When we play an awesome new game for the first time, it can make us fall in love. We get it to the table over and over again, developing strategies and exploring the gameplay. It’s not long before the thoughts of storylines outside of the core game start to creep into our minds. We start to wonder about what new rules could affect the game in different ways.
For this week’s CMON Feature Friday, we’re taking a look at game expansions and what they add to the games we love.
Expansions in board games are pretty commonplace these days. The chances are that if a game does well commercially and critically, it’s going to earn an addition. Expansions can come in a lot of different forms, from a few additional cards or components, to fully developed standalone sequels to games.
Whenever you tamper with something that everyone loves, there is the potential for messing up everything that was great about the original (I’m looking at you Kingdom of the Crystal Skull!). At the same time, you get the chance to give fans more of what made the game popular in the first place. You can explore different mechanics, expand the potential options, and adjust the difficulty level. The challenge is changing the game enough that the expansion offers something new, but not fundamentally changing the experience. Here are some good reasons for expansions.
More Story to Tell
Games that are based on a narrative structure create a lot of space for an expansion. For example, Zombicide, Arcadia Quest, or The Others lead players through a story. The tale progresses and the participants get to see it evolve over time. Ideally, a scenario or campaign-based game will end with a thrilling climactic battle and everyone will be wishing there was more game to play. With expansions, fans of the series can delve deeper into its mythos. Designers, publishers, and artists get to return to a well-loved storyline and take it in new directions. Some base games will be designed with an expansion already in mind, while others require the team to exercise their creative muscles again to return to world they’ve created. Games feel a bit like books or movies, especially when they’re steeped in theme. Expanding on an existing universe is like picking up a new book in a beloved setting.
A New Player Has Entered the Game
Let’s face it, you’re popular. Should you have to put aside your favorite four-player game just because another friend has arrived? Expansions are often the result of the demands of gaming groups to add a fifth, sixth, seventh, etc. player. Games are designed around a theme and mechanic. Certainly, the player count is considered when a game is being made, but the end result is not necessarily going to fit with all situations. An expansion is an easy way to take a popular game and make it work for more people. Now, for some games, the addition of another player won’t affect the game in a negative way, but for others, it can upset the delicate balance.
Let’s Take It Up (or down) a Notch
Often, an expansion can be added to a board game to introduce a new mechanic or a number of new mechanics. With the Potion Explosion: The Fifth Ingredient expansion, players can add different elements, like Scolding and Reward tokens, or Professor tiles to change the dynamic of the original game and create a new layer of strategy. Massive Darkness has a number of different Enemy boxes and Heroes vs. Monster boxes that offer new challenges and new rules within the overall structure of the core box. Then you have an expansion like The Grizzled: At Your Orders, which adds elements like Mission cards and player standees. However, probably the most interesting addition that At Your Orders provides is the ability to set the difficulty level of the cooperative game. This was welcome news for some fans of one of the hardest co-op games ever designed.
What do you think of expansions to board games? When one comes out for a game you like, is it a must buy, or are you content with just the base? What is your favorite expansion? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #CMONFeatureFriday.