So What’s Wrong With Monopoly?


Whenever I tell someone that I’m a board game enthusiast I often see that glint in the other person’s eye as they imagine me sitting down to my nth game of Monopoly clutching my money in one hand and blowing on my other as I shake the dice for a lucky double roll. If the conversation goes that far, I’ll correct that person of this mistake and mention some very popular games that have been around for over twenty years (such as Carcassonne and Catan) knowing full-well that they’ll have never heard of them. They then go through that peculiar shift of attitude from that bemused “You actually play Monopoly at every opportunity?” to “What’s wrong with Monopoly – the only game I’ve ever even heard of?”

So, what is wrong with Monopoly and why do I feel the need to correct people from thinking that I play it?

Firstly, a disclaimer. I grew up playing Monopoly. I have a limited edition Star Wars Monopoly that I’m quite please with. I will most likely play Monopoly again. Also, if you enjoy Monopoly, then this is not an attack on you or your interest. Of course you’re allowed to like Monopoly. Instead, see this as an opportunity to learn about games that should be played instead.

First up, Monopoly is a Roll-and-Move game.

Roll-and-move games have been in existence since before Snakes and Ladders and are, for the most part, not much more than that. You roll one to many dice, move your pawn the given number of spaces and perform whatever action is printed on that space. The boards may be different shapes, the actions may be anything from moving your pawn somewhere else (landing on a ladder or snake) to doing something in the real world (answering a Trivial Pursuit question). Roll-and-move games are usually printed in bright colours with big fonts because they are games designed for children to learn how to count and how to take turns. Of course there are more strategic roll and moves such as Ludo and Backgammon which are more engaging in that a player at least gets some choice as to which pieces to move but are still mired by lucky rolls of the dice.

For all its apparent complication. Monopoly is not much more than this. Roll the dice, pay the fine, read the card or buy the property. Occasionally, you may have to decide on buying houses or mortgaging a property, but these decisions usually follow either a logical inevitability or a slight push-your-luck element (I can afford to buy a couple of houses as long as I roll more than a 5 this turn.) One could also argue that there is a little bit of bartering with the swapping of properties to complete sets, but then no sensible person would ever allow another player to complete any of the sets beyond Free Parking. It’s admittedly a little more than a child’s first game but the outcome of the game has very little to do with the players’ input and more to do with the random roll of two plastic cubes with spots on.

Next up is House Rules. (See my other article on House Rules here)

Essentially, nobody plays this game the way it was designed and every deviation makes the game longer and less fun. Wherever two or more people with non-compatible house rules try and play, there’s always an argument.

It’s a Long Game


This in of itself isn’t a bad thing, Twilight Imperium, for example typically plays 6-8 hours a time (can be longer if you play an older edition), but it’s a game that keeps players engaged throughout its staggering runtime. Monopoly is a game that can start dragging very quickly and far exceed its welcome. There’s not much variety to the game play with the only interest being when you approach a side or corner stuffed with hotels and you’re just anxious now. When it’s not your turn there’s nothing to do except watch your properties like a hawk ready to claim rent before the next player rolls and you miss it. And refusing to swap your Dark Blue property for anything.

It’s a Player Elimination game

Player elimination games are usually short or played in quick rounds. That way, the eliminated player is back in after a brief wait while watching some pretty exciting action. If you go bankrupt early in Monopoly you might as well go and do something else because sitting there for another two hours is not going to be fun, even if you end up being the banker.

It’s only fun when you’re winning

This can be true for many games, but most games to address this by either concealing the points won until the end so nobody knows who’s winning or the game can be won or lost right up to the end. With Monopoly, it’s generally whoever buys three properties on their first three rolls, it just takes hours to then play out the already inevitable result. They’re sitting smug with piles for 500 notes and can’t quite fit all their properties on their bit of table calling out rent at every roll. Nobody else is happy.

