Games that definitely benefit from using an expansion

I am twisting the Thread from @RogerBW suggested by @yashima during the Against popular opinion Thread, so this is a “thread from a thread from a thread”, if you’d like. What games do you consider that playing them with one expansion (or more) really benefits the game experience?

I am not a great hoarder of expansions (I can think only of two games I have expansions for: Root and Firefly) and I believe both benefit from it. Root definitely needs the Underworld Expansion for smaller player counts than 4, and Firefly benefits from the Pirates and Bounty Hunters to make it a bit more interactive.

I admit I am starting this thread in a very selfish way, to see what expansions are out there that I could be missing and could really enhance games I own (or plan to own)


As previously stated in the other expansion thread and then I removed it because I had understood that topic to include both games better and better without expansions. Then I actually read the thread title…

  • Leaving Earth becomes better with either 1 of the (big) expansions to an extent that makes it a “grand epic” space exploration. Base game is great too, but somehow when I think about playing it’s "hmm space shuttle or voyager? Aka “Stations” vs “Outer Planets”–we once played a game with both… that was a bit too much.

  • Spirit Island after initial few games to grok the basics I highly recommend Branch & Claw. Personally, I wouldn’t want to play without the additional mechanics from there. Jagged Earth is just MORE stuff basically–very lovely stuff but…

I probably have more but those two are the ones that first come to mind for “great expansions”

  • Flamme Rouge: Peloton – basic FR is fine, but adding refreshment zones and cobbles doubles the number of variant terrain types, and this gives you the bits for a 6-player race too. Météo is nice but not essential.

  • Colt Express: Marshal and Prisoners – this is the “bioterrorist expansion” for CE, the one that lets the most experienced player compete in a completely different game. Horses and Stagecoach is good too, giving you more movement options, but M&P is the one I would recommend to anyone.

  • Flash Point Fire Rescue: Tragic Events – fixes the one thing I didn’t like about the original game (the hotspot system), and adds optional random events. (Map expansions also good of course.)

  • Automobiles: Racing Season – 3 new cards for each coloured deck is nice, season game is fun, but the three new racetracks are great.

  • Star Trek Ascendancy – actually any of the player expansions really. The core game supports three players, and that easily becomes “gang up on the leader”; 4+ allows more interesting alliances.


There are some games that just are the expansions like any LCG. I’m most familiar with Arkham Horror. The base game is basically a tutorial and you have to buy into some campaign scenario to get the full experience. That feels like a different category of thing entirely though.

Council of Verona - the original version had a poison expansion. My understanding is more recent editions include the position expansion in the base game because it quickly became accepted as never to truly play the game.

Feast for Odin - there are some game strategies that are just better than others in the base game so some action spaces almost never get used. The Norwegians expansion added things to beef up the underdeveloped strategies and a new action board where every space feels more viable.


ha. I need to tell the friend I gave my copy to :slight_smile:

I am dying to get this to the table after playing a bit of the base game on bga recently.


Dominion was the first thing that sprung to mind.

Dixit is another.

… and on double-checking, those are the only games I own that need expansions. I do own others, and many of them are excellent, but none that I’d consider essential.


Race for the Galaxy is definitely better with the expansions from the first wave, just by adding more cards and more interesting things to do.

Agree on Dominion for similar reasons.

Terraforming Mars is way better with Prelude because it chops 30 minutes from the game.

Age of Steam needs the different maps to adjust to player count (I think that counts as an expansion).


So you’re saying playing less Terraforming Mars is better? Agreed :wink:


There are lots of games where “more of the same” expansions are always good - Monikers, The Metagame, Mysterium, any LCG …

Adrenaline: Team Play DLC - Absolutely essential if you want to play at anything other than 4 or 5 players. The team mode is great and makes it into a really good 2-player game.

Inis: Seasons of Inis - Mainly just for the fact it adds a 6th player. Islands/harbours are fine. Haven’t tried the seasons stuff.

Evolution: Climate - I haven’t actually played the original base game (without Climate), but I can only imagine it being worse.

NMBR 9 - Expand it with itself! Play with an infinite number of players!


A couple that come to mind:

Ladies of Troyes – even if you don’t have the expansion, give everyone a die of a color not used in the base game to proxy the purple die that is wild and cannot be taken by someone else

Nations: The Dice Game: Unrest – the unrest dice make a good game even better.

