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Board Game Expansions Take Games To Another Level

Board Game Expansions - Pandemic Brink

Have you ever thought about this little detail about a game that you wish it were different? Have you ever wondered how your most played game could be tweaked to offer a different challenge? Our team has collected a set of board game expansions that will help you take you game nights to another level, make this average board game shine or bring a completely new flavour to your favourite classic.

Pandemic: On The Brink By Rachael

Just like film sequels, expansions are often not all that. But just like Aliens, sometimes, just sometimes, an expansion comes along that truly enhances gameplay and makes a much more enjoyable experience. On the Brink just happens to be one of those! It breathes new life into Pandemic adding extra components and 3 different challenges to add complexity and skill to your game.

So, what do you get that makes this expansion so worthwhile. Well for a start there are 7 new role cards and pawns, including the Bio-Terrorist who can be played when using the Bio-Terrorist Challenge. This adds an interesting twist to the classic co-operative because it pits one player against the others. Whilst this isn’t my favourite of the new challenges it certainly does change gameplay a lot and it adds a pretty neat tracking location sheet to the game.

Other role cards give you a range of different unique abilities from the Archivist, who now lets me play a blue pawn, my favourite colour. This role allows the player to hold 8 cards in hand. Or the Troubleshooter, red pawn, who at the start of their turn may look at as many infection cards as the current infection rate. A little like seeing the future in Exploding Kittens, knowledge is power! The troubleshooter can also do direct flights without discarding a city card which could be super useful.

To play the Virulent Strain Challenge replace the normal epidemic cards with the virulent strain epidemic cards. A disease has gone out of control with some disastrous consequences. When an epidemic occurs, you follow the usual increase, infect, intensify stages followed by a nasty effect such as requiring you to use 1 more city card to discover a cure for the virulent strain or force you to treat the disease (at least 1 cube) before you can leave any city with the virulent strain.

And finally, my favourite challenge, Mutation! Not only does this challenge add a 5th disease and gives you some lovely purple cubes but the expansion comes with 5 little petri dishes to house all of your disease cubes. There is even a space to name your disease so if you want to wipe out Covid-19, Smallpox or Ebola simply choose your cube colour and name that disease. It’s a lot more fun after all to take out Dengue Fever rather than saying remove a blue cube. I’m not saying make Pandemic an RPG but where’s the harm in a little storytelling to add to your CDC adventure. My recommendation… get this expansion to enhance your game of Pandemic in all the right ways. So go on, remember, the world is depending on you!

7 Wonders Duel Pantheon By Luke Pickles

If you’re in the market for an expansion which really lifts and elevates a game that might be getting stale, then you are in luck, my friend, for I have just the thing! The base game of 7 Wonders Duel is an excellent two-player only version of 7 Wonders, the drafting game that started it all. Instead of passing around a hand of cards between yourself and your opponent, you have a pyramid of cards set out during each age that you take cards from. Points at the end of the game isn’t the only way to win though, as you also have a tug-of war military track and victory for the first one to get six science symbols.

With the Pantheon expansion, you add in some interesting new abilities each round. The first round, when certain cards are revealed, it also allows the player who revealed that card to draw from a pantheon deck related to the mythology token placed during set up. The gods of these pantheons are Greek, Egyptian, Phoenician, Sumerian and Roman, which is a nice touch. When you draw from the pantheon decks, you can choose one of the two cards and place it at a strategic position on the Pantheon board. This will affect the future cost for you and your opponent to potentially court the god to use their powers in ages 2 and 3.

The inclusion of these gods gives more weight to the money in the game, as you need coins to bribe/offer up to them as an action. Because of their unique powers, you can manipulate the board in different ways and force your opponent to take deal with the card you didn’t want to free up the one you did. The whole expansion adds another layer to the game, giving you some excellent strategic choices.

Cyclades Titans By John H

Great expansions fall into one of two categories: cheap, small incremental expansions that add a little bit of new flavour (like Carnies for The Bloody Inn, or Historical Events for Hegemony) or massive game changer expansions that keep the core spirit of the game but make some fairly radical alterations sufficient to feel like you are playing a new game. Anything in between I find is often a bit disappointing as I would rather put the 25-30 quid towards a new title in most (but not all) cases.

Cyclades Titans epitomises the second category. Retained is the core spirit of an area control, ‘bods on the map game.’ Also, the excellent auction mechanic with the tense bidding for who gets to do exactly what they want, depending on their ability to outbid rivals for control of the necessary god.

Added however is a new game board, replacing the eponymous Cyclades island chain with two bigger land masses and two smaller high value islands. And alongside that, new rules for starting placement, which is no longer fixed. These changes in themselves alter the feel of the game. Army movement feels more significant, though naval power is far from trivial, and the choice of where to place and how to interact with your most immediate neighbour in a 4 or 5 player game is a very different experience.

