Board Game Expansions Suck | 10 Reasons Why + 3 GREAT Expansions - cutlassboardgame.com

Board Game Expansions Suck | 10 Reasons Why + 3 GREAT Expansions

Neon Gorilla
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In this video I explore why expansions suck, rant about big boxes, admit expansions are a necessary evil and also give in and name 3 great expansions I love even though I think expansions suck.

#boardgame #boardgamer #tabletopgaming #tabletopgames

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57 Comments

  1. Solid points.
    Enjoyed the thinking and agree. Now I might sell the Fractures of Time expansion in order to entice myself and my group back to Anachrony!

  2. Along with your loss aversion observation in campaigns that launch with add-ons and expansions alongside the base is "ladder pricing". Oh look, this deluxification is only $15, I'm already spending $100, why not, oh hey, this whole expansion is $40, but more than doubles the gameplay at less than half the base, nice, oh look it has three deluxifications at only $10 each. Now you've nearly doubled your initial buy.

    Of course people should be responsible for their own decisions, and I'm not saying they are being duped, but it is a psychological marketing game.

  3. In general, I have to agree that expansions suck, for all the reasons you mention. Mostly I think they offer less value for money than getting a new good game. Some expansions do extend the lifespan of a game though, and some add that little rework that makes the game playable again. You have to love a game a lot to maintain the organizational problem of an overexpanded game.

    The worst kind of expansions (besides promo cards) are the ones that transform simple, elegant and lightweight games into convoluted monsters. The resulting monsters are never as good as other games that were designed to be monsters from the get-go.

  4. Wingspan had perfect expansions (for the first 2). Just add in, read the cards for what they do, and here's a wild resource too. Barely anything needs to be learned, it's just more of the same mechanics. More expansions and it's just too much bloat and decks get too large, imo but if I can simply add in cards and get going, I'm happy.

  5. Dwelings of Eldervale has all the expansion rules in the base rulebook. The ONLY all in Kickstarter that I am glad I got was Cyberpunk 2077 gangs of night city. The expansions are modules rather than big add ons. It takes an okay game to really good. Other than that, I have never enjoyed all the KS add ons, but still get suckered from time to time.

  6. 😂 I was about to type Trove Chest when you pointed it out. TMB’s expansions are part of why I love that game. I don’t yet have the trove chest though.

  7. Totes agree with a lot of your ranting! Where I disagree is with storytelling games like Oltree or Time Stories (disclaimer: I've never played this one), where each expansion gives you another story or campaign to enjoy! Even Marvel Champions box sets have something to offer by way of a change of scene but familiar gameplay.

  8. If it fits in the base core box and expands core gameplay in meaningfull ways ( like expanding player count and improving gameplay) I don't mind them at all. Otherwise, no thank you. Big expansion no-no's are : changing core rules, bloating game time, different box dimensions, expensive pricing, having more than one (or two, max) per game…

  9. I have found that I do not enjoy or even play most expansions I have bought in the past with crowdfunding campaigns. Only getting core sets for this year and will see how it turns out.

  10. I agree with all the points. Buuut I couldn't agree with you on the poll. Especially for expansions that come out after a bit and it's just more of the same. Like low buy-in and adding in a bunch of cards or tiles or something. Fits in the base box. Or like standalone expansions where I can buy one version and my friend buys the other.

    I think when an expansion changes the game fundamentally I'm much more hesitant. Even if it's a good change. Like I can keep two games' rules separate in my mind because they are so different. But with an expansion, things get way blurrier and I have this pressure when I bring out a game to not have to check the rulebook. And when I can't, I just don't want to bring it out

  11. Nemo's War published a new rulebook with all expansions, too.

    I agree with you, I don't like to have a lot of boxes for ONE game (eand its expansions), usually I try and to have everything in the core box.

    I agree with you about all the big boxes points. I own only one and it's a gift from my children (Terraforming Mars, a game I don't like that much and I don't play a lot!!!!!! But it's a birthday gift…).

    I have to say again, I agree with you, but still, I like expansions.

