Tag Archives: Pandemic

The Elements of a Worthwhile Board Game Expansion

With the recent, and exciting, news that the famous “Betrayal at House on the Hill” board game is finally getting an expansion, I thought now was a great time to talk about why we board game enthusiasts buy expansions. Expansions are like the DLC in the board game world as they can enhance the original board game and create new and exciting ways to play the game. And like DLC, there can be multiple expansions for the same game (Dixit or Pandemic, anyone?). As such, for all these expansions, what should you look for? Which expansion do you buy and the which one do you leave on the store shelf?

For me, it boils down to two things

  1. The expansion adds more players to the game
  2. The expansion enhances the original board game experience by balancing and diversifying it

The first point is the easiest to understand of the two. When you have a board game that only goes up to four or five players and you have five or six friends over, you can’t use that game! Simple as that (unless you double up). But an expansion throws that out the window and gives you the opportunity to add those players in. The Settler of Catan 5-6 player expansion is a great example of this. By simply adding new tiles and player tokens, the game can now incorporate more people with the sacrifice of a longer game. In all honesty, if I get an expansion, this is my primary reason.

My second point, though, is bit more subjective (your mileage may vary so to speak). Diversifying a board game can add a fresh, new take on a game you’ve played many times. The expansion adds a new element of fun into a now stale system and this is where most board game expansions fall into. To name a few off the top of my head, Night of Werewolf adds new villagers and wolves, Dixit adds new cards, Powergrid adds new maps, and Ticket to Ride adds a freaking Alien and Dinosaur! All of these expansions change up the formula, change up the gameplay, and most importantly, add a new level of fun to your favorite board games!

Along with the diversifying aspect, the gameplay developers will usually try to add balancing aspects as well. Do they work? Well, I would like to say yes but given the extreme diversity of board games and players out there, it’s really hard to say. So to cherry pick from one example, Evolution’s expansion, Flight, does an amazing job balancing a gameplay that can be, at certain times, broken (though to be fair, the 2nd edition of Evolution really cleans up the first game). The Flight expansion allows your animals to evolve flying traits that can counter defensive traits like “climbing” nicely. What’s more, the added capabilities of flight are not overpowered and also have its limits as well. Great expansion, btw.

But I think the best expansions out there are the ones that combine both of these qualifying traits of additional players and diversified gameplay. There are some legitimately good expansions out there that fall under this category. My two favorites are probably the Cosmic Encounter and Pandemic expansions. Cosmic Encounter has possibly the best expansions ever as they add 25 new aliens to an already astonishing diversity of species and they add an additional home system. What’s more, given Cosmic Encounter’s highly encouraged cooperation system, everyone has a chance to get planets even though the game takes longer to make one complete round. Meanwhile, the Pandemic expansion “On the Brink”, not only adds additional gameplay, such as mutant strain, but the additional player serves as a bioterrorist. This bioterrorist brings up the number of players to six and acts as the antagonist to the other five players. This expansion is amazing as you can do so much with it. Pandemic can now be even more challenging, more frustrating, and more fun to boot!

As for Betrayal at House on the Hill?

Well, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting additional players but I’m really looking forward to the new rooms, haunts, and monsters! I think though if they want to push it to a new level they should incorporate the adventurers’ traits into certain items, rooms, or events. Think about it, Brandon Jaspers likes bugs, well, there should be an event where if a whole bunch of bugs swarm all over you, everyone loses a sanity point unless you’re Brandon Jaspers. It’s funny to me how the personality traits and birthdays are so underutilized by the game itself. I think the creators of Betrayal should really tap into that for the next expansion.

What are your favorite expansions? Let me know!


Would You Like to Know More? 1.05 Board Games (Settlers of Catan, Pandemic, and Ticket to Ride)


Would You Like to Know More? Podcast episode 5.  Final episode for season 1!  Woo!  This episode we focus on the three most famous, modern board games; Settlers of Catan, Pandemic, and Ticket to Ride.  We’ll discuss each of these three board games, their expansions, our strategies, and more!  We’ll even talk about which of these three games we would recommend to new players.  Check it out!

Special guests for this episode are Kevin Tomkins, Jared Barton, and Sean Elliot.

