A collection of my thoughts on which board game expansions are necessary, and which are just there to make you collect ’em all.
A la Carte: Dessert – Not exactly necessary, as these are all minor changes to the basic gameplay that do not seem to change things much one way or another. The Menus are nice in that they give a bit of direction in your food choices, and the mixed spice jar is fun (but quite random). New salt recipes and coffee cups are all fine too (though, ultimately unnecessary).
Arkham Horror: The Dunwich Horror Expansion – Great expansion, I think it definitely improves the base game. With 4 investigators this is just perfect. Gatebursts and extra locations keep the win from being locked in after sealing a few high probability gates. Injury and Madness cards are awesome too. Can be a little much for teams of 2 or even 3 investigators sometimes though.
Arkham Horror: The King in Yellow Expansion – I feel like the Acts are too hard if you play as recommended, and too easy if you just shuffle them into the deck. Otherwise, the blight stuff is cool. Also, the item decks are getting pretty watered down for those who want weapons. No Dunwich (or other extra board) mythos cards, so, again, this will water down those gates if you add these mythos cards to the expanded game.
Bang! A Fistful of Cards – Nice card additions spice up the base game, but sadly they do nothing to fix the pointlessness of the system. Recommended if only because it at least puts a time limit on the proceedings.
Beasty Bar: New Beasts in Town – Not really an expansion as much as it is a stand-alone game with entirely new animals. I actually really like a lot of them though they are slightly more complex (and, perhaps, less elegant) than the originals. Still very worth getting for the variety it can add.
Codenames: Deep Undercover – You’d think an entire deck of dick and ball euphemisms would be a hit for Codenames, but due to the base game’s “don’t let them pick the opponent’s cards!” gameplay, having a whole expansion of similarly themed cards doesn’t work as well as you’d think…playable, but probably best shuffled into your regular cards.
Codenames: Marvel – This plays the same as regular Codenames (one person gives one word clues to pertain to different elements in a grid, and the other players guess which elements they are), only with Marvel-themed pictures instead of words. It turned out to be easier to give clues based on the visuals rather than actually using Marvel knowledge (some of the superheroes were pretty obscure). As a visual twist on Codenames, it actually works very well, but I still think I prefer the simplicity of the word version.
Dungeon Twister: 3/4 Player Expansion – If you find yourself in the rare situation of being in a game group with more than one other Dungeon Twister fanatic, this is great! Though, even at 3, downtime becomes an issue, and adding extra players does nothing for your ability to control anything beyond the tactical level.
Dungeon Twister: Forces of Darkness – This heavy DT expansion adds a fair amount of complication, but nothing that is unmanageable (though I’m not sure the darkness mechanic is worth the trouble). The “go after your opponent’s wounded” mechanic is cool (though it makes for a fairly bloody game as it is now much harder to heal before they steal your bodies), and there are a few standout characters (the form switching vampire is fun–as is the body snatching ghoul)…some of the others are a little meh (the regenerating dragon and the zombie summons that still lose you a victory point are not super fun to play).
Krosmaster Arena: Boufbowl – Playing the teams against each other with Krosmaster rules revealed that the boufball token was surprisingly hard to set up cool plays with. I’m sure a bit more practice would improve my positioning, but as it was the boufball movers seemed underpowered compared to Laika (when buffed), Marty (one hell of a teleporter), and Amalius (deceptively strong).
Krosmaster: Arena – Frigost – While the board is very fun (one of my favorite’s in fact–pushable ice blocks, if you can manage to set them up, are very satisfying for trick plays), the demonic rewards are ridiculously overpowered. Basically save up to 18 kamas and then whoever gets the most broken reward wrecks house. Fun for a laugh every now and then, but not recommended often. As for the miniature, Count Harebourg is fun enough, though his summons can be a liability (and he is a little too reliant on blue damage boosts to be a real powerhouse). All in all I prefer the promo version, Count Frigost.
Krosmaster: Arena – Piwate Island – Very nice looking board with the basic variations on “trees and bushes” alongside the new rafts. Honestly, rafts themselves are underwhelming, having little effect on gameplay (aside from non-intuitively blocking pushes and pulls) for the amount of extra rules they use. The included Krosmaster is a winner though–Le Chouque is very fun, unique, and quite powerful with the right teams!