Titans Go!

Hand in glove with this comes the addition of another ‘god’ Kronos, and the associated titan miniatures, which together have a big impact on gameplay. Kronos provides additional routes to achieve the core ‘base game’ strategies for gaining metropolises. Titans provide a second, but costly, route to achieve troop movement (other than Ares) which dovetails well with the larger land masses. Kronos can also offer additional routes to build ‘other gods’’ buildings and this provides further, which have won me the game in the past.

And yet there is even more! Divine artefacts add additional on-board buffs to troops, or other revenue generation powers. They are simple enough modifications but by linking the buff to an on-board miniature creates losable resources where their placement itself is a tactical consideration. You also get specialist metropolises which provide further simple but interesting tactical nuance.

Finally – and this is the apotheosis of this expansion – with Titans you get the option for 3 vs 3 team play. Wow! As a huge fan of 878 Vikings, an expansion which offers this and executes it so well lifts the crown of ‘Ultimate Expansion’. If you haven’t tried a competitive team play game, then I heartily recommend it – you are in for a treat.

Yet for all its goodness and all it offers, the final mark of excellence for this expansion is that it is utterly dispensable. I can still go back to the base game and have a fab time – it’s not a patch for a broken v1.0, but rather an excellent but different experience and one which I am ever so glad I have in my collection.

Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders Expansion By Sophie Jones

Lost Ruins of Arnak has to be one of my favourite games. The theme is amazing, the components are quality, and it plays well at 1 or 4 players. However, the base game always felt somewhat unfinished.

Expedition Leaders takes Arnak from amazing to outstanding. It adds variety, asymmetric gameplay and replayability. This expansion includes more gear, artifacts, guardians, and locations. It also includes a new double sided research track which helps balance issues in the base game. On top of all that, we are also introduced to Expedition Leaders.

This expansion includes 6 Expedition Leaders. Instead of players reaching for a generic-coloured board they instead must choose who they want to lead their exploration of Arnak. Each leader has a personal starter deck and abilities which mix up gameplay. Pick the Captain and you will be able to monopolise sites and take advantage of specialists or choose the Baroness and focus on gold. Meanwhile, if you take your chances with the Mystic, you will be collecting fear cards and using them to purchase artifacts and battle guardians. The variety of leader bonuses will have you thinking about your playstyle each game and how to adapt to get the most out of them.

What makes this expansion great is its ease of play. It adds so much but also doesn’t complicate the core mechanics. It doesn’t bloat the game it finesses it. After a quick glance over the rule book, I was able to get this straight to the table and enjoy it. This expansion takes Arnak to the next level as not only does it add thematically but it irons out issues and adds depth to an already established game. If you have a copy of The Lost Ruins of Arnak, you need to add this expansion to your collection ASAP!

Flamme Rouge: Peloton By RogerBW

Flamme Rouge is a bicycle racing game, or a hand management game with a complicated scoring track. The Peloton expansion feels like the parts of the game missing from the core box.

You get two more teams (and their cards and dashboards), so you can now support 5- and 6-player games, which I find the most enjoyable way to play. (Also guidance for track design at various player counts.)

This expansion introduces the Breakaway rule: the start of the game now represents the point in the longer race where the pack breaks up and teams start going all-out for the finish. You bid cards to put your rider out in front; going forward can give you an early advantage, but you’ll use up some of your high cards and become tired sooner.

The Supply Zone works like a gentler version of downhill sections from the base game, counting your played card as no lower than 4. It’s a good opportunity to get some exhaustion out of your deck, but you may need to skip it if you’re trying to catch up.

Everyone hates Cobbles. Not only is there no slipstreaming, many of the cobble spaces only have a single lane, so the riders tend to bunch up.

The last new element of Peloton is cards for bot players, which run on a slightly simplified version of the rules. You can have up to four dummy teams: one of these can be the Peloton Team which plays a single card from its Rouleur deck and tries to move both riders together, the others are Muscle Teams which play from both Rouleur and Sprinteur decks. It’s very low-effort and comes with a handicapping system to compensate for the lack of bot intelligence: human players take three, or more, exhaustion cards before starting, which is also a good way to handicap humans against each other.

None of these additions is particularly complicated on the table, but they each add more strategic and tactical depth, and more options for course layouts.

dune expansion

Dune Imperium: Rise Of Ix & Immortality By Rob Wright

First off, there is no question that Dune Imperium is one of the best licensed games, nay, games full stop in ages. That crunchy flow juxtaposition between worker placement and deckbuilding is just *chef’s kiss* perfection. Shame that the CHOAM and Spacing Guild are a bit underused…

But wait! Here comes not one but two expansions in quick succession that do exactly that – expand the game. The Rise of Ix gives the Spacing guild its own set of actions, including gaining Dreadnaughts, weapons of war that can be deployed to battle then used to occupy the cities of vanquished enemies, and also a new board where dubious ‘upgrades’ be gained that allow you to do such lovely things as top-deck any cards purchased or increase your hand size. There are also new houses and new leaders with their own benefits and abilities. Rise of Ix really does give more depth to play, more places to send your agents, more strategies to deploy – more game.