    Or I like some expansions : the ones for my favorite games (Spirit Island, Shadows of Brimstone, Apocrypha, Scythe, Arnak), and there is the campaign expansions too.
    I LOVE Arkham Horror the LCG, I own every thing and I played all the campaigns ( I have more than 300 plays with this game).
    So, I love to add stuff to these games I do like a lot (Arkham Horror V3, Empire Assault, Lord of the Ring LCG, Mansions of Madness).
    I have other games with few expansions (1 or 2) not all of them, only when they add a good content.

    I wait for some crowfunding games, and I bougth only one expansion with the base game (Secrets of Lost Tomb).

  12. For ISS Vanguard, just the base game, here!

  13. Expansions often have higher ratings than the base game, because they are only bought by people, who already liked the base game.
    If someone left a lower rating on the base game, it's very likely that they won't buy an expansion, and leave a negative review there too. If an expansion has a lower rating than the base game, then it is most likely a bad expansion.

  14. Don’t agree with some or your arguments. Some games are good and sometimes expansions make them great. Rise of Ix is one of them. Everdell’s Bellfaire is another one. I would never play Everdell without and you can mix it with the others with no problem at all. Marine World made the impossible: making a masterpiece of a game (Ark Nova) even better (and it does fit into the base game box). So expansions don’t suck per se. Some do, some don’t 😊

  15. I struggle with expansions, in some cases they have provided some very fleshed out experiences. Bellfaire and Spirecrest for Everdell or all of my Smallworld expansions.

    Some expansions have made the game what it should have been to begin with (3000 Scoundrels: Double or nothing) and that for sure frustrates me.

    I feel like board games are suffering from the day one DLC that is found in gaming. It’s a disgusting habit that squeezes money out of us. It’s gross and I don’t think it’s going anywhere unfortunately.

  16. Yeah I started noticing that I stopped playing certain games I bought expansions for (Anachrony, Beyond the Sun, even Arnak).

    I like when they have light rules overhead and/or good gameplay updates (Ark Nova and Obsession). That, or focused expansions like the upcoming Arcs campaign expansion.

    Major exception continues to be Spirit Island for me, I can't get enough of that system.

  17. Have to agree – superficially getting more of a game you enjoy should be a good thing. But in most cases expansions suck – on a spectrum from adding in more of the same that is generally inoffensive but underwhelming and not worth the money, through to adding in new mechanisms that bloat the game and make it less enjoyable to play.

    Honourable exceptions to the first (and only the first) expansions for Carcassonne and Parks.

  18. Man, I agree with you 100% here. I'm not a fan of expansions, and of 100 or so base games I own, I have maybe 5 expansions that I regularly play with, and those do not fundamentally change the way base game is played and just add extra content. I think A FEAST FOR ODIN is an exception but that one streamlines the game for 2p, so it's essential. We found ourselves looking for new content after playing the base for 10 or so times, and need something new to spice up the game.

  19. Darwin's Journey Collectors rulebook includes all rules in one rulebook!

    Endless Winter Rivers and Rafts is must have. But retail box! Had more fun with it than with Arnak.

    Everdell with 4 expansions fit into the base game box plus the mini Bellfair box. Same footprint as Obsession. The big box is so dumb haha!

    I love my voidfall retail box. Im only missing the dual layer sector tiles. But i'll live!

    TMB base (small box) + UT + 2 Gearlocks. All I need and its fairly easy to pick a box and go.

  20. A reason why some expansions exist you did not cover:
    They seperated Branch and Claw from Spirit Island base to make the game cheaper and for ease of play. Probably the correct decision at retail and total sales.
    Same thing for Darwin's Journey Fireland.

  21. if expansions suck then 2.0 / remastered / revisions of games suuuuuuuck 😂

  22. With you 100% on expansions usually not being worth it.

    Now, expansion maps for Ticket To Ride, age of steam or similar are perfectly fine IMO.

    As someone who largely ignore kickstarter games, this isn't a huge deal, but I typically prefer to buy a new game than expansion.

  23. I agree with you in this. Expansions are a necessary evil, even though I do love the evil little things.

    Things I like:
    -Its easier to tell my wife Im buying a new expansion vs new game
    -I know I already like the game
    -The new rules overhead shouldnt be like learning a new game

    But I do share your same frustrations. How does the ratio of expansions to games go from 2010 to now? Thinking kickstarter is also a major reason for expansions. Much like your video game analogy that games are being rushed out faster than they used to. Also, greed… More expansions for a successful game means easy money.

  24. Mostly expansions do not advance gameplay…. Unless you are Uber player of the game.
    Of my collection, Prelude for TM, Tuscany for Viticulture, and Power up for Tesla vs Edison
    Are the only ones I can’t play without…. I have many tho

  25. Don't buy inserts 😀

    To be a bit more serious: your problem is mostly about the biggest games with the largest expansions. There are some wonderful older games with just one expansion, that totally fits in the box and adds something great to the game. If a game gets too big by adding all the expansions, the expansions arent good any longer. Thats totally true.

    if the game came from kickstarter, the problem is not the expansion structure, the problem is kickstarter. Just dont buy kickstarter games (but maybe that's my eurogamer heart coping with the fact kickstarter changed the market)

  26. The only expansion I own that I truly think is valuable and valid as an expansion is Spirit Island: Jagged Earth. Expansions typically feel as things that either were ripped out of the base game or things that were tacked on to the base game unnecessarily in an attempt to squeeze money out of a successful title. Jagged Earth feels like neither of those things. Spirit Island is a fantastic, complete, cohesive experience in its own right and Jagged Earth isn't there to "fix" any of the issues with the game, or add content that probably just should have been in the base game to begin with. Jagged Earth adds 8 new, unique, more complicated spirits for people to sink their teeth into once they have already "exhausted" the initial 8 starting spirits. There is a lot of content that comes in the Jagged Earth expansion as well, and for games like Spirit Island where a lot of the fun comes in learning and playing asymmetric characters, more characters is never a bad thing.

    I hate board game expansions that only exist to fix previously broken or fiddly systems. A great example of this that comes to mind is Terraforming Mars's "Prelude" expansion. The beginning rounds of TM are painstakingly slow, which is an annoying stain on an otherwise great game. So while the existence of an expansion to help streamline those early, boring rounds sounds nice, it really just feels like something that should've been included from the get-go, as the game just feels bad to play without it. Ideally, an expansion should be optional, but add a nice extra level of depth to a game without bloating it: expanding old systems instead of adding new ones. I would not consider playing TM without Prelude, which just makes me annoyed that I had to spend an extra $15 on an expansion to complete the base game experience.

  27. I agree. Expansions should just correct a game / make it better (like to next Expeditions expansion that look underwhelming but essential) or add a bit variety. That’s it. Only expansions I bought was Toscany for Viticulture, as it makes to games more realistic (with the 4 seasons board) and Europe for Wingspan (I’ll buy the others too). Also, expansions are so expensive ! I haven’t bought Rise of Ix yet just because I prefer buying a full game at that price.

  28. There are 3 kinds of expansions.

    1. it fixes mayor flaws of the games and becomes a staple (viticulture tuscany, feast for odin norwegians, forest shuffle alpine, terraforming mars prelude)

    2. it adds stuff that fits into the game, just add it and go from there, few new rules, just a nice add (ark nova marine worlds, anything Dominion, Sky team new missions, riftforce beyond)

    3. it adds complexity that shifts the focus of the game away from the good core concepts/mechanisms, adds a bunch of new ideas and feels as if it was never planned and mostly developed as a money grab. Most likely great for absolute lovers of the game, but everyone else is better of without them (no need to shame examples, everyone will have some in mind)

  29. I introduced Splendor to a close friend of mine and he only wants to play Splendor because he doesn’t like to be learning new games.
    So I went on and bought The expansion that brings 4 modules.
    Now we play all the modules together and Splendor became a great amazing game.
    Basic Splendor would be too basic and maybe lack challenge for me as a more seasoned gamer. But the expansion made it shine.
    The expansion came after several years.
    Vindication has 3 expansions which are all very different. One makes the game in a sort of story-driven (I’m not interested, so I passed) , but the Leaders & allies expansion added a solo mode and a 2 small modules that I absolutely loved. The other expansion I have to decide if I want to. But really the game doesn’t need it. But adds cool stuff.
    So, I’m all for the right expansions!
    But good solid points there !

