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Rethinking Expansions
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Before my "enlightenment" in the greater world of modern strategy games, the idea of expansions was very simple. An expansion was just a new pack of cards that tried to limit the repetition of the ones that came in the game box. They showed up mostly in trivia games and party games. And so expansions were something I enjoyed because they kept games like Cranium and Apples to Apples fresh despite countless plays.

But when I first started listening to the Dice Tower podcast and hanging out at BGG, I learned that expansions are a completely different thing to most gamers. So I figured that when I found a game I liked, I owed it to myself to try out some expansions as well.

Here is my findings based on the expansions that I have rated on BGG (included are my ratings of the expansion and the base game.) Feel free to add your own thoughts about expansions you have tried.
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1. Board Game: BANG! Dodge City [Average Rating:6.91 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.91 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Base Game Rating = 4
Expansion Rating = 3


This was the first expansion that I tried out for one of my games. I didn't really love the original game that much, so I was hoping that this expansion would make it more enjoyable.

Sadly, this expansion made the game even more annoying and fiddly. Now, not only was there confusion over all the symbols, but there was confusion about what the different colored borders meant. The base game simply lacked the fun that I expected and the expansion just made it worse.

I have since given away both the base game and the expansion.
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2. Board Game: Carcassonne: The River [Average Rating:6.94 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.94 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Base Game Rating = 8
Expansion Rating = 7


This one just came in the box with the base game, so I almost don't regard it as an expansion. I don't actively dislike the expansion, but at the same time I don't find much that it really adds to the base game.

We have played Carcassonne several times now and I think we have always used the river, so I guess it's an OK expansion. Although some people are annoyed being told what tile they have to play when they start or end the river.

I still own both the base game and the expansion.
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3. Board Game: The Haunting House 2: The Second Story [Average Rating:5.91 Unranked] [Average Rating:5.91 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Base Game Rating = 7
Expansion Rating = 3


So how can we add to this goofy little horror themed game? By making it take twice as long! Despite what many other geeks think about the base game, I really enjoyed the Haunting House. I bought the game long before I learned about BGG.

The Haunting House is crazy fun and to me it feels a bit like a Scooby-Doo cartoon. You are like Shaggy desperately trying to find your way out of the spooky house. But, in the same way that I wouldn't enjoy watching a two hour long Scooby-Doo episode, this game is only fun at a certain length. The expansion just extended that length without improving the game.

I still own the base game and I'm actively trying to trade away the expansion.
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4. Board Game: Citadels: The Dark City [Average Rating:7.04 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.04 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Base Game Rating = 8
Expansion Rating = 7


Another expansion that came with the base game. It seems a bit wierd that you can't play with the full base game and the expansion at the same time, but I understand why they did that.

Overall, I like some of the added districts, but the roles are a mixed bag. I tend to lean towards the traditional roles, but occasionally we will shift in one of the expansion roles. The expansion doesn't make the base game worse, but I also don't feel like it makes it any better.

I still own both the base game and the expansion.
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5. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: Friends & Foes [Average Rating:7.30 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.30 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Base Game Rating = 10
Expansion Rating = 6


Maybe it's the fact that I just grew so attached to the original game before ever finding out about the expansion. Or maybe it's the fact that the expansion makes the game considerably harder. I'm not sure.

No matter which way you cut it, I'm just not a big fan of this expansion. It actually makes the game feel less thematic to me, and at the same time makes the game feel frustrating instead of fun.

I still own both the base game and the expansion, but after last night I may never play the expansion again.
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6. Board Game: Carcassonne: The Princess & the Dragon [Average Rating:6.67 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.67 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Base Game Rating = 8
Expansion Rating = 2


After reading all the threads and information about the hundreds of expansions to Carcassonne, I finally decided to pick one up at my FLGS. Big Mistake! This expansion could easily have got a 1 from me, but I guess I was feeling kind that day.

Carcassonne is a fun, fairly light, game that I enjoyed playing with my family. When I added this expansion it became extremely fiddly (remembering to move the stupid fairy,) spiteful (knocking other's meeples off the board,) and annoying (setting aside dragon tiles until we finally got a volcano.) We quit with about 15 tiles still to go and vowed never to play that again.

I still own the base game and have traded away the expansion.
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7. Board Game: High Bohn Plus [Average Rating:6.78 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.78 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Base Game Rating = 8
Expansion Rating = 4


Bohnanza was a game we had owned and loved for many years. When I saw this expansion on the shelf at our FLGS, I thought it might be a fun addition and it was thankfully cheap.

