Making a game that people love is no easy feat. Expanding a game can be even harder. Do it well though, and you'll give fans more ways to show their love. Here's some ideas we noticed consistently in game expansions that we really enjoy playing. First, they recognize what people love about the core game and offer more of that thing. Second, they help players feel like they’ve leveled up (everyone likes to level up). Third, they are simple and focused. One or two concepts that ask players to look at the main game with fresh eyes is all it takes for an expansion to feel impactful. Below, we share some of our favorite board game expansions.
Tyrants of the Underdark consistently delivers on a solid game experience every time it hits the table. The deck-building mechanics of the game allow for a unique game experience each play, and keeps us coming back for more. Some deck builders can start to feel stale with its offerings but the design decision in Tyrants to mix two half-decks during setup to create the main deck for the game is what continues to make this game replay-able. This is also why the Expansion Decks are at the top of my list. They are simple in its execution and adds two more half-decks to the mix. There are no extra mechanics, no filler content, just more of what you love.
Railroad Ink has definitely hit classic status in our home. It’s got great art, chunky dice, and good old-fashioned drawing of maps on dry erase boards. How could this possibly be improved you ask? By adding alien spaceships and mystic portals to the mix of course! We picked up the Futuristic Expansion and the Eldritch Expansion and haven’t looked back. For us, it was a question of whether Railroad Ink had run its course at our table. Are there games we’d rather bring to the table over Railroad Ink? A positive foundation with the main game and very approachable price point on the expansion packs tipped us into the expansion camp. Now Railroad Ink has a renewed freshness. We always bring it to game night with at least one of the expansions.
Sometimes, an expansion can introduce too much. Tons of new icons can add to the teaching time, new cards can dilute the originals, elements can add way too much extra playtime. Downforce: Wild Ride, despite its name, does none of these things. Instead, you get a small twist to the original game as introduced on each of the two tracks. It's basically two expansions in one! Each track introduces a single new mechanic on the track (ramps and animals) on a new track layout. Just enough new to excite while giving you the chance to jump in quickly. Perfection!
Cyclades is like love. I don’t know what is worse: To have played Cyclades but never played it with Titans or to never have played Cyclades at all. In Cyclades, you are paying gods tribute in order to take their actions, and good Zeus is this action system fun in the way it uses bidding. I love, love, LOVE making Kyle pay lots of money for actions and then jumping to another one for cheap. It’s risky though! Titans open up the mobility on the board and create some great end game scenarios without prolonging the game. Also, the strategies in the expansion give some of the base game cards (looking at you Pegasus) a much needed debuff. I’ll never play without it. Treat yourself and go play some Cyclades with Titans!
Parks: Nightfall is like the second chapter to its base game companion. Parks gives you a chance to get to know the trail and fall in love with the wonderful Fifty-Nine Parks artwork. Nightfall helps you learn new, clever ways to engage with the trail via camping (because nighttime) with the added bonus of more great parks art. Those and the new Year card deck challenge you to really level up your hiking game. These days, we always bring Nightfall to game night. Parks paved the way for our gaming groups to become national parks lovers and Nightfall keeps that flame burning.