Let’s talk about board game expansions. We all have games we love. Games that we play over and over again. No matter how much you love a game, if you play it enough, it will probably start to stale a little for you, even if just a little bit. Enter the game expansion. These are ways a publisher can add on content for the games we love and allow us to keep bringing them back to our tabletops for years to come.
I will admit though, sometimes publishers go to the well a bit too often (Dominion, do you really need 9 expansions?) and sometimes a game just really doesn’t need an expansion. Dungeon Lords: Festival Season comes to mind. While the expansion is good, Dungeon Lords is already complex enough, so only the most diehard of addicts would need to expand that game.
Of course, then there are the expansions that need to be taken out into the desert and buried. Dominion: Alchemy and Carcassonne: The Catapult come to mind. I don’t know what they were thinking with those…
But none of those are the focus of this list. Today, we are going to talk about the essential game expansions. You can consider owning these expansions required if you own the base game. Whether they improve on the flaws in the base game or just add the right amount of variety, these should all be owned. Sometimes, a designer just outdoes himself and improves on a his creation in a way that shouldn’t be undone. Today we are going to look at those.
With that in mind, lets dive in to our Top Ten Required Board Game Expansions.
Top 10 Required Bored Game Expansions
Just barely missing the cut, Ticket to Ride: US 1910 feels almost like a box of errata than a true expansion. It fixes some of the route cards, lets players toss those crappy tiny sized cards and allows them to use full size ones. All while adding in a couple of new play modes to the game.
Kingsburg is a great little dice placement game that also makes a good gateway game. Unfortunately the game starts to feel a little “samey” after repeated plays. The To Forge a Realm expansion adds in 5 modules that increase the replay value of the game and also gives the players new strategic options.
Pandemic is a perennial best seller and it’s not hard to see why. Great mechanics and accessible game play. The On the Brink expansion not only adds a variety of new play modes, role cards, and an option for a 5th player; but it also includes 5 plastic petri dishes to hold the disease cubes. Yeah, I probably shouldn’t give the expansion points for component holders, but they are pretty sweet.
I’m going to asterisk this one here and allow you to replace Cities with Leaders if that’s your thing. I’m not going to get into a debate over which expansion is better (It’s totally Cities), but either will add in a nice bit of variety and player interaction to a game that’s already one of my favorites. I love 7 Wonders so much that any expansion is probably an insta-buy for me. However, Cities is very easy to integrate with the base game and it adds some really creative cards to the game. We rarely play without the Cities expansion in our gaming group.
7. Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport (review)
Lords of Waterdeep is a fantastic light-weight worker placement game. Even though the theme is somewhat pasted on, it’s accessible mechanics make it a great gateway game. For players that are looking for a bit more depth to their game, the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion adds 2 new modules that can be played either separately or together with the base game. These add some much-needed strategic options to the game play and greatly enhance the replay value, all with minimal learning time needed.
As with 7 Wonders above, you could replace Intrigue with Prosperity or Seaside. Despite Dominion having 9 expansions, some of them are actually essential. Dominion: Intrigue not only adds a good amount of player interaction, but it also introduces the hybrid victory point cards, which will give players new ways to approach the game. Seaside adds in cards that last until a players next turn, while Prosperity adds high value treasure and action cards. Any one of these three expansions will greatly enhance the longevity of your games of Dominion. Just steer clear of Alchemy…
The main reason to get this expansion is that it adds a number of new encounter cards to the game. Unfortunately, the base game only includes a limited amount of these cards, so in a long game you could easily start seeing repeats. The Mountains of Madness expansion not only adds a few more encounter cards for each deck, but it also adds a whole new location (Antartica) and elder gods to go with it. Forsaken Lore could also be a good options for Eldritch Horror if you are a bit more budget conscious, but Mountains of Madness is really the one you want.
4. Space Cadets: Dice Duel – Die Fighter (review)
I love me some Space Cadets: Dice Duel. It’s frantic, intense, easy to learn, and a stupid amount of fun. One of my knocks against it though was you need at least 4 people to play, but more realistically 6+. With the Die Fighter expansion, it not only increases the player count to 10, but also provides a 2 player option. You can now have a player jump in a fighter ship and cause havoc on the game board. Die Fighter was the perfect expansion for a game we love and required if you own the base game.
The Legendary: Marvel Deck Building game is a really fun card game. However, one of the issues I had with it was how easy the villains were to defeat. Since the game is semi-cooperative, I at least want to be challenged. Upper Deck took care of that with their Dark City expansion. Not only did it add in a mess of new heroes and villains, it really ratcheted up the difficulty. No longer could we simply coast through a game, expecting an easy win. We had our first ever loss to the game at the hands of a Dark City villain and loved every minute of it!
While Machi Koro isn’t perfect, it can be a fun game when you are in the mood for something light. It’s easy enough that you can play it with just about anyone as the rules only take about 30 seconds to teach. However, the game play with just the base game makes it really easy to spam powerful combos. That, and the variety of cards gets old pretty quick. With the Harbor expansion, the game play is changed to allow a lot more variety and also prevents the abuse of powerful combos. These new cards, plus a fix to some flawed mechanics make Machi Koro: Harbor required for anyone that has the base game.
Unlike some of the other games above, Viticulture: Tuscany isn’t here because it fixes problems with the base game. It’s here because it makes the base game SO much better. Viticulture is already a solid worker placement game. Tuscany adds around a dozen new modules to your Viticulture experience that players are supposed to unlock (uncork), one at a time. I haven’t played every module yet because I’m pretty sure Stonemaier Games would yell at me if we didn’t unlock them properly, but the 8 or so we’ve “uncorked” have all been rock solid. From the new cards, to the much improved game board, Tuscany is #1 on this list because I don’t ever want to play the base game without it again. I would have easily bought this as a group of different expansions, but Stonemaier gave us Tuscany as a gift to Viticulture fans everywhere.