This episode was recorded at Six Crow Studios, you can reach them at their facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/SixCrowsStudios

Thank you to all my friends for spending their time and coming onto my show!  This was definitely fun and I’m looking forward to Season 2.  We already are planning the episode ideas but recording won’t happen until January.  If you have any suggestions or ideas for us to do, I would be happy to hear what you have to say!  Until then, thanks for listening and hope to see you again!

Ticket to Ride

Our final result for our Ticket to Ride Game

Friends, Board Games, and Wil Wheaton

About two years ago, I was worried about my social life, what person isn’t?  For me though, I was worried about technology’s increasing strength on my life.  It was serving more as a barrier than as a passageway towards interacting with my friends.  Desperately, I was trying to figure out a way I could interact with my friends without the use of video games, TV, or cell phones.  The answer to my problem was actually solved, funny enough, by one of my friends (we’ll call him “Mr. Pink”).

One day, Mr. Pink was talking to me about this great board game that we should try out called Ticket to Ride.  A game about building trains to connect between cities on a real-world map.  At first, I wasn’t convinced.  He then showed me a video on Youtube called Tabletop which was hosted by former Star Trek actor, Wil Wheaton.  On Wil’s show, he invites several semi-famous actors, writers, and so forth to play a board game with him.  Each episode the board game and the guests are different.  The episodes are high quality, nicely edited, and highlight the basis of the board game very well through both explaining the rules and playing the game.

Not Pictured: Felicia Day

Not Pictured: Felicia Day

I was convinced.  Almost immediately after I saw the episode, Mr. Pink and I got in my car and we drove over to our board game store.  We bought Marklin Ticket to Ride, where you play on a German map, and we played the game that night with our two other friends.

As I was playing the game, I realized that I had found the solution to my problem.  Board games.  They are non-electronic, they take a few hours to play, and they offer a (mostly) positive interactive environment for us to be in.  This was it.

Soon after, my roommates and I religiously watched Wil’s Tabletop and after every episode we would discuss if we should get the game or not.  Our board game collection is now filled with games, most of which were recommended by Wil.  You name it, we got all the greats; Pandemic, Settlers of Catan, Betrayal at House on the Hill, the list goes on.  Our bookcase can barely contain them all.  Our collection has given us the opportunity to pick games that suit our current mood and I love it!

My favorite thing to do now is to invite some random friends, who probably haven’t met each other before, and play board games with them.  Let me tell you, getting a diverse group of people together and them playing off of each other as much as they play off of the board is a satisfying experience.  Sometimes, they even bring their own games with them and that thrills me as well.


For those kinds of situations, Pandemic does a great job setting the mood.  Everyone works together to stop the looming diseases.  This really builds up the players’ trust towards one another and can break down reservations the players may have.  People take on roles that fit them and they interact, they inform, and they suggest strategies to partake in.  This builds and builds as the going gets tough and we might tooth and claw to suppress the diseases from spreading.  Even if we lose, we still have fun.  From there, it’s really up to the players what they want to play (though I like to encourage Betrayal due to its rather weird nature).  Overall, it can be a fun time.

Wil and his show was a definite influence in my social life.  And last March, I was able to tell it to him in person.  He was going to show up, along with other Star Trek actors, at a local comic convention.   When I heard this, I knew now was the best time to meet him in person and autograph a board game while I was at it.  But what board game??  Ticket to Ride seemed like the best choice since it was our first board game but the box was unfortunately too large for my backpack.  I decided to go for Powergrid, a board game that my roommates and I love to play.

I was a little nervous when I finally met the man himself.  I briefly told him that he got my friends and into board gaming and then I gave him the box for him to sign.  His eyes immediately lit up and he said, “Isn’t this a great game?  I love this game a lot!  The first goes last rule is a great mechanic.”  We talked briefly about the board game, he then signed it and I was soon on my way.  I have to say, that was probably my best encounter with a celebrity (though I haven’t had that many encounters yet).  He was kind, earnest, and he gave the time to talk to me even though there were many people before me and just as many afterwards.  Needless to say, it was a great experience, and I’m glad I got to meet the man that helped me find a new way to connect to my friends.

powergrid box