The Arguments

This can be a reflection of who you are playing with anyway, regardless of the catalyst, but due to the nature of the game’s longevity and ruthlessness, the temptation of “let granny off this one time” or “I’ll pay you after my roll” to creep into the game to keep everyone playing and ‘happy’ can cause some interesting emotional explosions with lasting repercussions.

So what?

The question really is why are you playing Monopoly in the first place? Generally, you’re on holiday, there is no WIFI, there’s nothing on TV or the next meal is still hours away. You’re stuck together as a family and you need something to do together. Through some unwritten law, every house has to have a copy of Monopoly somewhere, and this inevitably gets dragged out with “Why don’t we play a game?”

The answer is simple, get a better game.
For the same price as a game of Monopoly (about £20) you can buy a much more engaging game that doesn’t have all the baggage I’ve just mentioned.

Here are some examples, all for £20 or less (as at the time of writing).

Ticket to Ride: New York or Ticket to Ride: London (a href=”https://www.daysofwonder.com/en/” target=”_”>Days Of Wonder)

These play in less than an hour and is one of the easiest games to learn to play for the uninitiated. It can be stressful and frustrating, but so very satisfying as players try to link locations together in the city while blocking everyone else.

Forbidden Island (Gamewright)

Get your family working together in this cooperative game where you play as a team to beat the game. Tough and unforgiving this can keep the family occupied until the dinner bell rings.

Just One (Repos Production)

For four or more players, this guess-the-word party game takes an interesting new spin on the theme. One player shows the word they have to guess to the other players who all write down a clue on that word. Before revealing their words, they are compared with each other and any duplicate words are removed. Only what’s left is shown to the guessing player.

Of course, if you’re willing to spend a little more, there are so many great games out there to try.

Gaming Terms

For day 25 of #Blogmas 2020. Happy Christmas!!!

Did you ever read an article or the back of a box to find out about a game and all you get are some ‘gaming buzzwords’ that mean not a lot to you. Here’s a handy glossary of some terms to save you the thirty seconds to look it up on google.

Worker Placement: Where players take turns placing their counters on a shared board to perform a certain action or to block other players from doing so. Stone Age and Agricola have little more to it that this and Five Tribes introduces an interesting spin to the idea.

Card Drafting: Players are dealt cards then choose one card each. Keeping it, the rest are passed on to the next player and receive the cards from the player on the other side. Repeat until all cards have been picked out. Sushi Go and 7 Wonders do this as the entirety of the game whereas Terraforming Mars and Seasons use it as only part of the main game.

Deck Builder: Where players start with a small deck of basic cards. Each turn they draw a hand and use the cards they hold to ‘buy’ better cards from the middle of the table. All cards ‘purchased’ and ‘spent’ go into a player’s discard pile. Once they’re out of cards, they shuffle their discard pile, and start again, with a bigger deck with potentially better cards. Dominion sees players trying to fill their decks with point cards, Star Reams adds combat cards in order to reduce an opponent’s health, Legendary has players playing cooperatively against the game and Quarriors uses dice instead.

Push Your Luck: Where dice are rolled or cards are drawn resulting in bigger and bigger rewards – unless there’s one draw or roll too many and the wrong thing comes up and all is lost! Zombie Dice is very travel friendly, Jungle Temple is a handy filler and Abyss uses it as only one of its many elements.

Bluffing: Honesty will only get you so far, which is why we invented lying. Perudo (Liar’s Dice) and Sheriff of Nottingham see players trying to catch each other out and getting stumped by the occasional bit of honesty.

Dungeon Crawler: Corridors, doors, battling monsters, upping stats and gaining loot, the battle mechanics may be anything from die rolls to holding more cards. These games are about gaining more stuff and killing more things than anyone else. They range from epics like Mice and Mystics to not even bothering with a board in Munchkins.

Tile Placement: It is most likely you have played the game of Dominoes where players take turns placing their tiles according to the game rules. Carcassonne, Gingerbread House and Patchwork do this in different ways.

Point Salad: Where everything done gives points but the trick is to do enough of everything or a lot of the right thing to gain the advantage. Pulsar 2849 and Dinosaur Island are good examples of this.

