Expansions. There are many possibilities to what they can do. Players can be added, rules refined (or fixed for the cynical), mechanics that didn’t have time to be polished can be introduced. Most commonly, it simply gives you more game to play.
One thing they almost always do is make you think about the base game again. You can tell exactly how much you enjoy the base game just by looking at an expansion on the shelf. There may be excitement that there is a new reason to play an old favourite. You could be stumped, standing in the aisle trying to remember if you have played the game before. Confusion where you are sure you know the game they are talking about, but it looks completely different on the back of the box.
This list is by no means final, as at the start of January 2018 I have no idea what other expansions could be coming out this year. So if you happen to be reading this and wonder why the new hot expansion isn’t here – it’s probably because it wasn’t announced or I missed the announcement.
On that note, on to the list.
UNLOCK! 2018 ADVENTURES
This is at number 10 simply because I wonder if it should be on the 2018 games list. Technically each scenario is completely stand-alone, so may be considered individual games. I tend to look at them as the Unlock! ‘system’ though, so to me each game is an expansion.
Apart from my subjective musings, there is one hard fact why this shouldn’t be on any list. As yet, no third set (or scenarios 7-9, or however you like to number them) have been announced.
Unlock! is a great series, and holds it’s own even in the current very lucrative home escape room phenomena.
Exit and Escape the Room, two other escape room style games, both have a lot going for them and are great games I will play at any opportunity. But Unlock! just has the edge for me overall. Yes, there is less that can be done in some ways with just a pack of cards. It’s easier to setup, and takes less space to play. You don’t have to print things off to reset an adventure (if you are playing an adventure that can be reset!).
So basically, any new Unlock! adventures will have me hooked and waiting to buy them. And it would be very surprising for Space Cowboys not to have more in the works, the players are jumping at all of these games at the moment and just makes them too much money!
THE 7th CONTINENT EXPANSIONS
The 7th Continent is currently ranked 41 on Board Game Geek. That shows a lot of people that REALLY love this game.
A mixture of choose your own adventure, role play and escape room games, there is a lot to offer many different types of player.
The 7th Continent is not the sort of game you can say too much information about without spoiling, and going into the additional scenarios multiplies the spoil factor. So I won’t be going into any detail at all really, I just really want more 7th Continent. That simple.
This is the sort of game that if new content came out regularly every couple of months or even quarterly, a lot of people would be playing it for a very long time.
You can see more on the expansions from the Kickstarter page here.
T.I.M.E. STORIES EXPANSIONS
Time Stories has been a series I had very high hopes for when it was first announced, and it has mostly delivered.
I have learned to expect long delays in getting new items games in Australia. It’s something you have to get used to here.
But Time Stories have had some long breaks due to extended delays between adventures. Also, gamers have a lot of newer and more complete experiences that have released in the last two years, which understandably has caused a lot of players to lose interest.
So why am I still interested? Well, I can’t go into too much detail or even tell you exactly where I am up to, because of spoilers. But two years later I think they are where they thought they would be after year one.
I have also been playing with a couple of groups, and so I have been the constant player in all of the adventures. It’s been long enough from when I started that I would like to get a new group together and all play through all the scenarios from the beginning and relive the experiences again as a collective group.
These expansions would have been higher on the list, but honestly, I would have trouble recommending Time Stories for brand new players to buy. It’s a lot of fun, and I would pull my copy out to play with you with no hesitation.
But if you had to invest the over $350 now to get everything to be where I am now, I can’t recommend Time Stories to you.
While they are very different experiences, Arkham Horror: The Card Game, even just the base game, has so much more game out of the box for half the price. And a game like Gloomhaven, even with almost double the RRP of the base game, is a complete campaign with about 100 hours of gameplay.
Because I have all the current games I can get my hands on, these new scenarios are relatively cheap for me to grab and so I can build on the experience. And because it’s starting to do what I was hoping it would do at the start, I am itching to play again.
DECEPTION: UNDERCOVER ALLIES
I openly admit I enjoy watching people react to situations games put them in. Well, that guiding the game to a specific situation as well.
