Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

The Ten Best Game Expansions

10. Innovation: Echoes of the Past

A rather new entry to start the list off, since the game innovation was only released a year or so ago. But expansions don’t take long to be released anymore, and Innovations first expansion was no exception. Now, they could have gone the easy route of simply adding new cards without really changing much, but instead they tried for something different and unique, especially with the foreshadow feature. But the thing about Echoes is that it takes a game which many people were on the fence about, and moving many of them to the pro side.

9. Seafarers of Catan

Settlers of Catan is the most popular board game of the modern era. Not only did it popularize the so-called “Euro-game” but it also popularized the idea of game expansions, starting with this excellent package, the Seafarers of Catan. This allowed the game to spread out beyond the 19-hex isle and explore new territory. A bunch of new scenarios breath a lot of life into a familiar classic.

8. Alhambra: The City Gates

Alhambra, like its more famous tile-laying counterpart Carcassone, is famous for having a wealth of expansions. And it really is a great game for expansions, since the base game is rather quite basic. But of all Alhambra’s add-ons, City Gates is the shining jewel. It includes four new modules which allow you to expand your player board, adds a change to the bidding round with a common currency, and even adds variable player powers with the character cards. Many sprinkles for the vanilla Alhambra.

7. Railways of England and Wales

This can actually expand two games: Railroad Tycoon and its rebooted edition Railways of the World. What sets this expansion apart is how much deeper it is able to take the original game by adding a whole new economic system. This adds new levels of strategy and engine building to the game and really makes it something new and fresh.

6. Twilight Imperium: Shattered Empire

Twilight Imperium is a massive game. It is a very involved exploration of intergalactic politics, economics, and warfare that takes hours to play and can encompass up to six players. How could it possibly get more complex or more involved? How could an expansion add anything to a game which seemingly has it all?
Well, somehow, it does! Shattered Empire not only expands the game, with news cards, races, and the addition of two more players, but it improves the game considerably. Not an easy feat for a game of this magnitude.

5. Dominion: Prosperity

Its hard to think of another game which so quickly soaked up the attention and hype of the board gaming community than Dominion in 2008. It took the gaming world by storm, selling a million copies and leading to string of great expansions. The best of these is probably Prosperity, which really takes this popular card game to new places. It allows for greater treasures (the Platinum card) and better rewards (10 point colonies and great cards costing 6 and 7 coins). It provides players with a flurry of new stuff to use and really lives up to its name. It gives players more, more, more.

4. Pandemic: On the Brink

Talk about getting a bang for your buck! The first and thus far only expansion for the co-op game Pandemic has so much stuff in it, there’s no need for a second. This fantastic package include new role cards, new special items, and even petri dish storage cases for the disease cubes! And on top of that there are three new scenarios which make the game more challenging and involved. On the Brink takes a great game and makes it excellent.

3. Memoir ’44: Operation Overlord

Memoir ’44 is a great 2 player war game, with many scenarios depicting real WWII battles. There have also been many expansions which bring in new battles from the Eastern Front, Pacific Theater, etc. But with the Overlord expansion, the game has been taken to new heights. No longer is it only for 2 players. Overlord allows the opportunity for up to 8 players, with 4 on each side with each team carrying out the orders of their leader. Operation Overlord takes the great Memoir ’44 and brings it up to a whole new scale.

2. The Cities and Knights of Catan

Settlers of Catan, like I previously mentioned, is one of the most popular games on the market. And where Seafarers expanded the field of play, Cities and Knights makes it a deeper and more complex game. Catan becomes a much richer experience with the new civilization-building aspects of the commodities, city expansions, and metropolis race. Meanwhile, the barbarian ship which makes players team up with the knights they hire and train creates some very interesting dynamics. This is an expansion which completely changes the game while keeping the core of Catan intact. Its an expansion for experienced players and it makes for a great Catan experience.

1. Descent: Road to Legend

I’m not a big fan of the dungeon crawling genre, especially since its been done to death and all it really does is reconfirm the “nerd” status of this genre. And really, Descent is just another dungeon crawl with your characters exploring a different dungeon each game, fighting various monsters. A few expansions came and went, adding a few more monsters, etc.
But then came Road to Legend, which made the game, for lack of a better word, epic. The action was now taken beyond the dungeon to a whole vast fantasy land. It transforms the game, it expands the game, it makes the game a new fantastical saga. Road to Legend takes its base game to new places in a way that no other expansion has been able to, giving it the spot at the top of this list.

2 Responses to “The Ten Best Game Expansions”

  1. i find that cities & knights changes the game TOO much… i can see why people like it, but the focus on knights was too much for my taste.

  2. Well, I think you need to qualify your top 10 list with non-wargame. The best expansions I know of are to the original Midway, the Coral Sea/South Pacific variants, and for UpFront – the Banzai expansion. The rest of your list leaves me rather … eh.

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