Board Game Buyer’s Guide: The Expansions That Keep on Giving

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This year, the Geek & Sundry editorial contributors have come together and collaborated to put together several curated lists of games. Whether you’re looking to pick one up for yourself or as a gift, these titles are some of the best the tabletop industry has to offer and we heartily recommend them.

Expansions are a wonderful thing. They allow us to look at a game we love from an entirely new angle. They improve designs we’re mellow on and ignite a newfound appreciation. One of the best aspects is that they’re universally cheap. This makes for a fantastic gift as they clock in at an affordable rate and you can already have a line on their interest in the game or series. No Robbie, we’re not emptying our 401K’s to get you a copy of Kingdom Death: Monster. What about the latest faction for Star Trek: Ascendancy? Is Santa’s beard gray?

Star Trek: Ascendancy – Cardassian and Ferengi Expansions

Good thing Robbie has taste. Ascendancy already rocked our intergalactic socksdoes the Federation have standard issue footwear? — and more variety is just what McCoy ordered. The main element you’re adding to play is the amplified dynamic of four or five player games. This is the absolute best way to experience this unbridled epic, as long as you can afford to ignore any societal obligations for the better part of a day.

Beyond that outstanding value-add, the new factions presented are definitely interesting. The Ferengi are the prime cut, offering an entirely new playstyle of wheeling and dealing with trade agreements being offered more readily than torpedo barrages. Their desire to intermingle on shared sectors and mostly be ignored in their day-to-day accounting is evocative of their presence on the show and they’re a treat to field.

The Cardassians may not be quite as exciting but they’re still an appreciated addition. They slot in nicely alongside the Klingons as a faction obsessed with domination. Their trick is the need to put the boot to their populaces and keep their nose to the grindstone in order to exact production. Militarily they rely on smaller fighter groups that are very deadly and strike with precision.

Whether you pick up both or just the Ferengi one of the two races, you’re certainly kicking your Ascendancy experience into full warp ahead.

MSRP: $35 each – Gale Force Nine

Dark Moon – Shadow Corporation

Dark Moon is a pretty stellar hidden traitor affair that mimics the arc of the Battlestar Galactica board game with a much smaller time commitment. It does so while shedding the Cylon vestiges and donning a veneer that closely resembles John Carpenter’s The Thing. What’s not to love?

Well the singular issue with the base game was occasionally infected players revealed too early within the framework of the game’s pacing. This could lead to a dull second half with some of the magic burnt out from the experience like McCready setting a mutant dog alight. Enter Shadow Corporation.

Extending beyond the John Carpenter influence, Shadow Corporation brings along a new theme that mirrors another iconic horror film – Aliens. Dark Moon’s Weyland-Yutani stand-in, Noguchi Mosaki, has sent an escape shuttle to the surface. Player’s can now issue votes to clear characters for evacuation and then can issue a final vote to launch and end the game. The trick is that if even one infected player has made it aboard then the whole jig is up.

This huge twist not only provides large incentive for the infected players to remain hidden throughout the length of play, but it also injects renewed fervor in the underlying tension of the game. The stakes feel higher since the arc of the game forks in an interesting way and it provides a compelling modification to an already solid experience.

MSRP: $29.95 –  Stronghold Games

Arkham Horror LCG – The Dunwich Cycle

When the Arkham Horror card game launched, its main trait and ultimate promise was its potential to tell unique and interesting stories with little square slices of cardboard. The Dunwich Cycle is the fulfillment on that promise.

Each of the included scenarios is a self-contained story that’s nice and tidy while still feeding into a larger dynamic arc. The card system cleverly plays with your expectation to emulate the story by utilizing clever tricks and unforeseen consequences.

The additional characters are icing on the non-euclidean cake (it’s a thing, like Red Velvet meets Boston Cream Pie). The strategies and options for deck-building open up allowing you to place a more personal stamp on each of your unique builds. The card pool has ballooned to a nice state and the game feels very comfortable in its current model.

MSRP: $14.95 – $29.95-  Fantasy Flight Games

Captain Sonar – Upgrade One

This may be a small and sleek expansion, but it has it where it counts. Captain Sonar is one of the best releases of 2016 and the game certainly doesn’t need more maps or new rules. That doesn’t mean we won’t scoop them up like a $50 bill lying on the curb.

The new maps are a treat. Each adds some unique special rules such as stations that fully charge your weapons or reconnaissance system. One has players flying along jet-streams and propelling you at high speed. They’re all a touch more complicated than those found in the base game but add an additional layer of enjoyment.

The other half of this release is the new weapon systems. Each captain chooses a special upgrade in secret before play begins. You can deploy a hacking utility that shuts down your opponent’s systems, or maybe fire off a Kraken missile all the way across the map. They’re all a bit ludicrous which means they’re damn fun. This one’s a no-brainer for fans of Captain Sonar.

MSRP: $24.99-  Asmodee

Terraforming Mars – Hellas & Elysium

For all the Elon Musk wannabes out there, here is your next frontier. Terraforming Mars has blown up the galactic stage with awards out the wazoo. Capitalizing on its monumental success comes in the form of this solid expansion offering two new boards to shake up the experience.

The two new play areas offer similar experiences to the base game with a couple of key differences. The most notable shift is in the inclusion of an entirely new set of milestones on each. Each awards accomplishments relevant to their particular map. This works to cement the personality of each and establish their groundwork.

Primarily consisting of a “more stuff” expansion, Hellas & Elysium does its job admirably and comes through on its promise. While these changes may not be Mars shattering, they’re certainly appreciated and work to inject new life into a game that’s still burning hot on the charts.

MSRP: $19.95 –  Stronghold Games

You can pick up these games at quality game retailers. What expansions are on your to-buy list? Tell us in the comments!

Stay tuned in for more curated lists, including the best games of 2017 and the most hotly anticipated games of 2018. If you want to stay on top of the best and newest of tabletop gaming, be sure to also tune in our weekly show  Game the Game hosted by Becca Scott on  Twitch and  Alpha.

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Cover Image Credit: Ruel Gaviola

Image Credits:  Charlie Theel, Ruel Gaviola

Editor’s note: Copies of included games were provided by the publisher.

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Charlie Theel writes for Ars Technica, Miniature Market’s The Review Corner, and co-hosts the gaming podcast  Ding & Dent. You can find him on Twitter  @CharlieTheel

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