To this end, I enjoy social deduction games. Some are better than others, and each game is aimed at different groups. There is no better class of games to demonstrate this than social deduction.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong contained something that is missing from a lot of other classic games – information to instantly act upon.
It was fast and fun to play, and player elimination to me had a unique twist – you eliminate yourself from the game by accusing yourself, so it was very hard for people to gang up on each other.
One thing though is to me it was very much like the first Resistance or the original Werewolf. Once you played it a few times, the way to play becomes pretty clear. Having a different coroner with different play styles, the random scene clues to be given, even different players and their thinking helped with replayability. Eventually, though, Deception came through as more of a gateway or quick filler.
But also like the original Resistance and Werewolf, new life is being breathed into the game with new roles and special powers for both the investigators and the killer.
The roles have minor twists but are enough to change the game slightly without being too overpowered (at least on the surface). The more subtle roles also allow players to hide in plain sight, which with the right group can make a game so much more. More clues and means cards always helps with the randomness as well 🙂
Everything going well, I should have my copy Early February from the Kickstarter. You can bet I will be bringing this out for a new game again straight after.
THE NETWORKS: EXECUTIVES
The Networks is a fun game where players each run a new TV station and tries to have the best shows with the hottest stars, paid for by ad revenue. But also like a TV station, you need to keep your line up new and fresh, or you will lose viewers! But if you really need help, the Network card can make or break you.
A unique twist on essentially card drafting/engine building and set collection game, The Networks is a fun game that taught relatively quickly and can be played in just under an hour if everyone is switched on. The main thing that will slow down a game like this is known as ‘Analysis Paralysis’, where players stop and weigh up the optimal moves.
In the new Networks: Executives, gameplay is expanded with Executives just as the title suggests. These executives give you special powers and benefits, but each also comes with a disadvantage to even things out. Things like you could be a government station, so you have guaranteed income each round, but you have a lot of paperwork to handle that no other player has to deal with. These executives will have a major impact on the gameplay, and I can’t wait to see what they all do.
Another significant change is ‘Season 0’ cards. In the networks, you would start all at a similar level in the first season of programming. The Season 0 cards, however, can be thought of as pilot shows, and are proper shows in their own right. At the start of the game, these shows will be drafted by the players. Some will give you a Stars and Ads, but have no Genre. Some have a Genre and Ads, but come without Stars.
This can be seen as more of a ‘gamer’ addition, but it will make players strategise at the start of each game on the fly as all of the conditions change, not just drawn shows during the game. Also, this is being added by an expansion, so it leaves The Networks accessibility intact.
Also included are mogul cards. These cards are collective bonus conditions that players are also trying to work towards, giving another layer of play and strategy to play towards.
This looks to be an outstanding addition to an already solid game and will give not only a new boost to the gameplay but also provides longevity in the form of replayability.
Check out The Networks: Executives Board Game Geek page here.
The Networks: Executives can be preordered on their Kickstarter page here.
NEAR AND FAR: AMBER MINES
Two Red Raven games in one day! Near and Far, the sequel/follow up to Above and Below, came out to rave reviews. To say these are the most popular Ryan Laukat games would not be an exaggeration.
The drive for a narrative playing experience is evident in all of his games, and the chance to play more Near and Far to me can’t be a bad thing.
Amber Mines is one of those expansion I really like – it adds modules that you can add or remove according to taste and who you are playing with. This allows for a lot of flexibility and takes the frustration of learning a lot of rule changes at once if you don’t want to.
If you have never played Near and Far, bug someone you know what has a copy and try it! They are campaign style games where you uncover story and events as you go. The Amber Mines changes some aspects to the game, but it’s more alternate locations than sweeping game changes so it opens up new story possibilities.
You get to replace the Mine with the Amber Mines (title did give that away). You get to play with Magic. You can add a new General Store. And you have new threat cards.
This may not mean much to you if you haven’t played the game, and you will probably be scratching your head why it would be exciting. All I can really tell you is if you’re a fan, this is a good thing.
Check out the Board Game Geek page here.
SPECTER OPS BROKEN COVENANT
Hidden movement games are another of those out there mechanics that I enjoy, but can be intimidating when you first get into this kind of game. One of the first of this type of game was Scotland Yard in the early 80’s. Scotland Yard can be a great intro to hidden movement games, but there are a lot of people that look at a game this old and turn their nose up at it.