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Since I think expansions are generally desirable for games, if only for variety, I’m choosing to interpret this as “games with expansions that you should never play without”, and mostly for new mechanics rather than content.

Eminent Domain - the Escalation expansion. Eminent Domain is structured such that in the base game, the only technology you will ever actually get to use are a few 3 point techs. By the time you’re able to get the bigger ones, the game will be ending imminently. Escalation doesn’t fix the pace, but it does implement a mechanic of asymmetric starting positions that let you start with those more powerful techs. And instantly, it’s far more engaging.

Eldritch Horror - the base game just doesn’t have enough stuff for the Ancient Ones you get, so you’ll be repeating experiences almost immediately. Forsaken Lore roughly doubles their various decks etc. All the Ancient Ones in that and the other expansions come at that level of variability to begin with. Arguably you also want Strange Remnants or the big box expansion that introduce the Focus action and focus tokens as a mechanic, but I don’t remember which those are and that’s not as mandatory. (Beyond those, it’s pretty much just content. I think the very last one also introduces a new action but it’s a lot less broadly useful than Focus and doesn’t really address a core issue of downtime/dice luck the way Focus does.)

Flash Point: Fire Rescue - hard agree re: Tragic Events. Transformative. (I did like it beforehand but I would never go back now.)

Shadowrun: Crossfire - in the base game you have one scenario you can run until you’ve earned like 15 karma, which is a lot of successful completion of that one scenario. Sure, much of the setup is randomized, but, blah. It’s also a bit light on content variety. The one expansion, High Caliber Ops, adds more scenarios of various challenge levels and more stuff, really pretty necessary IMO. Honestly it’s still a bit lacking though.

Honorable Mention: Darkest Night - each expansion for the first edition added seamless interlocking mechanisms you would swear were always part of the game and enhance it immeasurably over the previous version. (Except for #5, which was just assembled promos.) Why honorable mention? 2nd edition comes with all of them out of the box.

Sortakinda: Near and Far - the Amber Mines expansion offers a coop mode. I’d much rather play it coop. YMMV. Dice Throne - Dice Throne Adventures, for similar reasons. Except baseline Dice Throne is still one of my favorite games tbh.


Did a quick survey while we were gaming today:

Sagrada: whichever expansion it is that adds the personal drafting pool speeds up the game enormously.

Inis: Seasons: higher player count plus sensible game end conditions.

Root: I never play without at least one of the expansion factions (Lizard cult FTW)

Railroad Ink: I’ll only play the base game to introduce people to the rules gently. Otherwise at least one expansion at all times!


Ah, I knew there was something I was forgetting!


Currently, my favourites are:

GKR: Heavy Hitters has two additional factions that are great. Does it “fix” the overly expensive, albeit gorgeous game?.. next question, please. (But it is nice to have more options!)

XIA (Sia? Sheia? Zeeah?) has some really lovely expansions. None of them are bad, and they’re all in the game permanently.

A category of its own includes all the RPG-likes, since the expansions aren’t “needed”, but usually add more stuff (heroes! Villains! Scenarios!)j that are all lovely. Props specifically to the big-and-medium box expansions for Imperial Assault and Blackstone Fortress. Super expensive, but so glad I have them. I have all the Journeys in Middle-Earth expansions, and I suspect I will enjoy them as much, but I haven’t tried them yet, so I can’t say.

Old skool, Carcassonne is strictly better IMO with the first two expansions (Inns & Cathedrals, and Trades & Builders). After that they get really hit-and-miss, but those first two are great.

Scythe has one great expansion (Invaders from Afar), one good one (The Wind Gambit), and one that is weirdly a bunch of little expansions all in one box of which some are great, some are mediocre, and two are awful.


Nice, I ordered it through KS with them. Yay!


I feel like this might be a bit of a cheat, but Shadows of Brimstone grows better with each new expansion you care to add. It feels like a cheat just because the format of this kind of game makes “essential” expansions all but inevitable. Just the same I don’t think it can be argued that more stuff, no matter how wild or tame, is effectively always a good thing (with serious diminishing returns after a certain point).


I am going to throw Istanbul on this list. It is fine on its own, but after a number of games, the efficient paths get kind of easy to see. Adding Mocha and Baksheesh expands the board with more tiles and adds the coffee mechanic and just really reinvigorates the optimization puzzle.


Oo! Lords of Waterdeep must not be played without Scoundrels of Skullport


I mix those two up. Is Scoundrels the one with the evil points that count negative at the end??


That’s the one :+1: