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Top 10 (More!) Required Board Game Expansions

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In 2015, Tony wrote a Top 10 list about the ten required expansions. Well, it’s been nearly a decade and board gaming has only grown exponentially since then. I wanted to take the time to go through all of the expansions that have been released in the last (nearly) ten years to discuss what expansions feel required for their base game these days.

While expansions may have different shapes and sizes (and prices) compared to what they were in 2015, the idea behind expansion content seems to be roughly the same: add more to the base game, and/or tweak large portions of the original game to change or fix portions of the design.

However, for this list of required expansions, there are a few things I considered when curating these titles. First, does this expansion help fulfill the original thesis of the base game? Second, does this expansion surpass the base game and create its own unique identity to establish a new experience? And finally, does the existence of this expansion make the base game feel inadequate by comparison?

So, without further ado, let’s look at our Top 10 (More!) Required Expansions.

Top 10 (More!) Required Expansions

10. Root: Exiles and Partisans Deck

RootIf any titles on this list are reviewer favorites, this would be the one. While Root has several big and small box expansions, I feel that the one that adds the most to the game’s life and excitement is the smallest: an alternative playing deck. By replacing the original deck with this new one, players experience larger actions with more nuanced interactions, allowing the cards to play a larger role in the game than ever before. This is not a beginner-friendly choice, nor one to play with those adverse to randomness, but for those looking for the most chaotic game of Root, the Exiles and Partisans Deck is certainly required.

2-6 Players • Ages 10+ • 60-90 minutes • $13Get Your Copy

 

 

9. Xia: Embers of a Forsaken Star

XiaRequired expansions often come to fulfill the original game’s thesis in a more cohesive way than the base game provided on its own, and Xia: Embers of a Forsaken Star is no different. By adding new sector tiles, a new cargo type, new ships, and an entirely new economy system (just to name a few items!), this expansion takes the cake for the most transformative expansion here. It would be higher on this list if it didn’t simply feel like a band-aid on a flawed game.

1-5 Players • Ages 14+ • 60-180 minutes • $40Get Your Copy

 

 

8. Star Wars: Outer Rim – Unfinished Business

Outer Rim Unfinished BusinessAnother expansion that fits into the band-aid on the base game category, Star Wars: Outer Rim – Unfinished Business incorporates three years of feedback into one expansive, well, expansion. Unfinished Business touches each part of the base game’s design in ways large and small, from something as little as throwing in some new characters, to something as large as debt tokens to make player negotiation shine in new ways. Truly one of the most sweeping expansions I’ve played.

1-4 Players • Ages 14+ • 120 minutes • $40Get Your Copy

 

 

7. Anachrony: Fractures of Time

Fractures of TimeFor a game as heavy and as complex as Anachrony to have a required expansion, it must bring something to the table! Fractures of Time tweaks the entire structure of the experience, making the game five rounds instead of six. Because of this, nearly every aspect of the game was changed with it, leading to this expansion feeling tighter and meaner and thinkier than ever. So much has changed that it’s hard not to see this as a sister game over an expansion.

1-4 Players • Ages 15+ • 90-150 minutes • $50Get Your Copy

 

 

6. A Feast for Odin: The Norwegians

Feast for OdinIf you would have told me before playing this that a game with 61 action spaces needed more going on, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet, The Norwegians still find a way to impress me and improve on the base game by tweaking each and every little detail in the game. Magically, this expansion takes a game that feels whole and perfect and still finds ways to fine tune the experience beyond what I thought was even possible, all without making the game run much longer than the base game.

1-4 Players • Ages 12+ • 30-120 minutes

 

 

5. Civilization: A New Dawn – Terra Incognita

Terra IncognitaAs with every Civilization game before it, Civilization: A New Dawn is heavily improved with its expansion. Adding city districts as customizable player powers, civilizations have unique focuses and abilities now (again), and combat was deepened in several ways. Oh, and this expansion added exploration into this 4x game. A novelty, really. This might be the game on this list I feel strongest about including the expansion for, but because the game is generally just ok, and the expansion didn’t push it higher for me, it feels hard to rank it much higher.

2-5 Players • Ages 14+ • 120 minutes • $40Get Your Copy

 

 

4. Wingspan: Oceania Expansion

Wingspan OceaniaThe first expansion for Wingspan, the European Expansion, simply added more bird cards. While an appropriate choice for a game so focused on its cards and bird theming, just adding some more cards does not make a required expansion. Oceania, on the other hand, sought out to improve the game’s two weakest points: eggs being too powerful, and food being too random. By changing the player boards for egg production and introducing a “wild” food into the game, Oceania took Wingspan from being a stale game to me and rejuvenated it back into the design I loved so much when I first got it. I could never imagine going back to the old player boards without my precious, precious Nectar.

1-5 Players • Ages 10+ • 60 minutes • $40Get Your Copy

 

 

3. Quacks of Quedlinburg: The Herb Witches

Herb WitchesThe Herb Witches is exactly what I think every expansion should be: more of what made the original great, with a small addition to keep the game lively for those seeking just a bit more. With the introduction of a few key ingredients and the titular Herb Witches, this expansion integrates into the base game absolutely flawlessly. For me, I could never imagine going back to the base game without those prickly Herb Witches and their mighty one-time abilities, as it can really make-or-break your game in truly exciting ways.

2-5 Players • Ages 10+ • 45 minutes • $30Get Your Copy

 

 

2. Terraforming Mars: Prelude

PreludeSpeaking of perfect integration, it is difficult to believe that Prelude was not included in the base game of Terraforming Mars. Allowing players to jumpstart their economies in fun and exciting ways both helps pick up the game’s early game pace, but also helps players shape their overall strategy. This is one of the few expansions out there that both deepens and shortens a game’s playing time, a rare feat in this hobby. Prelude is truly the pinnacle of design and one of the best expansions ever released, more or less the most required expansion.

1-5 Players • Ages 12+ • 90-120 minutes • $20Get Your Copy

 

 

1. Food Chain Magnate: The Ketchup Mechanism & Other Ideas

KetchupModularity is often a frustrating way to go about doing an expansion, but somehow Splotter Spellen nailed the concept. By introducing 17(!) different modules, it’s hard to play a game of Food Chain Magnate without having one of those modules creeping in. From small changes like one employee card being added, to new entire food types and restaurant types to go with it, The Ketchup Mechanism truly has something for everyone. It makes the game of Food Chain Magnate, a game that can feel quite predetermined, feel endless and expansive. I have never played the base game since getting the expansion, and never plan on it ever again, even with teaching games. Truly the face of impressive and required expansion design.

2-6 Players • Ages 14+ • 120-240 minutes • $75Get Your Copy

 

 

Bailey Dunn
Bailey is a long-time board gamer, short-time writer. She’s been playing board games all her life, “hobby” board games for a decade. When she’s not obsessing over the next indie darling, she can often be found fervently discussing 18xx and ‘90s Euros in random spaces. Her top games include Age of Steam, Power Grid, Haggis, Magical Athlete, and Acquire.

1 COMMENT

  1. Of the two I have (Unfinished Business and Embers) I completely agree. Just played Xia with Embers this weekend and would never play without it.

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