Krosmaster: Arena – Wild Realms – The models look great (as always) despite the usual re-skinned molds that always clutter up a release (though the center of gravity on the wolves is slightly off), and the mechanics are very fun. Track is a nice bonus, and Invasion especially shines–I’d thought it would be too tough get into the opponent’s territory safely, but there are plenty of opportunities for clever play with this mid to late game. The Jelly Kings are probably the highlight of the set for me–not only do the 3D summons come included, the abilities are all a lot of fun–with Mint King probably being my favorite for clever push/pull play. Groulagorasalar is another push/pull highlight with his very versatile power (and cool model), otherwise the set is a bit heavier on low level creatures that are interesting enough but fairly simple to play.
Lord of the Rings: Friends & Foes – Definitely improves the base game by making it a bit harder, and giving lots more options. However, due to how the boards work out, I only ever really see people taking one route through this (ie, ALWAYS skip the two boards you can skip), so that feels a little gamey.
more dude – Expansion to dude that has a new set of cards with more of an accent theme than the punctuation based original. I prefer the base game as even without hand gestures (which make this too easy), half of these are just too immediately identifiable. A few rules issues too–for example, it is unclear whether or not you can add an “itsa!” in front of “dude” for the Italian one…
Neuroshima Hex! Iron Gang – The Iron Gang isn’t a radical departure from the base sets, the two main differences being their ranged nets (kind of fiddly) and their “clothesline” chains (kind of cool). They seem slightly underpowered, but they are pretty fun to play and a good addition to the Hex factions.
No Thank You Evil: Story Please – A welcome addition to the base game, this adds a deck of places, adventure hooks, allies, and items to randomly draw (or incorporate however you see fit). Great for a quick pick up game that you don’t want to have to sit down and think up something cool before you play.
One Night Ultimate Daybreak – I still need to try this with more players, but at low player counts, this feels like it has too many wolves and almost becomes a game of pretending to be a wolf rather than a villager.
One Night Ultimate Vampire – This has the twist of having a middle phase where people can change who the “vampires” are. It’s a good idea, but most of it is a little rules heavy for what wants to be a simple game.
Railways of Mexico – The Mexico map is designed for 2-3 players and is quite welcome when you have a low player count. There are a ton of mountains, so be prepared to take out a lot of loans, but otherwise, this is the map you want for 2-3.
Small World: Realms – The regular Small World maps work just fine and don’t need modularity (especially now that there are other boards), but the scenarios are pretty cool in this expansion and make it worth picking up. Good stuff for all player counts here.
Small World: Underground – A stand alone expansion that has an entire underworld map to explore with its own rules and races. There are a few extra rules here with the relics and places, but overall they are fun to use and don’t push things further than they need to be pushed.
Ticket to Ride: Netherlands – The toll mechanic really does provide a nice incentive to play aggressively. The scores are unusually high this time, but it’s still one of the better expansions.
Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries – It still irks me that, like Switzerland, you can’t use wild cards on the colored tracks. Forcing players to draw only the color of the route makes the game a little more susceptible to certain colors getting buried in the deck. That said, this is otherwise a great 2-3 player version of Ticket to Ride (and the super long route is a fun challenge, though, also swingy/risky).
Ticket to Ride: Switzerland – While the map is a perfect size for 2-3 players, the rule change for wild cards (they can only be used for tunnels, which, granted, cover half the map) leaves me a little cold. With no more wild cards for the half of the map that isn’t tunnels, the whole game becomes a lot more swingy as drawing just the right color is the only way to finish late game routes.
T.I.M.E. Stories: Under the Mask – A good outing for the series…nothing too groundbreaking, but the puzzles were all fair enough, and there were no major rules ambiguities, so I’ll call it a win. The switching bodies mechanic was fun, and implemented well, and there were a few really creative uses of the system to cap things off. My appreciation for this expansion was probably increased due to not falling for any of the red herring dead ends which would have pissed me off if a run got ended because of them.
Ubongo Extreme Craxy Expansion – The four piece puzzles in Ubongo Extreme are a sweet spot for “really hard, but still playable,” so adding a 5th piece to the mix (as this print and play expansion does) honestly ups the difficulty too much. There’s really not a good way to logic this out, you just have to hope you get lucky with your initial placement. Fun for a lark, but definitely not recommended as a go-to for Ubongo.
Warhammer Underworlds: Nightvault – Nightvault improves on Shadespire by adding magic and continuing the lethal terrain from the last map pack, both welcome additions. The new 3D terrain can be annoying (as some of it goes on spaces you can move into, but it looks great and is a welcome addition as well!
Warhammer Underworlds: Spiteclaw’s Swarm – This warband is very fast (movement 5), and can return to play after being taken out (which is good as most of them have health 2). They are best at running from the enemy and sneaking onto objectives, though the leader can get pretty lethal when he’s upgraded.