Which games are better without (at least some of) the expansions?

Continuing the discussion from Against popular opinion (popular games you hate):

For me a slightly weird one: Splendor. I played this quite a bit, eagerly bought the expansion (Cities of Splendor)… and it just hasn’t come to the table since. It’s not that I think the four mini-expansions are bad, but I felt so un-enthused about playing them that it carried over to the base game.

In a slightly different direction: Welcome Back to the Dungeon. I quite like the original WTTD, and WB was described as an expandalone… but they really aren’t designed to be played together, and WB doesn’t seem to offer any new tricks.


Isle of Skye Can’t remember who said it but Journeyman is a completely new game using the same game components.

@RogerBW You’re smashing it with new topics today


The first expansion for 7 Wonders Duel, Pantheon, added some nice stuff and played well. The second one, Agora, just gave the game too much rules overhead and too many mechanics.

The first expansion for Onitama, Sensei’s Path, was good in that it only added new cards, so new options, which are always good. The second one, Way of the Wind, added a completely new mechanic which really detracted from the core of the game. Saw that there’s a third one out Light and Shadow, which seems to add hidden movement mechanics (?) but I won’t be touching it.

Continuing a theme, Pandemic’s first expansion, On the Brink, added some new roles and events, along with the purple disease, mutations and the bio-terrorist thing that could be interesting. We’ve played with that quite a bit, even though we mostly focus on base Pandemic these days. In the Lab, though? Never even touched the module, only played the extra roles and events (and they were a lot less interesting than the ones in the first one).

Terraforming Mars is one of our favourite games, so I was keen to try out an expansion. Prelude seemed like a waste since the problem it purports to solve, the slow start of the game, is not a problem we HAVE, so went with Venus Next. And promptly put it away. It added nothing and felt tacked on. Base game is plenty.

Never touched Onirim’s expansions (they came in the box). Read through them, didn’t seem particularly fun.

Think that’s it. Quacks’ expansions have been fixtures since we got 'em, and I have VERY high hopes for Everdell’s trio.

1 Like

Yes, I’ve barely played Way of the Wind; it’s an interesting complication but it changes the thing to a different game, and I mostly haven’t played it enough with the same people to want to move on to a different game. (Same’s true of the Splendor expansions I think.) I didn’t know about Light and Shadow; I’ll look into it, but I can barely fit the first two expansions into the rather nice box…

I think I got this at about the same time as the original. I did find that I lost a lot more with the expansion roles than with the base-game ones.

1 Like

Base Cyclades is best Cyclades. Fight me.


This is actually pointed out in the rulebooks for the expansions: absolutely do not do what I did and get all the expansions for Once Upon a Time, mix them all together and try and play that way.

Otherwise you end up with one player with a bunch of pirate-themed cards desperately trying to think of how they could insert pirates into your story about woodland creatures.


Is “deck dilution” a recognised term? When you have a set of cards A1, A2, A3 that work well together in the n-card deck, but now you’ve added the expansion and it’s a 2n-card deck so they’re less likely to show up in your however-many card draws…


Ooh, that’s made me think of another one, though it’s not really an “expansion” in the normal sense.

Coup is a tight game that relies on you knowing what all the cards do, so you can bluff that you have cards when you don’t. Therefore all the actions are simple and handily summarised on a small reference card.

Coup: Rebellion G54 throws this out by having a random selection of cards that are all much more complicated and require you to keep looking at the reference cards in the centre of the table (giving away that you don’t actually have that card in your hand).


I want to argue, but I’ve played a lot more original Coup than G54. :slight_smile:

  • Wingspan As previously stated: was fine without expansions, the first was okay-ish and the second made me somehow not play anymore. Probably what @RogerBW called “deck dilution” made things more difficult.

