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?

UK Games Expo 2018

On Friday 1st of June 2018, I returned to the UK Games Expo at the NEC in Birmingham.

I had a very specific list of things to get.

First up, I managed to get ahold of the Terraforming Mars expansion

which provides two alternative boards on which to play to increase game diversity.

Next up, I picked to the two Abyss expansions
making Abyss a 5-player game with more stuff to do.

One particular item I really was hoping for was

thankfully I did find a copy, which I believe was the last one available in the entire Expo! Even one of the guys at the stall I purchased it from thought they’d already sold out of it (they only brought 4 copies). I then spotted it and didn’t let go.

Another expansion was for King Of Tokyo

so that all my monsters now have power cards, not just the ones from the expansions I’ve already picked up.

I then picked up a second expansion for Terraforming Mars:

which also allows the terraforming of Venus by using another terraforming tracker (this one’s not mandatory so shouldn’t extend the game time too much).

At the Dice Tower booth I picked up two promo cards:

Which was very nice. I even saw Tom Vasel in one of his hats.

After a little more wandering we stopped for lunch.

Then made our way to the DogEared Games booth, where I spotted the guy who sold me the StakBots decks last year. This year he got me interested in playing Colour Chess against his colleague.

After completely destroying him, we picked up a copy:

Back to awandering we spotted the Catan Sheep

Giant version games, including 7 Wonders, Ticket To Ride, Colt Express and Takenoko

We visited the good people at GeekNSon and picked up a couple of items.

The Wargaming section was most impressive, all those sets are amazing, particularly the Battle Of Hoth

During the wanderings I also picked up


The we once again passed this stand

and bought a copy.

In the Catan section we had a sit down to play

with two chaps called Gavin and Garath.

During the game we used our newly acquired GeekNSon Dice Tower

So many people came over to ask where we got it from.
Gavin won.

We did some more wandering and saw some stuff:
The family zone with games to be played on nearby tables.

The GeekNSon Crew:

And just a few games stalls:

The last game we picked up was

Shortly before it closed, we made our way out.

That was a lot of fun!

For a closer look at the things we picked up check up the video I did on the subject:

Games Night 19th July 2017

Four of us this week
DA provided the initial entertainment: Fantasy Flight Games’

PH (red Khorne) kicked off and placed his Bloodthirster Greater Daemon first near the South East, effectively blocking the land in the far East and South East from the rest of the board.
MC (green Nurgle) was next also placed his Greater Deamon, the Great Unclean One first in the North
KV (cyan Tzeentch) started by placing his cultists in the middle.
DA (purple Shaalesh) started off in the East.

For the most part, DA and PH squabbled over the South with KV and MC bickering over the middle to the west.
PH’s dominated starting land was the first to be destroyed, allowing DA’s migration across the South. MC dominated the North and made a nuisance of himself with KV. KV occupied most of the west, but scored little to none from it until his main western territory was destroyed. After trailing so, so, so far behind for much of the game, KV did eventually start to close the gap. However, MC was heavily involved in the destruction of the two northern territories which pushed him over 50 points, thereby winning the game. PH was not far behind, then DA then KV.

Next up we played two rounds of Iello Games’

MC won the right to start so did as newly acquired Cthulhu
KV wreaked destruction as the mighty Robot Bunny
DA stomped about as the Meka Dragon
PH caused mayhem as the Kraken.
The Kraken quickly donned the Princess Costume and scored many points dressed up like that.
The Meka Dragon also score many points, but succumbed to damage and blew up.
Cthulhu and the Robot Bunny gained steady points, but not enough to keep up with the victorious Princess Kraken.

Round two saw the Kraken kick off…and die. PH went home.
He was barely in the car when the Vampire Cthulhu, who wasn’t anywhere near the city at the time, got sent back to wherever it is the Old Ones hang out when they’re not trying to take over reality.
All that was left was the mechanical mayhem of the Robot Bunny and the Ghost Meka Dragon. Together, they almost caused as much destruction as Superman.
In the end, the Robot Bunny managed to attain the 20 point goal.