Betrayal: A cooperative game where one or more players are secretly playing against the rest.

Dice chucker: Games where you roll dice a lot.

Of course games may only utilise one gaming mechanic or many.

Games on the Go

There are some great games that have so many components they can take up the entire dining room table and take ages to set up. Once done, you can say goodbye to your evening (or weekend, I’m looking at you, Twilight Imperium) as you are embroiled in strategy, scheming, bartering, bluffing and rolling your way to victory. However, more often than not, you want a quick, easy game that can be played anywhere and can be used to stop you, or the kids (or both) getting bored waiting for whatever you’re waiting for. Here are some games that might just keep those electronic gadgets in pockets for a little bit longer:

Dobble (Asmodee)

55 cards with 8 pictures on each, but only one picture is the same on any two cards. Who can spot the pair the fastest? This is the game of Snap multiplied by 8 and, with at least 5 game variations, is far more engaging. Comes in a sturdy tin and can be played without a table. Look out for the waterproof version to play on the beach or in the pub.

Cobra Paw (Bananagrams)

21 domino-style tiles but with coloured symbols instead of the regular spots and two chunky dice with matching symbols. Roll the dice and find the matching tile the fastest. Very competitive. Swap out the overly large octagonal box for a small pouch and you can fit it in your pocket. If playing while waiting for your meal, move the drinks to the side!

Zombie Dice (Steve Jackson Games)

Take on the role of a zombie hunting for delicious brains. How many can you eat before you got shot three times? Comes in a small cylindrical tube that can fit in larger pockets. How to play. 1. Open tub. 2. Roll dice. Can be played off and on as with any number of players long as someone keeps track of the score.

Star Realms (White Wizard Games)

If you have a little space and a bit more time, this fantastic deck-building space-themed combat card game is little larger than a standard set of playing cards. However, hidden within the box is a highly engaging two-player game than can add more players with extra decks. An ideal game for taking abroad.

A Tiny Epic Game (Gamelyn Games)

Gamelyn games have specialised in producing great games that feel like big games, but in small boxes. Each title in the series is completely different in look and feel. Whether it’s in space colonizing planets in Tiny Epic Galaxies or fighting off zombie hoards cooperatively in Tiny Epic Zombies, the games do take up some space and time to play, but are highly transportable (meaning you can take many with you – they even do a bag!!!) and there’s bound to be at least one title that appeals to you.

Just One (Repos Production)

For fans of the ‘Guess the word’ party game, this is a must. Small without the box and hours of fun and laughter. One guessing with the rest independently providing one-word clues. Duplicate clues are erased.

House Rules

For #Blogmas 2020

Originally written for Board Games Crate.

With the makers of Uno’s recent rules clarification about not being allowed to stack wild +4 cards on +2 cards and vice versa, I thought it relevant to address the ‘issues’ of house rules. For this I’ll give examples using Monopoly whose varied house rules have been known to end friendships and cause no end of grief.

What are house rules?

These are rules for existing games that have been made up by gaming groups or families that are either not in the game’s rulebook, or directly contravene what is in the rules. In Monopoly, landing on Free Parking and winning all the taxes and fines paid by all the players is considered to be the most used house rule. The rules clearly state that Free Parking does nothing and all monies should be paid straight to the bank. How many of you are now in shock?

Why do we have house rules?

House rules are often introduced by parents or experienced gamers when introducing a game to new or young players. They tailor the game play to either make it ‘more fun’ or ‘more fair.’
Alternatively, certain rules have either been misinterpreted or are too complicated to grasp or execute and are misplayed or left out altogether. Auctioning properties is usually an aspect that is left out of Monopoly, in my experience.

Why do house rules cause problems?

