Expansions: Buying a Bigger Belt as a Way to Fight Obesity

Monday while I was stuck in a car with toddlers driving from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire, the latest Whose Turn Podcast dropped. Nigel, Geraint, Rhyannon, and Robin were joined by newcomers Ricky from Box of Delights and Anthony from Cardboard Jungle. The topic of the week: expansions.

I hate expansions as a general rule. My basic tenet: if the base game sucks, I couldn’t care less about your expansion. Oh, it fixes your game does it? That’s nice. I’ve already lost interest.

Instead of yammering on about my thoughts on expansions, I’ve decided to use the podcast’s discussion as a framework for applying my curmudgeonly views. Ready? Too bad.

The conversation starts off with Ricky defining expansions. It was generic enough. Basically, something that builds on a base game that develops it in some way. For those of you that need a bit more than that, the Geek defines “expansion” thusly:


n. additional equipment for a game, usually sold separately. Expansions can be used to add a variant or additional scenario, to add more players for the game, new maps or tracks for a game, etc. Some game companies have distributed small expansions for free at contentions or on the internet.

The conversation quickly turns to the collectible nature of the hobby and brings CCG/LCG games to the forefront; Ricky suggests that the “expansion” becomes more of a collection in these types of models. Robin asks if they can be considered expansions, and Nigel is quick to say they are not because the whole model revolves around the base game giving you something but really not enough to enjoy it thoroughly.

Anthony briefly discusses the Fantasy Flight cycle process where sets will be released on a schedule that will render cards from previous sets invalid for tournament play. He rightfully brings up the overwhelming barrier to entering into this type of gaming because there are so many cards available, and if you’re new, you’re starting at a huge deficit unless you want to spend the enormous amounts of money to catch up. Robin then brings up how this model affects collectors – people who need to own every.single.last.thing produced for a given game. To those people I say, get a new hobby. Owning all the things is not as impressive as playing with all the things. Owning all the things kind of makes you a pompous ass; playing all the things makes you a gamer.

Next point of discussion: expansions for euro games. Here, I agree with Geraint. Euros are more of a closed system where thematic games are more open. Euros rely on mechanisms to move the game along whereas thematic games are immersed in theme and story.

Robin finally reveals his reason for wanting to discuss the topic: he feels the market is becoming oversaturated with expansions. (This may be the sign of the apocalypse if you know anything about Robin.) Anyway. Nigel points out that people are constantly looking to capitalize on a game. I get that. Anthony’s main gripe is that they’re making expansions for games before the base game even releases. I hear that.

Instead of being Negative Nancy, here’s an area where I’d love to talk to a designer. During the development of a game, it will likely go through multiple iterations. What you envisioned the game to be may not be what the final product is. I would venture to say this is true more often than not. Is this where expansions come into play? If your game is being stripped of something you think is important, is the expansion the way you try to bring the game back to your original vision? Does it work?

There’s some discussion about expansions that “make” a game. I don’t know that there are any expansions that “make” a game for me. There are expansions I enjoy, the Ladies of Troyes for example, but the base game is just dandy as it is. What’s important here is that the base game was solid enough for me to enjoy it. I didn’t seek out the expansion hoping it would make me love the game; that already existed.

There’s still another twenty minutes of conversation in the podcast: in-spansions a la Dice Hate Me Games, what makes a good expansion, etc. You can listen to it if you’d like, but I’m ready to do my favorite part of the show and play some Play/Own/Burn. In case you haven’t been introduced to it, Robin presents people with three choices, and the cast members decide to Play, Own, or Burn each one of them. Here are my selections. Feel free to share yours in the comments below.

Base game only/all expansions/revised editions of core games

  • Own: Base Game
  • Play: Revised Editions of Core Games
  • Burn: All Expansion

Gen Con/BGGCon/Essen (Pete and Repeat, Robin! Pay attention – even though my answers may have changed.)

  • Own: BGG
  • Play: Essen
  • Burn: GenCon

Cult of the New/Deep Delving/Single Play

  • Own: Deep Delving
  • Play: Cult of the New
  • Burn: Single Play


  • Own: ACBAS
  • Play: Caverna
  • Burn: Agricola


  • Own: Party
  • Play: Abstract
  • Burn: Dexterity