Board Game Expansions/Alternates

At the risk of sounding like an old man, I’ve always preferred the good old days with games where it was a one-time purchase for the product and that was it. There might have been a few alternative versions to games, but they were separate from the main game and had their own style/content to offer. More recently, it feels like alternates and expansions are being made en masse as a way of capitalizing on a game’s popularity. Most of these expansions or alternates provide some additional perk or benefit, but if you really look closely it can sometimes feel like you’re paying just as much if not more to expand on a game when you’d rather it simply come with the original. This is especially true with video games; my N64 games had hours upon hours of content with no additional purchases associated with them. However, now when I’m playing on my PS4 it feels like every game is somewhat incomplete due to all of the DLC that you have to pay money for. Now, if an expansion is more than just a new outfit or weapon and actually significantly enhances the story then I will be much more likely to give it a shot, but I will always be slightly skeptical until proven otherwise.

Board game expansions usually have a different feel to them. Sure, they aren’t necessarily needed to play the game, but they always add a new layer, a new strategy, and sometimes even allows for more players. Alternate versions of games can also have a lot of cool new differences to their originals, adding different gameplay and new themes. These kinds of games are the reason why I try to keep an open mind when an expansion to a board game I love comes out, or there’s a new game based on one I’ve played before. So as a tribute to the games that keep on giving, here is my list of 5 great board game expansions/alternates:

1) Settlers of Catan: All of Them-This might be a bit of a cop out, but there are so many expansions and changes to Settlers of Catan thaSeafarer'st it’s impossible to choose just one. Other than the most basic expansion which bumps up the number of players from 4 to 6, you also have the Seafarer’s Expansion, then Cities and Knights, Traders and Barbarians, etc. Then on top of that there are alternate games that are separate from the original. As one of the premier board games of our generation, it’s no surprise that Settlers has found ways to grow on its success through expansions. If you haven’t tried any of the cool additions to the game, I definitely recommend them, especially the Seafarer’s expansion.

2) 7 Wonders: Leaders- An add-on that is actually less known than t7 Wonders Leadershe 7 Wonders: Cities expansion, Leaders adds additional regular cards and also brings in 42 historical leader cards, which you play at the beginning of each age. It also adds another Wonder so that 8 people can play rather than 7. Overall if you like 7 Wonders, the Leaders expansion does a great job of adding additional layers to it and also giving an extra person a chance to play.

 

3) Munchkin Card Expansions- One of the best parts about the game Munchkin is all of the hilarious cards that can be played. From monsters to power-ups toMunchkin Clerical Errors curses, each card has its own personality and is a great way to make you laugh. While the expansion packs don’t create any major changes to the
game, the added cards are a great way to keep the game fresh and add to the laughs. Expansion 3: Clerical Errors is my personal favorite of these expansions. The game also has a number of sequels (Zombies, Apocalypse, etc.) for anyone who wants to try out a different theme other than the original D&D spoof.

4) King of New York-When Iello created King of Tokyo, they made a game that is immersive and clever and yet somehow straightforward to play. The concerns I hKing of New Yorkad with King of New York went two separate ways: either they would make the game exactly like the original, or they would completely abandon the style and make a completely unimpressive game instead. Luckily enough neither of those things happened, and the game King of New York found a way to take the same principles of King of Tokyo and expand/revise them to make something different, but with the same feel as the original. Having both games in your board game collection is definitely worthwhile.

5) Ticket to Ride: Europe- Ticket to Ride is one of my all-time favorite gamesTicket to Ride Europe, so when I tried out Europe I was surprised at the subtle yet powerful differences between the two. It took some time to get used to the different geography, but the addition of ferries and tunnels plus the additional railroad markers made the game subtly more challenging. While this version might not be able to replace the original for me, it was a lot of fun and I plan on adding it to my collection soon.

 

Board Game of the Week- Sheriff of Nottingham

sheriff box

  • Game Title: Sheriff of Nottingham
  • Release Date: 2014
  • Number of Players: 3-5
  • Average Game Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Arcane Wonders
  • Website:  http://www.arcanewonders.com/sheriff-of-nottingham
  • Game Designer: Sergio Halaban
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

I am not a good bluffer. I like to think I am, but looking at it objectively I really don’t have the best poker face. So when I opened up Sheriff of Nottingham and realized the game is based around bluffing and misdirection, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to pick it up well. Luckily enough, the game is based on so much more than bluffing and there are many different types of strategy while playing, so I was able to find a strategy that works for me without too much struggle.IMG_2835

Sheriff of Nottingham focuses on merchants trying to bring their goods into the city to sell. The basic mechanic involves drawing cards and choosing what types you want to load into your bag. Everyone then declares what foods he/she put in his/her bag (4 apples, 3 bread, etc.) either truthfully or untruthfully if IMG_2837they have extra foods or “contraband”. The added twist to this is that every round someone acts as “sheriff” who then can choose to inspect each person’s bag. If you were truthful about your goods then the Sheriff has to pay you, but if not the extra goods get confiscated and you have to pay the Sheriff. This means that you can try and smuggle contraband in for big point totals, or you can tell the truth and hope that the Sheriff tries to catch you. A number of other nuances in how you draw cards and what goods you choose to play add up to a very inventive and interesting game.