  • 7 Wonders: Armada and Babel are just… no. Leaders is good, more wonders are great. The existence of the last two expansions though makes me not want to play anymore

  • Terraforming Mars: Prelude: good / Venus: meh / Bonus maps: … not necessary / Colonies: okay. I kind of like the idea of Turmoil but it has never seen the table except for a learning game seeing how the KS arrived just a few months pre-pandemic. With the existence of Ares expedition my friends who like TM are very keen to try that instead…

  • Terra Mystica: the small promos they released are good and at the time they released Fire & Ice I played a ton of TM. Right now I would say neither this nor the latest expansion are making the game significantly better unless you play all the time and get bored of what is there. But there is a lot in the base game.

Edited to match topic


It should be.

Race for the Galaxy suffers from this in the first expansion arc. By the third expansion they added a ‘search for a card that works for your strategy’ power.


I’ve played a game of Terraforming Mars with all of the expansions… Do not recommend (unless you like 4+ hour games of Terraforming Mars)


Shakespeare and the Backstage expansion

I personally wouldn’t say the game is necessarily better without the expansion as I like it either way, but it is a fundamentally different game with or without the expansion and many people say the game is ruined by the expansion.

Without the expansion, you start each of the six rounds of the game secretly selecting how many of your 5 action discs you want to use that round. Everyone reveals simultaneously. Whoever reveals the fewest goes first so gets best pick of the available resources, but has fewer actions. Whoever reveals the most will get leftovers and might miss out on things they wanted but will get to do more stuff. It is a tight and difficult puzzle, constantly trying to second guess what other players will “bid.”

With the expansion, you still do all that, but any action discs you don’t bid for regular actions can now be used in a backstage area for different actions. Some are just less powerful versions of regular actions. Some are brand new ways of getting points or resources and maybe better than regular game actions. It changes the puzzle but does make it less tense as you are never having to give up actions completely to get a chance at going first. They just get used backstage.

1 Like

Ah, but I’m trying to sell a copy of G54, so it’s great. (sneaky dog look).


Another one I’ve just thought of: despite having the big fancy version of Citadels, I’ve only played a variant once and that slowed everything down as everyone had to keep re-reading what the character powers were.

Not as much a problem as with G54, but definitely slower and longer than Citadels should be.


We play with Prelude, Venus and a different map. We have Turmoil but haven’t actually looked at it - just use the funky stretch goal player boards. Terraforming Mars is a 45 minutes game for us.

I prefer Great Western Trail without Rails to the North, I think it turns it into a very different game.


Two entries:

I know plenty of people here say Catan ruined Catan (Settlers, to me). But I think the beginning of the end was Cities & Knights. Settlers works for a few reasons - easy to teach, interesting turn-zero strategy that lets you approach the game different ways, but most of all a few perfect balancing, catch-up mechanisms. Thanks to the robber, the fickleness of the dice, and the self-moderation of not trading with the leader, nearly every game ends up as a photo finish. (yes, maybe 1 in 5 someone gets dice screwed in act 1 and is really out). Cities & Knights gave people a big engine, special powers, more control, more resources, but destroyed the beating heart of the game. With the special abilities, trading was unnecessary and the robber didn’t even rise to the level of nuisance. And Settlers became a solitary, lifeless, snowball.

I also suspect that New Laws is exactly what Lancaster does NOT need. I haven’t yet confirmed this. But it makes sense, everyone want more variety, more laws. But I’m learning that Lancaster is a highly strategic game, where you need to make a plan and stick to it. The Laws are carefully crafted to facilitate certain strategies. Knowing what is available to you and your opponents may just be the key that drives the player interaction and the viciousness of the parliament votes. All to say, I suspect that this is a game that gets better and better the more intimately you (and your opponents) know the deck. Switching up the deck sets you back, and further away from the goodness.


I can safely say that Carcassonne is better played without at least some of the 159 expansions.


The first game of Carcassonne I ever played was a two-player game that took around 4 hours because we used basically ever expansion. I loved it. But I am weird and the person teaching me knew this.


There’s a very good chance I’ll never get around to using the (many) expansions for Feudum, aside from perhaps the solo expansion, for their actual expanded rules. This isn’t necessarily because they don’t add anything worthwhile, but they all add little wrinkles to a game I’m unlikely to play enough to warrant their inclusion.