Brandon Kempf: Three Games – Expansions

I have a lot of games. A lot of games that are on my shelves, or on my table being played, that I have told myself that I want to review at some point. For one reason or another, this doesn’t always happen. My goal here on The Opinionated Gamers is that I want to get about one review out per week, but I’d like to write about more games. So I’m taking a page out of Patrick Brennan’s playbook, and we’re going to start writing about games in threes, in snapshot form. This should be a good way for readers to get to know me and my gaming tastes a bit better, and also another way for me to talk about games that I maybe don’t really want to dedicate two thousand words to. Welcome to Three Games.

The simple way to do this would be for me to just write about three Carcassonne expansions, or even Pitchcar expansions. Those are the only expansions that I can think of that I truly will use just about every time that I play a game. Most of the time, the base game suits me just fine. But that wouldn’t be fun for the Three Games series now would it, especially after reviewing Kingdomino Age of Giants so glowingly last week. So here we go, three expansions that we enjoy. For what it’s worth, PitchCar is good with all expansions, and Carcassonne is best with Inns and Cathedrals and then sometimes with Traders & Builders

Seasons: Enchanted Kingdom

Seasons is a game that we enjoy quite a bit around here. After a few plays though, you start to see specific strategies and combinations built around certain cards. Seasons is a dice rolling, card drafting game where you are competing against others to score the most points. The dice are used as the main ways to harvest and manipulate the energy that you need in order to play the cards from your hand. It’s an absolute joy to play and honestly, after playing Seasons I never feel the necessity to play Magic the Gathering ever again. It’s not nearly as customizable, but it also doesn’t require the huge buy in to be competitive. The self-contained nature of Seasons was a breath of fresh air. That being said, games like this thrive on adaptability and on expansion, and Enchanted Kingdom brought new power cards to play, and also brought in just enough new stuff to change things up a bit. The Enchantment Cards are interesting enough and you only use one per game and it changes the game just a bit. But the Powers add quite a bit, in a good way. There are twelve in the game and you are randomly given three to start. After you have drafted your cards, each player chooses one power to use for the game. It adds a really interesting, and strategic twist to an already great game. 

Dominion Intrigue

Maybe I just like more cards in my games? Dominion has probably been covered enough here that no one needs to have my quick take on what it is. It’s the best deck building game out there, the original. Intrigue takes Dominion and makes it bigger. I am not an expert Dominion player. I don’t really have favorite cards, I don’t have favorite set-ups, I just like to randomly pick the cards that will be in the game and go. Intrigue adds rules for playing with up to eight players, rather two games of four people, not that I would ever want to, and it also allows for six player games all together, which I did once, once. Most importantly Intrigue brought us new cards which led to I think eleven more expansions. I know I said I don’t have favorite cards, but Nobles and Scout from Intrigue would probably be my favorites. Once again, I’m not a good Dominion player, but I enjoy the heck out of it and Intrigue is a great expansion to have. 

7 Wonders Leaders

I’m like a broken record here, if it has more cards, I seem to be drawn to it. You gain a new Wonder, the ancient city of Rome, you gain some more Guilds for end game scoring. The main thing that Leaders adds are the Leaders cards, thirty-five of them to be exact. The Leaders are drafted until every player has four of them. During a game, three of them will be played. You are allowed to play one before the start of each age. Leaders do not cost resources to play, but instead cost you your precious hard earned money. The Leaders cards do a lot of guiding in your play, in helping you decide and enact your strategy throughout. Some Leaders do tend to be a bit confusing at first, but for the most part they integrate flawlessly with the base game and add just enough to notice a difference, like most great expansions should do. 

As far as expansions go, my BGG collection says that I have 107 of them. Of that number though, a lot of them never get played. I’ve never played The Experts the expansion for Ginkgopolis. Forty plus plays and I still think the base game is good enough to play on it’s own, due to all the variability in play. I have all the expansions for Summoner Wars and 7th Continent. But honestly, when will all of those ever get played? It’s nice to have the options though, right? 

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers

Matt Carlson: My favorite Dominion expansion is Prosperity…. Bigger is better, right? However, I do agree that there really is something special about the original Dominion vs all the clones of the genre that have come later.  As for necessary expansions, there aren’t too many for me. Machi Koro’s Harbor and some of the El Grande bidding card expansions are two that come to mind. I enjoy expansions as I can typically wedge them into the original game box and thus I have new options without any extra shelf space!  Primarily, those expansions are for my favorite games. They don’t get played as much as those favorites don’t come out often enough for all the players to be ready to use them. Because of this, expansions that don’t change the complexity much are very welcome. I find the Roll for the Galaxy expansions to be fairly easy to add, for example.  

Mark Jackson: For a time, Summoner Wars was the only game my boys wanted to play… so the expansions were fantastic to add variety and spice. Now they just sit there mocking me, waiting to be played again. (Note: I think Summoner Wars is excellent, with or without all the extra decks.)

I’d lean towards Cities instead of Leaders for 7 Wonders – I think it’s easier to teach to new players and doesn’t slow down the opening of the game in the same way. That said, I own literally ALL of the expansions to 7 Wonders and am looking forward to playing an “all in” game with adventurous friends.

Tery Noseworthy: I generally enjoy expansions when they add a new twist to an already-good game. I fight the urge to buy all expansions for games I own until I know what they entail; I don’t enjoy expansions that don’t actually add something interesting.

 I like the Seasons: Enchanted Kingdom expansion as well. I really enjoy the game, and it was nice to have new/additional powers added. Brandon’s review is a good reminder that I need to get this back into the rotation.

I eventually gave up on trying to own all the Dominion expansions. I love the game, but I don’t play it frequently enough to be able to incorporate expansions enough to justify the cost and space.  Intrigue is my favorite of the expansions I do own, though. 

I only played the Leaders expansion for 7 Wonders once, mostly because I just don’t love the game. I like the mechanics it employs in general, but it just falls flat for me for some reason. I did think the Leaders expansion improved my experience, though.

Patrick Brennan: I have no interest in an expansion that “fixes” a game – I don’t want to reward the publisher for not putting out the game it should have been in the first place. Further I have no interest in paying half again the original game cost for an expansion that’s probably not needed. I’d much rather spend that money on exploring something new. 

I only consider buying an expansion to a game if I play it a lot already and I’m looking for new options to explore and new ways to enjoy it. Playing so much new stuff doesn’t leave a lot of time for playing old stuff, so not many games get expansion love. I’ve played Gloomhaven 50+ times over the last year and expansions like Forgotten Circles are a no-brainer. I have a couple of expansions for Dominion which we’ll randomly pull cards from, but not Intrigue – I didn’t like the attackiness of it – and they’ve been good value. I’ll always play with Race For The Galaxy with the first expansion, as it adds multi-player goals which I enjoy. I’ll play different maps of Power Grid for the variety. The common theme is that these are games I’d be playing regularly anyway, and the expansions breathe new exploration life into them. Spirit Island has the only other expansion I’ve considered over the last 2 years, but jeez, the cost. I’m waiting for a 75% off sale. Then I might consider it.

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