Newer and more complex games like Fury of Dracula and Letters from Whitechapel are great, but take multiple hours to play and have a fairly steep learning curve, especially for the hidden player. These are games that can technically be played straight away new, but you really need someone that has taken the time to thoroughly review the rules and maybe played a simulated solo game to host a game.
So there seemed in 2015 not much in the middle. Then Specter Ops was released by Emerson Matsuuchi and Plaid Hat Games. Incidentally, Emerson Matsuuchi has had a great 2017 with the Century series of games (Spice Road and Golem).
Specter Ops I still say is a great gateway version of hidden movement games. That is not to say it is not without it’s faults, and two years later it’s greatest one is still to be addressed. On release, there was news of a companion app coming, a new thing at the time. This would allow the hidden player to have help with things like selecting only valid moves and checking line of site rules. It was even demonstrated at Gen Con 2016. Unfortunately, it still hasn’t arrived, and I know a few players that were waiting on the app before taking the plunge.
All that aside, Broken Covenant is a stand-alone expansion with a new board and new characters and equipment that can be combined with the original. A long game of Specter Ops is still less than half the time of a quick game of Fury of Dracula, so it’s the hidden movement game that gets the most play, and I can’t wait to try it.
You can find the Board Game Geek page here.
ELDER SIGN: OMENS OF THE PHAROAH
Elder Sign is a game I can usually trick people into playing a Cthulu game with. If I had to describe it in the fewest words possible, they would be ‘Campaign Cthulu Yahtzee’. Let’s see how you wrap your head around that for a minute.
So why do I have to ‘trick’ people into playing a game at all? This is something I feel you shouldn’t have to do. But Elder Sign is one of those games that even though it’s Cthulu themed, if you have a player or group that likes dice games and enjoy collection adventures then this will work for them. The problem I have to convince people on is the theme – just like Zombies, it has been overdone I must admit. But Elder Sign is part of Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror Files line, including Arkham Horror and Mansions of Madness, and this universe a lot of people I play with end up enjoying, especially as there are many different styles of games depending on what they like.
So if I know people like the style of game but aren’t keen on the theme, I tend to describe the mechanics and remain vague on the setting until I know they are interested in the game, then tell them about Cthulu and maybe show them the box. This way they still can make a call before any time is committed, and only once has this not ended in players giving it a go despite their feelings on the theme.
Elder Sign has a lot of components to it as a board game though, and setup is very tedious. I must admit if I want to solo a few rounds I simply fire up the Elder Sign: Omens game on Steam, iOS and Android. The rules are a little different, but the system takes care of all the setup and whatnot. You just have to roll the dice and make decisions on what you want to do. One thing that the app did that the board game did not is let you play little mini-campaigns with varying locations and objectives. For example, in the Call of Cthulu app content, you can find supplies, sail around and then have your final battle. It works very well, and until last year and the Omens of the Deep board game expansion you couldn’t do this in the board game, it was always one location and one objective.
Omens of the Pharoah is the latest expansion announced in the series and takes players to a new area – Egypt. This is another expansion based on the Omens campaigns, but now I can play it around the table with people and have the whole experience that board games can offer, rather than passing around a mouse or a tablet and being totally removed until it’s my turn again.
I honestly don’t think I can get Elder Sign in on a general game night, it’s not quite that kind of game, but any new stories for it for the few times I can get a game in are always appreciated!
Check out the Board Game Geek page here.
FLAMME ROUGE: PELOTON
Flamme Rouge. A simple game that almost feels like it shouldn’t be as fun as it is. The premise is pretty simple – teams of riders consisting of a Rouleur and a Sprinteur race to be the first to cross the finish line.
This is done over a variety of courses, achieved by giving you pieces of track, kind of like old school slot cars. These are double-sided as well, giving you a fair bit of variety.