Although some of the special abilities the buildings gave us were cool, it made the game confusing. Players would forget all the abilities they had, and would constantly have to re-read all the text. It just took a lot of the fun out of the game and made it a bookkeeping exercise.

I still own the base game and have traded away the expansion.
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8. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Base Game Rating = 7
Expansion Rating = 7


After playing the base game once in real life I became addicted to the online game. The result was that I started memorizing all the route cards. My family didn't enjoy playing as much with me because I knew the routes they had and was playing more nasty and competitive, the way I was used to playing online.

This expansion changed all of that. With the added route cards there is just no way that I'm going to memorize them all. Plus the expansion seems to create more competition getting into key areas, so I find myself too busy trying to complete my own routes to pay any attention to what my opponents need. Not to mention how much my big fat hands appreciate the normal sized cards.

I still own both the base game and expansion, and I don't expect I will ever play the base game again without the expansion.

Conclusion: This has brought me full circle. It appears, based on my experience, that I like expansions that don't change the game but still add more variety to the mix. I have learned that maybe expansions aren't for me, because if I like the base game I don't want it changed. I'll certainly think twice before running out to buy Shadows over Camelot: Merlin's Company and others that I had my eye on.
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9. Board Game: Catan: Seafarers [Average Rating:7.21 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.21 Unranked]
W M Shubert
United States
Lexington
Massachusetts
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Base game: 9
With expansion: 7

Yes, the expansion gives more variety in the layout of Catan. Sometimes it's fun, but a lot of the scenarios drag on way too long. Settlers itself can drag on too long (wheat only on 2, 3, and 12, anybody?), but it happens far more often when you add Seafarers. I usually play without the expansion these days.
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10. Board Game: Vexation [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
Avri Klemer
United States
Brooklyn
New York
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TransAmerica rating = 5
With Vexation = 7 (and likely rising)

I wanted to like TransAmerica, but really, really didn't. Seemed like there was no game in the game . . .

Then I played with Vexation, and there's the fun.

With a little more playtesting, this would have been in the box to start with. Like Carc - The River, I assume it will be added to future editions as an optional, but suggested, extra.
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11. Board Game: A Game of Thrones: A Clash of Kings Expansion [Average Rating:7.86 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.86 Unranked]
Dan Cain
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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Adds a sixth player possibility, as well as many other elements you can use, or not use, with the base game.

Base Game: 9
With Expansion: 10

P.S. The other expansion also includes some nice changes for the game as well. I wouldn't think of playing the game without this expansion though.
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12. Board Game: Lunch Money: Sticks and Stones [Average Rating:6.23 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.23 Unranked]
Dan Cain
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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This set has all the best cards: The Chunk, Cooties, Backlash, etc. This is a must for any Lunch Money fan out there.

Base Game: 9
Expansion: 10
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13. Board Game: Descent: The Road to Legend [Average Rating:8.04 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.04 Unranked]
Steve Cates
United States
Visalia
California
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Descent: Journeys in the Dark = 8
Descent: Well of Darkness = 9
Descent: Altar of Dispair = 9.5
Descent: Road to Legend = 10
Descent: Tomb of Ice = ??


This game kept getting better.
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14. Board Game: Power Grid: The New Power Plant Cards [Average Rating:7.85 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.85 Unranked]
Ryan Strand
United States
Hollywood
Florida
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I just wanted to add some praise for expansions with no bull packaging and pricing.

One of the reasons I am not very fond of expansions is value, or lack of. I don't want to pay $30 for a box as big as the original game just to get a few extra pieces and a lot of empty space.

Every time I see this tiny box of Power Plants at my local store I smile a bit. It's the most honest game package I've seen since Cheapass Games.
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15. Board Game: The Pillars of the Earth: Expansion Set [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
H-B-G
United Kingdom
Halesowen
West Midlands
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Base game rating: 8
With expansion: 9


Pillars of the Earth is a game I like alot, but I don't think I will play the unexpanded game again if the expansion is available. The expansion adds the potential for more players and more variety not least due to the fact that not all craftsmen will be used in every game.

In addition I was always a bit concerned about the scarcity of builder spaces in the 4 player game and preferred the 3 player experience. The expanded board solves this problem for 4 players and makes a good 5 player game as well.

The modified Master builder placement (specified for 5 or 6 players, but I think good for fewer as well) is just one more reason why this is an example of an expansion improving an already good game.
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16. Board Game: Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot GREEN Booster [Average Rating:6.42 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.42 Unranked]
Max Jamelli
United States
Chambersburg
Pennsylvania
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When I think expansions, I think 2 games immediately. Carcassonne and KB. Carc's expansions (to me) just make the game longer, which is fine.

