The 4Xs of Expansions

Expansions come in many varieties and those variations can be described in various ways. While researching my article on Hobby Game Trends 2000-2014, I had to decide whether or not to include expansions in my data. This decision caused me to consider the question, “What is an expansion?” One categorization criterion is what the expansion does to the original game – how it expands the game. Keeping in tune with game descriptions, I’ve categorized expansions into 4 X categories.

Expand: Obviously game expansions are intended to expand the original game, but some do this in a more obviously expansive way than others. These expansions add to the game by adding more of the same stuff. Examples: Doomtown: Reloaded – Double Dealin’ and Eldritch Horror: Forsaken Lore.

Extend: These expansions extend the game into new territory by adding new mechanics, winning conditions, story lines, etc. They provide new experiences, but the base game is still the primary experience. Examples: Mice and Mystics: Heart of Glorm and Castle Panic: The Wizard’s Tower.

Explode: These expansions expand and extend the base game to a degree that the expansion is greater than the game itself. It could be argued that this is just a matter of degree, but the game and experience are significantly changed. Examples: Mice and Mystics: Downwood Tales and Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture (while any given tier in Tuscany may extend Viticulture, the collection is explosive).

Experiment: These expansions add to the original game by breaking the game and the expansion into pieces that you decide how to put back together. You have the option of including/excluding the mechanics or other game elements that you want. Maybe this is really just a matter of packaging expansions and extensions, but the effect is to create a sandbox for the game experience. Examples: The Resistance: Hidden Agenda & Hostile Intent

Can you think of other examples of these expansions?

How do you categorize expansions?

Which expansion types do you like or dislike?

Is there a game that you will never play again without the expansion? Maybe we'll talk about that in another article.