This would have been enough alone, but Direwolf decided that one expansion was not enough – I mean, look at how pitiful the offerings of Rise of Ix were (this is, of course, sarcasm, BTW). So within a year of Ix, along comes Immortality and it too is a banger, focussing on the even more dubious technology of the Tleilaxu and their Axolotl tanks. This expansion added yet another board and mechanism – the Research board and Graft. Research allows you to take different development routes and gain cards from the Tleilaxu labs that are so heretical that they cannot be bought through normal means; Graft allows you to play cards together for bonus effects. Not only this, but the expansion comes with House Atomics, a one-time effect for each player where they can clear the market row of cards for personal gain or just to mess up an opponent’s play. Handy? Certainly. Underhand? You betcha!

Terraforming Mars: Turmoil By Neil Parker

Terraforming Mars is a great game. It is very popular and has several good expansions. But whilst these expansions are good in that they add a little flavour or additional options, it wasn’t until Turmoil that I felt the game had moved to another level.

As the introduction to the expansion says, Turmoil allows for global events that affect all players and you get to know these in advance. There is also a Terraforming Committee that players may send delegates to in order to influence and decide who will run the committee.

Each turn the Solar phase takes place after production and with Turmoil you have a new “Step 4: Turmoil.” In this phase you carry out the global event, establish a new government and prepare events for the future. It is through these events that you can increase your TR score and production etc.

A new action is introduced to the game called Lobbying whereby you can send a delegate to support one of six parties. Each party has its own policy agenda and by sending delegates you can increase your influence over policy and thus gain benefits which ultimately lead to victory points (TR rating).

One of the most notable changes then is the increase in player interaction. You really do need to send delegates to influence policy and get the bonuses or simply hinder other players’ ability to pursue their agenda. It adds an element of fun and competitiveness as player battle for control of the Terraforming Committee.

So, this is why I rate this expansion highly. It goes further than simply adding new content. It increases the interaction between players and players can find themselves cooperating for a common cause or sabotaging other players opportunities to get ahead. It’s fun and the components are good quality too!

Viticulture Essential Edition: Tuscany By Victor Rios Faria

Viticulture Essential Edition by itself is a very pleasant and chill worker placement game with a very appealing theme that supports up to 6 players. However, there clearly is room for some improvements and the Tuscany expansion came to tackle some of those.

The expansion brings three new additions to the game, each of them with their own purposes: a new and bigger gameboard with more stuff going on, new meeples representing specialized workers and structure cards that let you personalize your winery.

The gameboard is probably the most impactful one. First and foremost, it splits the game into four seasons instead of the two of the original game. Each season ended up becoming more thematic and some new actions showed up, both to reduce randomness, such as the trade spot, and to incorporate new mechanics. Also, the turn order selection gained another layer of complexity, since you may get bonuses each season based on which spot you chose to wake up onto. The board also comes with a mini area control feature in the Tuscany map, where you can fight for instant benefits and points at the end of the game.

The special workers come in 11 options from which you pick 2 each game, adding lots of replayability based only in their (55 different) combinations. Their powers range from player interaction to action spot control, spicing up how the gameplay develops.

Last but not least, the individual board gains an extension where you can build up to two special structures that will grant you special passive bonuses or action spaces, helping you steer your strategy towards a winning direction.

You still depend on card draw to do most of the stuff, but at least you have new ways to work around it. Also, the new flow of actions with the 4 seasons resonates better with the theme and increases competition for first move advantage. On the other hand, the benefits for going latter in turn order are increased and is a completely valid choice if you don’t see any priority move next round. The area control mini-game feels a little bit loose from the rest of the game, but it is still an interesting whenever you see you out of more impactful moves.

Overall, the feeling that Tuscany brings to the table is that luck is mitigated by the new board and many more tactics are available with the new structures and special workers. I totally recommend you to check it out if you want to go deeper into this wine-making experience.

Honourable Mentions

Eminent Domain: Escalation gives a completely new meaning to spaceships/warfare adding another layer of strategy and new victory conditions

Civilizations a New Dawn: Terra Incognita transforms the game from an average 4X with lots of flaws into an absolute blast

Ankh Gods of EgyptPharaoh Expansion adds tactics cards and a mini dashboard sideboard which makes the game less predictable and breaks up the symmetry

Colt Express: Marshal & Prisoners brings new characters and roles with new victory conditions to spice up your assault to the train

Editors note: This post was originally published on 14th September 2023. Updated on 17th April 2024 to improve the information available.