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 7th July 2016

With 4 players expected, PH and MC had to find something to do while AL and SF were delayed upon finding SF’s stolen bicycle chained to a fence one the way over. There’s a story involving the police, armed police, the fire service and a penknife, but that’s not why we’re here…

So, with just the two of us we had a quick game of:
King Of Tokyo

MC played as Boogie Wookie against PH’s Cyber Bunnie.
Boogie Woogie was first into Tokyo and dominated for a bit before slinking off to lick his wounds.
Boogie Woogie vs. The Cyber Bunny
Cyber Bunny wasn’t in Tokyo long, but was rolling some serious points. Boogie Woogie managed to grow a second head and gained an extra die but lost out in the end to the Cyber Bunny’s crippling final roll of five 3’s. One of these days we’ll get to play this with more that 2 players…

Next up came:
Star Trek CCG
MC saw red as the Klingons and PH felt a bit green with the Romulans. We used the pre-constructed decks that MC devised many a year ago.
After a quick appraisal of the rules – it’s been a long time since this was last played – the missions and dilemmas were laid out and play commenced. Both players suffered from an acute case of not being able to shuffle worth a damn. Finally usable stuff came forth and PH was quick to complete his first two missions before losing his entire away team to a wall of fire.
Romulans vs. Klingons
MC finally got underway and, though thwarted on a few missions, quickly completed a host of missions. Neither side were willing to undergo a combat situation. AL and SF finally made an appearance so Star Trek was quickly concluded in MCs favour as he was comfortably in the lead with only 3 missions available for PH to catch up with.


With the joint highest number of votes (2), MC had steeled himself with the prospect of playing something cooperatively.
So here goes:
Specialties were:
AL – Researcher
MC – Medic
PH – Dispatcher
SF – Operations expert
MC headed of to Europe to deal with the contagion there while SF travelled to South America and set up a fresh new Research Station and find the cure to the Yellow Lurgie. Soon, the world was safe with this now-extinct disease. MC soon found the antidote to Black Cubes and things were looking well in hand, until suddenly the Blue Screen of Death exhausted its supply of cubes and plunged the world into a permanent state of Game Over You Lose!
It's the Blue Screen of Death!!!

Games Night 7th April

Only two players this week.
Kicked off with:
King Of Tokyo
PH played as the thing that’s “the most green”. Also known as the Kraken.
MC played as the Bookie Woogie from the Halloween expansion.
With the simple rules quickly explained the mano e mano battle for Tokyo commenced. MC couldn’t roll anything of any merit. PH couldn’t stop rolling 3s. The game concluded with PH attaining 20 points with MC not far behind.

Colt Express rolled into play next.
MC played the mysterious Ghost while PH played the thieving Cheyenne. Ghost had no problems hitting a lady and did so very successfully too. At game end, neither player managed to get hold of one of the two available lockboxes. Ghost ended up with the most money, having removed 2 gems from Cheyenne.

Following on from this, the Ultramarines stormed the a space hulk in:
MC played the part of the gun-ho Space Marines whilst PH took on the role of the sinister forces of Chaos. The first mission was played. From the moment the boarding craft doors opened, the Space Marines were set upon by hoards of alien nasties who put up a resistance akin to warm butter. The Secondary Objective Android was a complete pushover as was the heavy weapon Chaos Marine and the Chaos Marine Commander.
All too easy
Things were looking good until a Genestealer made an appearance. The Ultramarine with the basic bolter was torn apart first, closely followed by the autocannon dude.
 Game over, man! Game over!
Despite a couple of decimating shots by the plasma rifle guy, the rocket launcher looney fell next. Finally the Genestealer fell to the frantic hackings of the sword wielding Ultramarine Commander.
 Pretty maids all in a row
The determined duo pushed on into a room holding the two Chaos Marines and a couple of Orcs.
It could be worse
A weapons malfunction saw the plasma rifle guy have to switch for a bolter just before the Dreadnaught joined the fray.
It's worse
Having used a handy medkit, the Commander dealt sword-swishing battle against the superior numbers whilst his companion in combat turn tail and ran screaming back to the landing craft. Despite taking a few of the enemy down, the Commander soon fell.
Leaving the Dreadnaught behind, the remaining hoard chased down the spineless Ultramarine hoping that another Genestealer would emerge from wherever it is they emerge. It didn’t and the last surviving Ultramarine dove back into the landing craft and to safety.
Final score: MC: 52, PH: 65