What about expansions?


I'm curious how y'all think about expansions. 

Expansions are weird beasts, and I'm sometimes surprised at how popular they are. At the same time I really want the expansions for Scythe, so I can understand the appeal. 

Personally I'm not a big fan of expansions. I will play with them, there are some games that are dramatically improved by their expansions, looking at you Catan. And, I have bought expansions and will probably continue to do so.

Broadly speaking there are two sorts of expansions. There are expansions that just add new material. The Dominion expansions fit in this category. There are also those that fundamentally change/add/remove game mechanics. I tend to have more reservations about the latter form. 

I have some reservations about expansions, but I also have a deeply personal taste that inclines me towards buying a new game rather than a expansion for an existing game. So my reservations may have a confirmation bais. 

Reservation 1

In games with asymmetrical faction abilities expansions *can* unbalance the factions. For instance, in the wind gambit expansion for scythe, the airships really hurt those who's native ability permits them to cross the river sooner. 

Reservation 2

They often make teaching a bear. 

Reservation 3

How did the designer want you to play the game? I believe that most designers design with a optimal play in mind. For instance, this game can play 2-4 but it plays best at three. I am interested whenever possible to discover where and how the game was designed to be played. It is clear that some games were designed with expansions in mind. Talking about Scythe again, on the board of the base game there are spots for two factions that don't appear in the base game. So, I should probably buy the Raiders from Afar expansion since it seems like it was designed with those in mind. But, it feels like often expansions are a afterthought. "Game x has lots of fans, let's make em a expansion and stick to em." Or, on Kickstarter, "get all in now... So we can hit the pledge goals that have expansions." in both of these cases I question the effects of the expansion on the game itself. 

There is a subset of this reservation that says that too often expansions are " fixing" things that didn't show up during playtesting, or that the expansions themselves are not sufficiently play tested. 

Reservation 4

In games where expansions add more material without changing the game that much the expansions can lead to bloat. I love Dominion. I love the base game. I love playing the base game with one expansion. But I know people who have everything that was ever made for Domion. Playing their sets gets tiring. 

I don't feel like I have it all right about expansions. Just wanting to write down some of my thoughts and see what y'all thought.  I figured I could maybe get some viewpoints that help balance mine out. 

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Premium User15 months ago

I look at expansions on a case by case basis.  It's challenging and there are several factors that go into the decision some of which you touched on above.

1. What does it add to the game?  I have all the expansions for Scythe because each one adds something significant to the game.  The Core game is great but all the expansions add enough for me to feel like they are worth the investment.  I haven't played the Wind Gambit yet but plan to eventually once we have a full table of players who have played at least once.  And since I host this game 4-6 times per year it will eventually happen.  On the other hand I love Spirit Island but only play it 2-3 times a year.  I haven't even played all the content in the base game yet and so getting expansions feels unnecessary for a game I play a little less and already has content that takes awhile to play through.  I could say the same for Robinson Crusoe.

#2 Some games need an expansion - I think Tapestry fits this mold and needs an expansion to give the science track a boost.  Doesn't need a big expansion, just a tweak to augment the game.  Dice Forge needs the expansion to keep the game from running out of steam.  Anachrony needs the exosuits to really feel like you're getting the full experience.  Dominion doesn't technically NEED the expansions but having 2-3 to mix in is nice (I agree that all of them are overkill)

#3 Some expansions are just more fun.  Dominion falls into this area.  Wingspan fits this for sure.  I'm not saying the expansion is more fun than the based game...but in Wingspan, the increased birds of which none are the same and end round powers are well worth the $25 for the expansion.  I have 2 Firefly expansions that add so much great content to the game its just worth the investment.

Supporter15 months ago

No. 2

I do not like when games "need" expansions. I would rather have a good game to start with, one that I can expand if I so desire.

Premium User15 months ago

I generally agree with this.  Tapestry is a rare exception where I feel the base game is very good but it could still use a tweak.  Anachrony fits in that category too and in that case I can understand why they did the exosuits separately as the based game would be like $150 with the exosuits 

Supporter15 months ago

Anochrony with the exosuits is a good example. 

15 months ago

I mostly look for a new experience when shopping for a game, not necessarily a modified experience, which is why expansions are not always my cup of tea. I have a few games I would for sure get an expansion for just due to how much I love them like Gaia Project and The Quacks of Quedlinburg. Quacks already has an expansion that I am jonesing for, but I have no clue if GP ever will. If it does I will most likely pursue that. 

Supporter15 months ago

If I know a game needs to be fixed with an expansion I will definitely avoid that game unless it looks like something I would absolutely love.

I often use the word "need" for an expansion if I love a game already.  Therefore I need it because I think it'll make a great game even better.  My number one example of this is the two expansions that I own for Viticulture.  I think the base game is awesome, and would love just playing that if I never played the expansions.  Having said that using the Rhine Valley Cards and Tuscany Board are a must for me now that I have them.  I think they add a lot of fun complexity.  But again they aren't necessary to make Viticulture great.

