of four players and Firefly: The Game being the most voted for, TS turned up with two unexpected plus one’s: BS and Vis. A very warm welcome to Vis and welcome back to BS.
Eventually we settled on:
Cosmic Encounter
by Fantasy Flight Games this time with the newly added Cosmic Storm expansion which added Space Stations and even more aliens to the mix.
BS picked the Worm and chose Red
DA went for the Wormhole and chose Purple
KV became the Tide and chose Yellow
MC played the Arcade and chose Green
TS decided on the Bulwark and chose Blue
Vis was the Converter and chose Black

MC randomly chose himself to start. Very quickly the pattern emerged of everyone allying with the offensive side and overwhelming the defender. By the fifth turn (TS) everyone (except for MC and TS) was on 4 points. TS had already survived an attack lead by V. TS’s first round against KV saw MC reach 4 points (the only player who he could ally with without giving them the game). His second round was a hazard round, which reversed the direction of turn order, leaving KV never getting a turn.

Vis helmed the attack against DA who crumbled under the overwhelming numbers.
BS, KV, MC and Vis were victorious.
Noteworthy players were:
BS who held 3 space stations at the end of the game
KS who achieved victory despite never getting a turn.

Next up we played

Repos Production
Only KV and MC had played this one before, so there were some interesting plays…

The final scorecard looked a bit like this:

Player BS DA KV MC TS Vis
VPs from Conquests 15 7 14 7 -1 2
VPs from Coins 3 5 5 5 2 6
VPs from Wonder Built 0 10 10 10 10 0
VPs from Blue Buildings 8 17 13 17 20 6
VPs from Yellow Buildings 0 3 7 3 0 10
VPs from Purple Buildings 3 14 7 14 0 7
VPs from Green Buildings 2 0 0 0 9 1
Final Score 31 56 56 56 40 32

Well done KV and MC! KV double-checked the rules regarding ties and pointed out the player with the most coins broke ties. This helped him none, as MC had 17 coins to KV’s 15. Hooray for MC!

Games Expo 2017

This year I went to a Games Expo for the first time ever.

One game that caught my eye was Lander.
It’s still in the prototype stage set for Kickstarter in 2018, but looks very appealing. I was allowed a small dark blue 3D printed component.

Of course you can’t go to a games expo and not play any games.
Beasts of Balance was the first one I got to try out. I’ve been watching this one since it’s prototype days and have been wanting to give it a go.

Next-up was the new multimedia game:
It’s a trading card game with an accompanying free app with articulated and equippable figures that can interact with the game. We had a go at one of the mini games using the figure as controllers. It can be played for free on the app without the figures.

I was encouraged to have a go at Stak Bots by DogEared Games. I’d already picked up the yellow expansion but never played it. Walked away from this with the base game and the red expansion.

Finally, we had a play of one scenario in the Walking Dead: All Out War. A miniatures game of zombie survival by Mantic Games. With numerous expansions and scenarios to play through. Based off of the comic series not the TV one.

Survived the encounter with all the living still alive and as a draw with SC who managed an excellent double head-shot with a baseball bat.

My Haul:

A 2-4 player game of dice placement and point-breaking by Tinkerbot Games.
A story-telling card game where players tell a story according to their cards. By Atlas Games.
A card-drafting game played in 3 quick rounds. By Gamewright.
A stand-alone expansion to Star Realms but if mixed with the original can now be a 2-4 player game. By White Wizard Games
Another full game in a tiny box by Gamelyn Games. This one has resources, wars and building.
Smash the other player’s stack of Stak Bots with your own Stak Bots. Can add the red expansion to the yellow expansion I already own.
Expansion for King of Tokyo by IELLO Games. Adds Cthulhu to the game. Yay!
Expansion to Cosmic Encounter by Fantasy Flight Games. More alien races, and now including the Space Stations.

All in all it was a good, eye-opening time. Very glad I went.

Games Night 11th May 2017

A very warm welcome to KV, who found us via Google. Well done Google.
Cosmic Encounter
was dug out first.
KV (Red) chose the Disease
MC (Black) chose the Machine
PH (Green) chose the Philanthropist

The Disease started it’s invasion from the get-go and forged a colony in the Philanthropist’s system with the Machine who deigned to assist for a quick point.
The Philanthropist retaliated…badly.
The Machine placed a foothold in the Disease’s system, and pretty much stopped doing anything interesting for the remainder of the game. Apart from playing the Disease flare resulting in it going to the Disease.
The Philanthropist manage a forge a couple of colonies but, by then, the Disease was spreading using it’s formidable powers and quickly won the game.
Hurrah for KV!