  30. Good expansions!
    Star Wars Rebellion: Rise of the Empire
    Res Arcana: Lux et Tenebrae
    7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon
    Orleans: Trade & Intrigue
    Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition
    Inis: Seasons of Inis
    Arkham Horror the card gane: ALL OF THEM! 😱

  31. I have a small collection of board games but Star Wars Rebellion; Rise of the Empire expansion elevated the base game for me. It is the only expansion I have bought for my 30 or so game collection. I am considering Marine Worlds for Ark Nova.

  32. Interesting video, it did not really cover the topic as much as I expected. But it was good nonetheless. I do have some thoughts on it. Regarding the high BGG score for expansions. In the majority of cases, only people who really like the game will get expansions (KS excluded). So that means few people who don't like it will play and score them. Greatly increasing their score. That explains why they keep popping up at the top of the scoring lists. Something I also initially wondered when I noticed it.

    The first thing that hit me as I was watching was a question. Why are you buying expansions? It seems like a very easy fix. It sounds like you would play the games you have way more without them, and probably enjoy them more as well in the majority of cases. And if an expansion happens to be so good and needed for a game then just by that expansion after you know it is good. I mean with all the money you should save on not buying the expansions you most likely could rebuy the base game and the crucial expansion if it was that good. If you had gotten rid of the base game that is.

    Regarding your 10 arguments, most of them were kind of strange. There is not a big box, there is a big box but the box is too big. You can't have it both ways, it would be great, especially in the face scenario. But alas I have been told that is not an option.

    But I have to say the last argument is an interesting one. I would have loved to see a video on that alone. I can't agree with you more about how annoying I find it to see a Kickstarter with a game and a handful of expansions already there. My own more cynical thoughts about that is the game most likely is not very good. So if they put out the expansions alone no one would buy them because no one wants to expand a bad game.

    Regarding the whole, an expansion as an analog version of a patch. I really like that idea. Sadly I find it not that often done. Mostly because if there is a big flaw in the game, and the game is popular, they will just put out a new version of the game. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one game that has done both. FFG´s Game of Thrones, apparently it had some flaw in it that got addressed in an expansion, and that was included in the later versions of the game. But I think, sadly, more often than not such flaws are just left unaddressed completely.

    I have however seen a video raising an interesting point, and a good one as well in my book, about some issues with expansions or big boxes. That was the KS video for the expansion of Obsessions. The arguments there where more from a company's side but still. Give it a watch, its worth the time (8-9 min I think it is).

    Than you for an interesting video. =)

  33. You just sound like a guy that goes: REEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

    You are not getting a seat at my table 🤣

    All these issues are non issues.

  34. Expansions that add stuff in a kind of modular way are kind of nice, specially to light and medium/light games (Catan, 7 Wonders, Carcassone, King of Tokyo). Expansions that change the base game suck for me tho. I've sold both 7 Wonders Duel expansions and don't like Catan: Cities & Knights.

    I think most heavy games can be considered games + expansions in terms of complexity, so I don't mind buying expansions for them.

  35. This video should be renamed why my experience with expansion sucked. All these points touch more on the side of the overhead expansions add when getting them ready, because you talked about the actual gameplay of the expansions you yourself mentioned you like them. So while yes I agree that the experience of adding an expansion brings sucks that doesn't equate to the expansion sucking.

  36. I agree with number 1/10 but there are good reasons to release expansions along side a board game. The expansion can make the main board game to bloated/exspensive for people who only want the base game. I may not want to pay an extra 10 dollars for a board game to get another set of cards with it. You want to get people in with the base game alone, this includes at retail.

    That being said, most "expansions" i see sold with kickstarter are not worth the it. Most of them could be sold with the base game but just arent.

  37. Chronicles of Drunagor is the worst with boxes, especially big boxes.

  38. Good thoughts. Can't argue with most of these points – even though I love expansions. The fundamental pro beyond the patch aspect mentioned is variability. A lot of games to me shine best when it's not just the single polished version but like an alternating map on a video game giving various flavors for the same system. Everdell big box is again, a good example of just that. I have modules in Everdell I always include (New Leaf and variable player powers), but beyond that I alternate between the other content. Vindication is very similar. That's certainly not for everyone but it does increase my enjoyment. Overall, I'd say that 80% of the expansions I buy I enjoy.