I found that this game can be a lot of fun, but how much fun depends on the company you are in. My friends and family are all very outgoing, energetic, and goofy, so when we started playing we immediately turned it intoIMG_2838 an improv show where everyone put on different accents and asked silly questions to try and get a reaction from the group. This caused everyone to be more engaged in the game and the enthusiasm built up as we went. I feel like if you were in a group of more straight-laced people that wanted to play it normally it could be less exciting, though the strategy and gameplay still appeal to the average player. The game tends to drag at times if the Sheriff takes a long time to ask questions, so 5 players can take a while. Playing with 3 players, on the other hand, adds an extra round to the game so it doesn’t exactly shorten things. I recommend the game with 4 players if possible as the best middle ground option.

Jack’s Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Before I start my first post of 2016, a quick note to all of my followers and readers out there- thanks so much for all of your support as I’ve started my blogging adventures in 2015. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and I hope you all have too. 2016 has a lot of great stuff in store and I will continue to write and learn, so I hope even better things await in the upcoming months. For everyone reading this, I hope you have an amazing year and the future is bright for you. Now let’s get to it!

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Game Title: Castles of Mad King Ludwig

  • Release Date: 2014
  • Number of Players: 1-4
  • Average Game Time: 45-90 minutes (my games all lasted about 45 minutes)
  • Game Publisher: Bezier Games
  • Website: http://beziergames.com/collections/all-games/products/castles
  • Game Designer: Ted Alspach
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: No (available online)

I was lucky enough to receive a number of board games over the holidays, so I have a lot of great material to write about over the next few weeks. One of the gems of my new board game collection is the Bezier Games castle-building game Castles of Mad King Ludwig. For those of you who enjoy random historical tidbits, King Ludwig was actually a real king of Bavaria in the 1800’s who was known for spending ridiculous amounts of money on extravagant castles and construction projects. His penchant for spending money ultimately was used as justification for declaring him insane by his cabinet in an effort to depose him. In Castles of Mad King Ludwig, you channel your inner architect and try to appease the Mad King by building the most impressive castle possible.

King Ludwig

Looks pretty mad to me…

The object of the game is to score as many points as possible based on the rooms you play, along with special bonus points from completing certain tasks and gaining the King’s favor. The game setup is that every round, cards from the Room Deck are drawn to determine what size rooms will be played for the round. These room tiles, with varying points and effects for each, are placed in a “bidding” area with different cash values associated with them. One player in the round is the “Master Builder”, who chooses where each room goes in the bidding area which determines how much it will cost for that round. Next, the player to the Master Builder’s left buys IMG_2817any of the rooms he/she wants and pays the Master Builder for the cost, then plays the rooms in his/her castle area. Each room has a different effect after it is played, which can get you more money, points, or bonus cards that have different effects. Play continues to the next player on the left, until it is the Master Builder’s turn. The Master Builder then can buy whatever rooms are left (if there are any) by paying the bank. Once the Master Builder finishes his/her turn, the person to the left becomes Master Builder for the next round. Once all of the Room Deck cards have been used up, the game is over and points are calculated.

I must admit that when I first opened the box to this game, I was fairly overwhelmed at the sheer amount of pieces involved. In addition to all of the different rooms that are available, there are two sets of cards, 24 favor tiles, a Master Builder token, player aids and markers, 4 separate pieces to form the board, and 4 foyers whiIMG_2814ch act as the starting point to your rooms. The first time you play the game, expect to take a very long time organizing and setting everything up (once you’ve played the game a few times it gets a lot faster). Because of how many pieces are involved, make sure that you have a lot of space available to play, especially if you have four players.

The rules of the game are fairly straightforward, though it does take a few rounds to understand the strategy of playing certain rooms in certain areas. Ultimately you can play any room pretty much anywhere you want as long as there is an entrance from another room and no rooms overlap, but you get added bonuses for having certain types of rooms adjacent to other types (bedrooms next to a hallway, living rooms next to food rooms, etc.). I once had a castle which had a Sauna attached to the Master Bedroom, while my girlfriend’s castle didn’t have a single place to sleep by the end of the game. Ultimately the structure of the castle doesn’t really have to make sense, though the more you follow a straightforward placement of rooms the easier it is to add on to your castle in the later rounds.

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I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game- the style feels like a mesh of games like Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and 7 Wonders, while also adding in new elements to it. I’ve played the game three times with two players and once with three, and there were major differences between those two game types and the strategy you need to use to win. I would like to try it with four players soon, as I’ve heard that it is the recommended way to play. Every game you play will end up differently, since there are more room tiles than room cards so you will have a different set of rooms available to you at different times each game. The types of rooms available are fun to look at, and seeing what you’ve built when the game is over is a lot of fun (my sister and her fiancé actually recommended we use it as a D&D Dungeon randomizer). The complexity of the setup and initial mastery of the rules does take some time, but once you get the hang of it games go by quickly and are great to play. I would recommend the game to more advanced board game enthusiasts as opposed to the casual player, but all types of people will enjoy the thrill of the game’s mechanics and theme.

