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Why do we love board game expansions?

Posted Sunday, 31-May-2015

Contributed by Andrew Knighton

If you’ve been paying any attention to our weekly Board Game News Brief, you’ll have noticed that expansions are a pretty big deal. Every game seems to get them.  Fantasy Flight were so keen to expand Star Wars Armada that they announced a second wave of expansions within a week of the starter box coming out.

So why do we keep rushing to buy expansions?

Money, Money, Money

It’s pretty obvious why companies keeping making game expansions.  If people like a game then expansions are sure to sell, as well as requiring less development than a new game.  They’re a safe way for the company to make money.

Of course, demand isn’t entirely shaped by us consumers.  A big publisher like Fantasy Flight can afford to put a decent marketing budget behind something like the Game of Thrones Card Game. That helps make people want the game and its expansions.


Game of Thrones Board Game Expansions 01
Fantasy Flight Games has a huge budget behind its Game of Thrones Card Game


But we aren’t just monkeys pressing a button every time an advertiser rings a bell.  There’s a genuine appeal to expansions.

Cutting Out the Learning Curve

One of the advantages of expansions is that they save time learning to play.  Buy an expansion for Carcassonne and you can play it almost straight away, because you already know how the main game works.  Buy a new standalone board game like Royals and you’ll be learning from scratch.


Carcassonne has 29 expansions and counting!
Carcassonne has 29 expansions and counting!


Expansions are an easy, comfortable option. They give us a new experience with relatively little hassle, and that’s a good thing. They also mean we get to keep playing with the old game.

But is there more at play here than laziness?

A Richer Experience

Good expansions do more than just vary an existing game – they make it into a richer, deeper experience.

Look at Android: Netrunner, one of the most popular expanding card games on the market.  With its enthusiastic fan community, regular releases and competitive events it’s a phenomenon on the card gaming scene.  None of that would be possible if the expansions didn’t keep making the game more interesting and varied, keeping players’ attention.


Android: Netrunner continues to build its vast catalog of expansions.
Android: Netrunner continues to build its vast catalog of expansions.


This is what the makers of Star Wars Armada are banking on – that each new ship release won’t just add new toys to the game, but will allow players to use existing pieces in new and interesting ways. That it will grow into something compelling with players eagerly awaiting each new release.


Star Wars: Armada was designed to be enhanced by multiple expansions.
Star Wars: Armada was designed to be enhanced by multiple expansions.


So whether you’re contemplating buying the Smash Up Big Geeky Box to replace your over-crowded starting box, or eagerly waiting for the postman to deliver the latest Doomtown deck, you’re buying into a grand new tradition. A tradition of games that keep on getting better with each release.

Published by BoardGamePrices.com

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