  39. Yeah I think expansions serve some great purposes. For those with big game groups willing to learn lots of new games all the time, they are probably unnecessary, just try a new game. For those of us who can barely find people willing to learn any games, expansions provide a way to get more experience without the barrier of learning a “new” game.

  40. What drives me bananas is the idea of an essential expansion. So many YouTubers told me expedition leaders and rise of ix were essential to arnak and dune respectively. I got them both. I don't play enough to have used either yet. I've pulled the extra cards and guardians for arnak but rise of ix is still in shrink.

    The only expansion I feel has been essential is Wingspan Oceania for the better balanced player boards. Herb Witches for Quacks is nice to have. Have I played it with five yet? Nope

    I also backed Everdell all in because it was an awesome value. Haven't played it since getting it. The box is massive. I'm not hauling it anywhere, so if I'm not playing it at home I'm not playing it. I also feel like pulling that box out in front most of my friends will scare the shit out of them.

    Parks has a fantastic insert. The expansions have great inserts too but I really wish they would rerelease it all in a parks 2.0 big box. The nightfall goal cards improve upon the base game goal cards. It would be best if they were integrated into the base game without nightfall. Leave nightfall as modular

  41. You have a new subscriber, after this popped up in my feed. Expansions have proliferated because (same as movies) they make money off of people who will buy something just based on familiarity. I USED to be an “auto-buy the expansion” kind of person, and I learned my lesson. Nowadays, I default to NOT buying expansions. It has worked out just fine for me!

  42. Great video! I’ve definitely backed games with expansions I didn’t care for. Now I wait to buy any expansion after I play the base game multiple times & watch reviews or playthroughs on the expansion before buying any. That way I get more of the games I love while avoiding bad expansions or buying them for games I don’t play enough!

  43. Awaken realms is notorious for having multiple boxes for expansions and its horrible putting everything away.

  44. TBH, it depends so much on what game and which expansion you're considering.

    I'm with you with the irritating general tendency to produce lots of expansions nowadays. I don't like having multiple boxes for a game, or multiple rulebooks, as you state. Yet in some cases, some rare expansions are exceptional, or have become near-mandatory (Prelude for TM and The Norwegians for AFFO), but these are highly uncommon. Most expansions are completely dispensable, or should be in the core box anyway!

  45. Back in the beginning days of this hobby for me, every time i liked a game, id instantly go out and buy every expansion. At some point i realized i either 1) wasnt playing them anyways (136 marvel legendary products )or 2) some expansions make the game worse (looking at you stone age)

  46. Of course expansions are going to be highly rated and thus be disproportionally represented in the top-ranked entries on BGG as generally only people who like the game are going to buy the expansion.

    But you make a lot of good points. The more expansions I get for a game the less likely I am to get the game to the table. So I rarely buy more than one expansions for games (unless they’re small ones) and I also rarely buy expansions if I can’t fit everything in the base box.

    Dune Imperium was also a wakeup call. Bought both expansions, loved them, then like a month later they announced Dune Uprising. The bar for me getting an expansion increased substantially after that.

  47. I like expansions that fix issues. I can understand the expansion tiered pricing model. At some point, you're going to price the game out of the majority of buyers, and like you said, most players won't get through the extra content. The tiered pricing might be required to make a profit or pay the creators. It used to be common that a video game didn't make a real profit until the sequel or DLC was releaed using the already developed game engine and assets. Usually you can buy the expansions after you've outplayed the base game anyway.

  48. Expansions are an absolute must for nearly every game I've ever played and liked. These days especially, games are released with the absolute minimum which means no replayability until you get at least expansion. I usually play a game once, put it away until they come out with expansions. Games are essentially unplayable until the expansions comes out.

  49. Well, you have discussed why you hate expansions and not why expansions suck.

  50. Seems like it is more of gamers and addiction problem than the expansion problem. If you're playing a lot of games and you don't need expansions and YOU have all those problems (not the expansions), then solve this for yourself and don't buy as many. When there are people who love the game, play more of a single title and are not overwhelmed by additional rules or need to reference the core rules (because they simply know them), then an expansion that refreshes, depends or expands the game is for them. As simple as that

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