The other thing I consider is total price.  So I think I've spent a total of $65 on Viticulture.  For me a base and two expansions for $65 for a game I absolutely love is not too much to pay.  But If a game has a $100 price tag and still needs expansions I will definitely skip that game.

For me another example of expansions I love but don't need are Root.  In this sense like I said before I "need" them because I think they add to my overall game experience and add complexity and replay-ability to the game.  Replay-ability is my last criteria.  If I get a lot more game with an expansion then it's a yes.  Hopefully that all makes sense.  Again I think my Root buy in will be about $80 once I get the Underworld Expansion.  That is a lot of game for $80.  And a lot of really good game to boot.

Supporter15 months ago

I can see that. And, with root, would but the expansion with the solo mode solely for that mode. Not because I think that root needs to be fixed. 

Supporter15 months ago

Yeah you don't need the solo game at all.  I actually was happy just doing the print and play version of the bots on cardstock.  Not quite as nice as what you'd get from the company, but enough for me to have a great solo experience.  I don't know if Cole is still thinking about another expansion, but I'd love to see some kind of Root campaign expansion.  Crap, I wish I hadn't thought of that.  Now I'm not going to stop wishing for it.

Supporter15 months ago

Yep, be careful what you wish for. 

Supporter15 months ago

I like buying expansions because I have a strong fear of missing out. Sometimes I sit down to play a game and think about the extra content I’m not playing with and it almost gives me low level anxiety. 

That said I think most of the games that I own or want expansions for are ones that actually dramatically improve the base game. 

Examples: Scythe, A Feast for Odin, Star Wars Rebellion 

Supporter15 months ago

I do think scythe is a bit of an edge case. The expansions, except for the airships one, were in the world before scythe was released. 

I could see this like anachrony. It was just too expensive to make everything in one box. 

15 months ago

Yeah buying an expansion is hard for me. Sometimes a lot of money for something that isn’t always necessarily a new game. I think for certain games it can be necessary, like for Arkham horror CG, since it is primarily a campaign game.

regardless it’s a hard purchase unless it’s a game that I love.

Supporter15 months ago

I do cut them slack if they are adding a different mode like solo, or campaign, or...? 

15 months ago

Totally, promo cards are so annoying haha “I want that but it’s $10” 

15 months ago

At this time in my board gaming life, I'd rather expand a game I love than buy a new game that's more of a risk. I'm becoming more and more particular with what I buy and an expansion is something that's an easy thing to move on. With a new game I need to be sure I'll like it as I have less and less time to play games and even less to try to resell them.

Supporter15 months ago

That’s the kicker, right? Add an entire new game to your collection that will fight for your time OR expand a game you already play to make the game experience more rich AND not have to add to your shelf of shame. 

Supporter15 months ago

You don't put expansions on your shelf of shame? 

Supporter15 months ago

I mean I guess I would if I didn’t play it. But typically I’m expanding a game I’m already playing 

Supporter15 months ago

I agree with this sentiment.  I mostly look for something that adds something new that changes the game a bit but doesn't fundamentally change the game.  I'm not big into extra content except for small expansions like IA @skurvy5 amiright?

Supporter15 months ago

Lol. Imperial Assault is an exception to the normal expansion rule. 

Supporter15 months ago

Do you ever play Skirmish?  I may have asked before.  I do over Skype with a buddy every once in a while.  That makes the small expansions a little more palatable.  I know I'll use the Skirmish maps and cards.

Supporter15 months ago


Supporter15 months ago

That does make some sense, But, I am definately in those shoes.

Premium User15 months ago

Well it's your money and your games, so I don't think there's any need to balance your opinions out. You can spend your money and play your games however you see fit.

Personally I think expansions are fine. If it's a game I really enjoy, and the expansion will either improve it further or extend the life of the game for me, I'll consider it.

Owner15 months ago

What would you say was an expansion that was "worth it" the most to you?

Premium User15 months ago

Well I just got the 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon expansion, and while I've only played it once so far, it's a really great expansion that adds even more agonizing decisions to the game.

My copy of Evolution is the version that comes with Evolution: Climate baked in, which is a testament to how good that expansion is and how seamlessly it fits into the base game. At this point I wouldn't recommend buying Evolution without it, not because the game is bad without it, but because it's just so easy to add in and adds so much more variability and opportunity for strategy to the game.

15 months ago

I've never really been one for expansions, mainly for many of the reasons you listed. Every once in a while, an expansion will make a game better or add new modules for replayability. Two that come to mind:

Village: Port - It REPLACES a whole section of the board with a more interesting combination of travel spaces and actions that can be done. By replacing, instead of adding, it doesn't bloat the game and teaching isn't any worse.

Pandemic: The Cure - Experimental Meds - It adds some new ways to play and adds some more roles that can be used in any of the variants. Being able to easily swap out different modules made it worth it to me.

Supporter15 months ago

Correct. I do not want to say all expansions are bad. But I do think that we are a group age someone's a little quick to just buy any expansion that comes out. 

Linked Games
Dominion: Second Edition
Scythe: Invaders from Afar
Scythe: The Wind Gambit