Don’t change anything!
I bet you all heard about 'orb thing’. Alien Artifacts, new expansion for Race for the Galaxy (one of the best card games out there!) adds new mechanism to the base game. It let’s you explore mini boards that you create from small tiles. Alien Artifact became one of the most discussed expansions right after it came out. People got crazy. Even Tom Vasel. He gets close to heart attack each time he even hears 'orb’ word.
Why everybody is raving about it? Why it is so controversial? Why it pissed off so many players?
Because it changes the game. Let me explain you…
You like the game. You play it and play it and play it again and you really love it. After many plays you know the game well and sooner or later you get bored. You’d love to play again with excitement, you’d love to feel again this magic you felt when you first played it. Unfortunately you know all cards, all powers, all strategies, you know every bit of your beloved game. No magic left.
You need expansion. You need expansion so you can play your beloved game again with excitement.
Let me emphasize: play your beloved game.
You don’t want new mechanisms. You don’t want new ideas. You don’t want different approach. You don’t want anybody to change anything in your beloved game! You don’t want to play new game. You just want to play the one you already love!
That is why so damn hard it is to design a good expansion. You have to add replaybility. And at the same time you can’t touch anything else. You can’t change base game.
Don’t you even try.
People buy expansion, because they love base game! You really want to mess with that?
That is why sometimes designers fail. They provide something original, something unique, something brilliant, and they surprisingly they face the fact that players are unhappy with that. They just wanted few more cards. No 'stupid tiles’ and 'stupid orb’!
I may be wrong. All I know is based on my experience. Babel13, expansion for Neuroshima Hex that adds terrain and campaign mode? Failure. Steel Police expansion for Neuroshima Hex that just add 1 new army? Super success. Undead expansion to Stronghold that changes all actions in the game? I still have in our warehouse Polish copies printed in 2010. Voyage of the Beagle that adds couple more scenarios? Nearly sold out in three months.
I don’t know. I may be wrong. But these days, when we work on expansion, we very carefully analyze – do we, by any chance, touche base game? If so, are we sure, we want to do it? Do fans of base game expect from us to change base game…?
What is your opinion? I’d really like to hear your opinion and some examples, which expansion for games you like and which you don’t. Please, contribute. It will help us all!