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- Exploding Kittens

Exploding KittensGame Title: Exploding Kittens

Release Date: 2015

Number of Players: 2-5 (4 is recommended number)

Average Game Time: 15 minutes

Game Publisher: Self-Published

Game Designer: Matthew Inman, Elan Lee, Shane Small

Expansions/Alternates: No

Available in Stores: Yes

Age Restriction: 30 and up? (In all honesty, probably not suited for anyone under 18)

 

Holy crap guys, this game. Where do I begin to explain the insanity that is Exploding Kittens? Created and published by 3 clever (and somewhat twisted) individuals, Exploding Kittens found an extremely high level of success early in its Exploding Kittens Boxdevelopment through an aggressive Kickstarter campaign. When it was first created, Matthew Inman (creator of The Oatmeal comics), Elan Lee (Game designer for Xbox/ARGs), and Shane Small (Xbox/Marvel game designer) all got into a room and had a conversation that I pretty much assume went exactly like this:

 

Inman: OK guys, we need to create the most ridiculous game concept in the history of mankind so I can have an excuse to draw a cat shaped like a taco. What are your thoughts?

[pause for dramatic effect]

Lee: I’ve got it! A game where we draw a bunch of funny versions of cats… that EXPLODE!

Small: Brilliant! And we should totally add back hair, unicorn enchiladas, worm holes, and goats into the mix!

Inman: Whoa, hold on guys. This idea… NEEDS MORE LASER BEAMS!

All: YES!!!

 

That’s what I think happened, and if you tell me it went any other way I won’t believe you.

Now to get into the gamKitty-Powered Russion Rouletteeplay itself; you can pick up this game and be a master at it within about 5 minutes. The concept at its core is a card game equivalent to Russian Roulette, with some added twists and strategies to make the game more interesting. You draw and play cards until you draw an exploding kitten card, and unless you have a defuse card (you get 1 at the beginning of the game and more are added to the deck) you lose the game and are “out”. The last player standing is the winner.

I think it’s safe to say that the best quality this game has is its humor. Just check out this YouTube video to show how ridiculous and entertaining the creators and the game both are:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hS0Q-KbCsp0

There was a lot of creativity, randomness, and art all thrown together and added into a deck of cards. It ends up being a very fun game that makes you laugh almost constantly as you play, especially for the first time. The gameplay is simple but gets exciting as the game gets closer to the end, and even losing early isn’t so bad because you can watch events unfold quickly from the sidelines.

Replay value is moderate; you will want to play the game multiple times when you first get it, but it will probably be a game you will play in bursts. Once you’ve read all of the cards and laughed at their wit and humor, it won’t be the same game experience until you take a break from the game for a while. In addition, the simplicity is great for first time players but also makes the game less captivating after a few playthroughs.

Ultimately games are supposed to capture your attention, bring you and your friends together, and be fun. Exploding Kittens does all three of these things and does them well. I highly recommend this game as a fun alternative to actual Russian Roulette, which I hear is not the best way to spend an evening (citation needed).

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Say Yes to Board Games

Hi – my name is Jack Dixon. I’m 24 years old, I live in Northern Virginia, and I love board games.

I’ve been a fan of board games ever since I was a kid. I played Monopoly and Clue with my family as far back as I can remember. I watched my parents play Scrabble when I was a toddler, and I was obsessed with this cult classic called The a MAZE ing Labyrinth. Whenever I visited extended family, we spent our evenings playing Yahtzee and laughing with my Grandparents. When I wasn’t outside playing capture the flag or kickball, I was usually sitting around a table playing some tabletop classic or exciting new game my parents found for me.

And then I got older, and fell into an age where board games weren’t as “cool.” I switched my primary indoor activity to video games, exchanging Connect 4 with N64 and hanging out with Mario instead of my folks. But here’s the thing – I never completely ignored my penchant for board games either. I always secretly wished that when my friends came over we could all sit around a table and play a game of Risk, and while that would happen every once in a while it was always the exception rather than the norm.

Then, the craziest and most unexpected thing happened: board games became cool again. Games like Settlers of Catan, Apples to Apples (or Cards Against Humanity for the adult-minded), and Pandemic hit stores, and suddenly high school and college kids everywhere started going back to their roots. Now I am able to proudly display my board games in my apartment, and when people ask me how many Monopoly boards I currently own (the answer is 12) it starts up a conversation about all the cool new games out there and how well they are tailored towards the 20-somethings of the world. I’m part of three separate groups of friends that have “board game night” once a week. Last week I taught my roommates how to play Ticket to Ride (a game which I will talk about more in my next post) and we sat around our family room drinking a few beers and chatting while we played well into the night. Board games becoming popular again has completely changed how the youth of the world interact, and it’s a beautiful thing.

My name is Jack Dixon, and I’m a board game enthusiast. And saying yes to board games has provided me with endless joy and excitement. I hope that you get a chance do the same.