The green deck was the 4th expansion to this card game. (5th if you count the yellow deck which was sold with the base)

KB's expansions introduced too many new variables. Zodiacs, super heroes, bingo, military rankings, etc. It was overkill. For a game that was criticized for a lack of clear and concise rules, adding rules just killed it for me.

Base game rating: 6 (I since lowered to 5)
expansion rating up to green: 6 (since lowered to 5)
Expansions past green: 4
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17. Board Game: The Talisman Dungeon [Average Rating:6.49 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.49 Unranked]
Till Wolf
Germany
Berlin
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I was so excited when I purchased this one ages ago when I was shopping for christmas with my grandma. I with the new Characters and board and stuff I thought wow this is a great expansion.

But when I think of it today, it's nothing more (except the new characters) than finding a damn door (and that's like looking for a needle in a haystack) to the damn dungeon then crawl through the dungeon (which cards are much more dangerous then the basic game cards) just to get a single W6 roll and the snippy chance to make it directly to the Crown of Command.

Sure if you are on the loosing street this can be your last chance, but otherwise I never saw someone entering the dungeon in (literally) years. snore
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18. Board Game: Puerto Rico: Expansion I – New Buildings [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
Steve Wagner
United States
Wood River
Nebraska
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Base Game Rating - 10
Expansion Rating - 9 (but might go down more)

I like the buildings in the expansion. They're almost as good as the original. But I never seem to play them. The originals are still very interesting and I don't want to replace them.
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19. Board Game: Zooloretto: The Petting Zoo [Average Rating:6.91 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.91 Unranked]
Steve Wagner
United States
Wood River
Nebraska
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This represents the 5 little expansions, as I think of Aquaretto as a whole different game.

Base Game Rating - 9
Expansions (all 5 averages) - 6.5

The 5 expansions are interesting, but barely necessary; except for the petting zoo. That expansion I use every time I play, just because it is very useful for everyone.

I've never used the building sites and don't think I ever will, I've used the additional enclosures a few times, the shops rarely, and the polar bear I've probably used once.
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20. Board Game: Power Grid: Benelux/Central Europe [Average Rating:8.07 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.07 Unranked]
Just call me Erik
United States
Waldorf
Maryland
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Power Grid Expansion: Benelux/Central Europe

Base Game Rating: 10
Expansion Rating: 10

Power grid is my favorite game, and this Benelux expansion was the first one I got for it. Initially just a way to change things up once in a while, the quick, forgiving, and easygoing nature of the benelux board made Power Grid a little less of a turn-off, especially later in the evening. Benelux also offers lots of interesting choices, with its reversed oil market and rules governing wind power being more available. Because it plays a little quicker and is a little easier, We play Benelux more than any other map for PG, even the base game.

STATUS: Still own base game and expansion, This expansion has become our default map.
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21. Board Game: Risk 2042 [Average Rating:6.38 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.38 Unranked]
Mark Brown
United States
North Liberty
Iowa
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I like expansions that turn a game into a totally different game. Risk 2042 adds tanks and other miniatures to Risk and in the process adds a whole layer of strategy that morphs it into something new.

Something else to love? It's 'unofficial' and from a small 3rd party company. Sweet!
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22. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: China / South America [Average Rating:7.84 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.84 Unranked]
S. Deniz Bucak
United States
Havertown
Pennsylvania
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The base map for Age of Steam is very good, makes for an enjoyable game with a range of numbers of players. The expansions make the game awesome though. You can tune the game to how many people you have (all the way down to 1), explore space and underwater, make it harder, etc. It gives the game infinite replayability. Some are hard to find, but a lot of them can be printed out for free from files right here on BGG.

China is one of my favorites.
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23. Board Game: Ca$h 'n Gun$: Yakuzas [Average Rating:6.61 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.61 Unranked]
Jared
United States
Berthoud
Colorado
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Short and sweet: I think this expansion is an effective and fairly neat way to expand the game to 9 players, but I prefer the more simplistic gameplay of the base game.
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24. Board Game: Galaxy Trucker: Rough Road Ahead [Average Rating:7.68 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.68 Unranked]
Jared
United States
Berthoud
Colorado
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A simple print-and-play expansion that's excellent. We often use this as a way to help balance the game when new people are playing; the Rough Road cards only affect the experienced and/or good players. Basically, once you've gotten good enough at the base game that your ship isn't getting destroyed much at all, just add this expansion and regain that fear!
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