One of the biggest dilemmas I have with the hobby is what to do about expansions. The trend in the past few years has definitely been to produce expansions to successful games to refresh them and hopefully keep those games coming to the table for years to come.
Expansions seem to be easy to create since most of the heavy lifting design-wise has been done for the base game. The cost is usually much lower because much of the needed material is likely included in the original game. Expansions are good because they allow the designer to explore some different areas in the game space and/or allow a fifth player to play. The downside is that sometimes that extra game space isn’t ideal (because it were integral to the game, it would have made it in the base game, right?)
Nevertheless, given their small cost and volume, I’m a sucker for many expansions. There are plenty of them on offer each year at SPIEL – and I’ll be making short lists of the ones I’m looking at (and why I am considering them… or not). This list is limited to non-Essen-exclusive expansions, and it is further limited to the ones that I have read about in my initial pass through the growing list of games. I’m pretty sure that I will have the opportunity to learn about more expansions as I try to keep up with all the news. I will talk about Essen only promos somewhere and sometime else (or I will try to get our resident Essen-expansion-guru, Jonathan Franklin, to do this).
1) Power Grid: Québec & Baden-Württemberg (2F/RGG)
Well, I actually own both of these maps, but they are both in fairly hard-to-find language specific versions of Funkenschlag, so it’s worth noting here. These maps which have been nearly impossible to obtain without ordering from abroad. Oh, and the box and art will now match all the other maps that I have… Québec is part of Mégawatts, the French edition of the game released by Filosofia, while Baden-Württemberg was included in Funkenschlag: EnBW, a German edition of the game from EnBW. Like all Power Grid maps, there are some little rules twists to keep the games fresh, and I have had good experiences with both of these maps. Quebec IRL has hydro-electricity, so there is a higher proportion of renewable energy power plants. And IIRC, in the EnBW map, Phase 2 (and maybe Phase 3) is triggered earlier – when a player has connected fewer cities than in Power Grid, and this speeds up the game a little bit.
2) Dungeon Lords: Festival Season
The base game here is complicated enough, but it looks like this expansion will add a fifth “season” onto each of the two years in the game. “More time to build your dungeon, but also more time for adventurers to gather a larger party. There are new monsters, rooms, and traps to prepare your dungeon for the battle, but also new nasty spells for the adventurers and sneaky bards who encourage them to perform so-called “heroic” deeds”. This likely fixes my biggest personal issue with the game which was that I never felt like I had the time that I wanted to get ready for the dungeon. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I can point you to the Opinionated Gamers preview of the Czech games from the Gathering of Friends earlier in the year.
3) Magnum Sal: Muria
One of the best games from two years ago (not just Essen, but 2010 in general) – this expansion adds both a 5th player to the game as well as a new resource, brine. There will also be new orders that require this new material. This expansion is also a bit more involved because it includes a new board which has 2 new buildings on it. Sadly, there are no pictures available of this one yet, so it’s unclear if it is the same city with just some extra buildings on it. I’ll admit that Magnum Sal hasn’t been played here for a few months, so hopefully having some new bits will give my group motivation to play it again.
4) King of Tokyo – Power up!
I got a chance to see this briefly at GenCon – First, there is a new monster attacking Japan, a giant Panda Bear… Second, there are now Evolution cards which give your monster special abilities. These cards can be drawn when you roll 3 hearts (even when you are in Tokyo). Some of the Evolution cards are one-time effects, some are longer acting. I’ll be honest with you, my family isn’t even tired of the base game yet, but I’m thinking that the addition of the new cards can only improve the game – because it fixes one of the complaints that I had about the game which is that rolling hearts while you’re in the city did you nothing…
5) Vanuatu: The Rising Waters
Vanuatu turned out to be one of my favorite games from last year’s SPIEL – it is a very competitive and unforgiving game, that’s for sure. The expansion for it coming out this year looks to make it possibly even more unforgiving as it “adds an option (as part of the Build action) for players to build dikes to protect islands from rising waters. Water can reduce a player’s points from houses, submerge an island completely, and even end the game early with no winner.” I’m not sure that the base game really needs anything else to make it more difficult – but I like Vanuatu enough that I want to give this a try too.
6) Eclipse: Rise of the Ancients
OK, Eclipse isn’t exactly my sort of game, but as far as 4X(ish) games go, it’s not bad. And a few of the guys in my local group love Eclipse, so I know I’m going to get a chance to play this one. This one seems to just give you more of what you already love – more player boards so you can choose different races to play, more technologies and developments. Lucky for me, it is a modular affair so you can add the bits you want and leave the others out. Additionally, in case I really ever need to have a game that plays NINE, this expansion will let me and every other kid in the neighborhood battle for galactic supremacy at one time. Of course, we’ll have to play on the pool table because that’s the only thing that will give everyone enough space to play!
7) Evolution: Time to Fly
Evolution is a nice little card game that came out of Russia last year. You use cards to create animals with all sorts of different traits. The game has an interesting scoring system in that you only score points for creatures left alive on the final round. This expansion adds a bunch of new traits into the game, including flying. Of all of the RightGames releases last year, Evolution is the one which still hits the table – so this is the expansion I am most looking forward to from them.
Time to head off for the weekend and read some game rules – We should have a bunch of rules previews in the next week!
Edit: Dale forgot the most important Essen expansion of them all!
8) LADIES(!) of Troyes
-Blue dice, that no one can buy/steal from you!
-A new action that allows your meeples to walk along the city wall and do new stuff!
-27(!) new action cards!
As Troyes is probably my favorite game from the last 2 years, this is the expansion that I am looking forward to the most, and frankly, I’m disappointed it didn’t make the top of Dale’s list. That’s why I hijacked this post. Sorry, carry on.