Next up we brazenly brought forth

It’s been a few years since PH and MC played this as a 2-player, and our memories of it wern’t great.
After half an hour staring at the rules (and the supplemental) we finally got going.
KV (Red) belonged to the Guild of Alchemists
MC (Black) belonged to the Guild of Assassins
PH (Green) also belonged to the Guild of Assassins

Three hours later all three of us were attempting the Final Spell. PH, who’d been trying the longest, looked at the clock, realised it was 12:15 AM, decided to stop mucking about and rolled two winning numbers.
A much better game with more players. Should play this again soon now we know what we’re doing with it.
Hurrah for PH!

The loser’s couch for MC.

Games Night 13th October 2016

A warm welcome to EM this week.
While waiting for PH, we decided to start off with:
Rumble in the House
with the intention of getting about a round in and then PH turning up. As it happens, we managed all 3 rounds with the scores being: AL-25, MC-24, SF-21, EM-20.
Rumbling in the house
While discussing which game to play (no votes this week) PH turned and and we decided to make him choose.
He chose:
Cosmic Encounter
The races we became were:
AL Trader, Orange
EM Sorcerer, Yellow
MC Ethic, Purple
PH Virus, Green
SF Mercenary, Black
Significant events:
The Virus and Trader races were switched.
MC, PH and SF all lost their racial ability.
The Hazard card making all inactive racial abilities active again.
PH losing almost all his ships to the Warp
EM not having a single alien colony in their home system, despite our best efforts.
MC getting about a third of the deck as his hand.
Playing Cosmic Encounter
Final scores:
AL: 4
EM: 5
MC: 3
PH: 4
SF: 0
Well done EM. Tough luck PH, this is the first time you didn’t win this game.

Games Night 1st September 2016

Two games this week.
The first was:
Escape From The Aliens In Outer Space
Being beginners, we played the Galilei map, but included the item cards in the mix.
Once the players began creeping about the darkened interior of the ship, it was very quickly apparent that MC and AL were the humans and SC and SF were the Aliens. SC (the fast alien) raced down to where the hapless humans were fleeing towards escape hatch 3 while SF took a more circuitous route via escape pod 4. When the humans realised that they were both trying for escape hatch 3 with SC right on their tail, they both did a quick switch and high-tailed it to escape hatch 4, oblivous to the fact that the other human also did so. At one point SC moved onto MC’s sector, but MC (the Engineer) kept it quiet and managed to slip on by. Both humans blundered past SF, who also missed his quarry as he too moved upon escape hatch 3.
AL (the Medic) beat MC to escape hatch 4 by 3 sectors and successfully launched. MC then detoured to escape hatch 1, while SF jumped about escape hatch 4 and SC hunted about escape hatch 2. MC reached escape hatch 1 and successfully launched, leaving the two aliens perplexed.
On an interesting side note, despite there being 40 clearly marked location boxes numbered in rows, no two players managed to fill the boxes in the same way. SC chose to go against convention and worked down the page, AL managed to miss noting a turn’s move entirely, SF included the spaces he skipped over when he moved 2 sectors and MC managed to fill them in in sequential order. I’m not saying whose way was best, but there were better ways and not so good ways and just plain different ways.

Next up was:
Cosmic Encounters

AL (purple) played as the Empath
MC (black) operated as the Observer
SC (orange) explored as the Deuce
SF (yellow) became the Cudgele

The four aliens were pretty evenly matched, however AL was able to wheedle his way onto the offensive side and also successfully Negotiate enough times to comfortable win the game.
Cosmic Ending
AL won with 5
MC scored 2
SC scored 3
SF scored 2

Games Night 14th September

3 players this week:

Cosmic Encounters

Was the game of choice.

MC was black and chose the Merchant PH was green and picked the Magician PN was orange and was the Disease

MC had the honour of going first and did appalingly throughout acquiring a total of two new colonies, one of which was blown up along with the planet thanks to PN’s technology.

PN led a devastating attack and shot up through the scoreboard, before losing wind and many ships. The loss of three home colonies removed his Disease ability which further hampered him.

PH Played a deceptively conservative game, and once MC and PN had burned themselves out, calmly went on to win.

Well done PH.

With plenty of time left,

Smash Up Core Set

was brought forth (a surprisingly popular one).

MC tried out the Wizard Kitty Cats and won with 16 (but -1 for MADNESS)

PH went all freaky-mad with the Miskatonic University Elder Things. He finished with 14 (and a negative MADNESS point)

PN chose the Ghost Cyborg Apes. A contradictory hand and built up the hand with the apes but needed a small hand for the Ghosts. 8 was the finish there.