The mechanics are fairly simple. You draw cards and choose how many spaces your riders can move. If they are in the very front of a pack of riders, you get exhaustion cards which only allow you to go forward a small way. If you are one square behind a rider, you can take advantage of their slipstream and move up one square. And if you are riding uphill, you can’t move more than five squares, while you can’t move less then five going downhill. The mechanics really are that simple, making it easy to teach and learn. It also helps that everyone has had a lot of fun playing the game 🙂
Peloton is billed as being the first expansion for Flamme Rouge. While there are new mechanics added (primarily cobblestones forcing chokepoints in races), the most obvious addition is two new teams of racers, increasing the player count to a maximum of six.
The bottom line is Flamme Rouge is a fun game, that the four player cap stopped it being put forward many times on games night. Now with the extra teams, I am hoping a couple of games a month can get into my regular games night. Possibly even an ongoing league play could be on the cards!
Check out the Board Game Geek page here.
DOWNFORCE: DANGER CIRCUIT
And another racing game expansion!
Downforce was a game I was dying to play last year, and Restoration Games hit it out of the park. I enjoy racing games, but Formula D is just too long and overly complex to be anything but a game for ‘true fans’. With the release of Downforce, Rob Daviau and co took everything that was fun with the like of Formula D and distilled down to a quick and enjoyable experience.
After my very first game, I commented on how easy Downforce was going to be to expand. New tracks and new team powers alone could be released and they would be popular, and this looks exactly like what is happening.
The name makes me think that there may be a new mechanic as well. Maybe similar to the Formula D Danger Die when players got close to each other? While something like this could be an interesting addition, the bottom line is this Danger Die was anything but and dragged out an already long game. But players risking potential damage or loss of position due to contact may be worth investigating for gameplay as an optional addition.
This is just me thinking out loud. Doubling the number of tracks and player powers guarantees this will be on my preorder list just as soon as I get the chance.
Check out the Board Game Geek page here.
1 – FIELDS OF ARLE: TEA AND TRADE
Fields of Arle is an Uwe Rosenberg game for 1 or 2 players. It is a worker placement game like some of his other hits such as Agricola or Caverna, but with the difference of being balanced for specifically two players.
In it you expand your territory over a nine-year period, preparing for the next summer or winter. I have only gotten it to the table once as a two player game, but a few as a solo experience.
It’s one of those games that unless you are a Rosenberg fan, honestly it is going to be hard to sell it too you. You know about it or you don’t, and this is a very heavy two player game I would never suggest to anyone to buy on a whim.
But Tea and Trade looks to not only add new mechanics but a third player as well. Normally I have mixed feelings about increasing the player count in expansions, but one of the big problems I have had getting Fields of Arle to the table is when I had some people around for a bigger game session, it is always 3-4 people so we couldn’t play it.
This looks like an expansion that will fix this problem, and for that alone, I am keen to have a go.
2 – STAR WARS: IMPERIAL ASSAULT
I had gone off Imperial Assault over the last year or so. Not because it’s not enjoyable, but because it was hard to get to the table.
But now Fantasy Flight have developed an app in the vein of Mansions of Madness second edition that allows me to play it solo if I feel like it. While the scenarios I have played have been fun, I still prefer Mansions of Madness at the moment. The scenarios were designed more for a human player to be in charge of both sides, and the solo experience just feels like it is missing a little bit.
But future expansions now the app is a real thing? Well, that could be very different. Or it could be more of the same. Either way, I will be grabbing the next major expansion for Imperial Assault and giving it a go to find out!
3 – POWER GRID: FABLED EXPANSION
This one is all of the different. Power Grid is an age-old favourite, and I would say the highest ranked Friedmann Friese game on Board Game Geek.
Power Grid is a very maths heavy resource management/route building/auction game that is pretty much a gaming staple on ‘must have played’ lists for the last decade.
Fabled Fruit on the other hand is a new type of game from the same designer that has come out of nowhere and catching on big time. I am looking forward to playing three new games based on this ruleset – the Fast Forward series.
But what is this ruleset? Well, there is no rulebook. Instead, you have a deck of cards that contains the rules, and as you continue through the deck you find new rules, so the game changes over time.
Combining the two games will be very interesting indeed, and I can’t wait to see how it all works out. My gaming group knows enough games like Power Grid these days that I am hoping to get a few games of Fear (first in the Fast Forward series) and see who would be interested in trying the two combined.