In truth, the original rules are usually there for a very good reason. Hours of design and play-testing have perfected a game to be as good as it’s going to be in its current edition. The Free Parking house rule I’ve already mentioned, can give the game more spice with everyone trying to land on an ever-increasing pile of money. But look what happens when someone does eventually roll the magic number and win thousands of in-game currency: an instant game-breaker with the lucky roller pretty much set up for the rest of a now much longer and less interesting game. Also someone’s generally sulking at this point.

“But I’ve always played it that way!”

The other reason house rules can be quite damaging are that people get very attached to them. The very memories of playing with friends or family members no longer with us are threatened as soon as someone else demands that the game be played “properly.” This can be worsened if different players have non-compatible house rules. In many cases players have never read the rules beyond how to dole the money out or other basic set-up assistance and only know the game they were first taught. After dozens or hundreds of plays it would certainly baulk being told to have been playing it “wrong.”

The solution

Due to nostalgia or player preference, house rules will never go away. However, as many games nowadays come with alternative game-play suggestions at the back of the rule book, perhaps these should also contain known house rules, but also leave a space for extra house rules to be added.

Enemies to Gaming

This article was originally written for Board Game Crate, but never got submitted. Needless to say, this was written before COVID-19 and Lockdown which is a definite enemy number 1 nowadays – particularly with the government pretty much banning the playing of board games over Christmas.
For day 17 of #Blogmas 2020

The other day I listened to the Dice Tower’s Top 10 Enemies of Gaming on youtube. Here, three panellists presented their main barriers to playing games. Although I agreed with everything they said, I thought I’d try and compile my own list.

1. Lack of players
You’ve got all those great games, but nobody to play them with, or not enough to play that 6-player that’s been collecting dust. Finding players isn’t nearly as easy as it should. The rest of the list explores why there are so few.

2. Lack of player compatibility
Yes, you’ve managed find some game players, but they’re not into the games you are. Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons are examples of this. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but for some, it’s either you play that, or nothing.

3. Lack of games
Unless you’re lucky enough to live close to a games store, the high street offers a very narrow selection of games which leads into … –

4. Lack of new games coverage
We all grew up with the likes of Monopoly, Cluedo, Game of Life, Scrabble and Connect 4. Even if we didn’t play them, we were aware of them collecting dust on some uncle’s shelf. Today, if you speak to a non-gamer about the hobby, their immediate go-to game of reference are these old games. The Settlers Of Catan, for example, is over 25 years old and I’m still introducing it to people who’ve never heard of it.

5. Lack of storage space
Not limited to this hobby, but some of those games come in big boxes – I’m looking at you Gloomhaven. Storing 100+ games is also a problem.

6. Lack of play space
Some games require a lot of space to play and not everyone has the table or floorspace to spare, particularly if it’s a game that is played over multiple sittings.

7. Lack of time
The enemy of just about everything, tabletop gaming is very much included here.

8. Lack of money
Unless you live near a friend or gaming café with a good games collection, chances are most gamers will have to make do with a few of the more affordable titles. The silver lining here is that there are some great games in this category.

9. Video games
After Time, the greatest competition to tabletop gaming is the one where, at the push of a few buttons, a full and immersive game can be played with thousands of other players across the globe. Video games also don’t suffer from a lot of the other issues on this list.

10. Bad experiences
If someone’s first, or last experience of a game was a bad one, for whatever reason, they may be inclined to think that tabletop gaming isn’t for them and move on to other things. A bit like not enjoying a book and never reading again.

That was my list, it’s not exhaustive, but it’s what I’ve experienced or seen.

What’s So Important About Themes

For #Blogmas 2020 reusing an article I originally wrote for Board Games Crate

Good games can work totally fine without themes, but their design is understandably basic. Backgammon and Scrabble, for example, require nothing more than a simple board showing the essentials and some counters or letters. Jenga and Pick Up Sticks go one step simpler as just as a bunch of bricks or sticks. They need nothing else to do what they do well. Granted, Jenga with Limited Edition Bright Red Bricks™ might sell more copies to red-loving gamers, but the colour adds nothing to the game.

As soon as a game expects a bit more engagement from a player, that player will, in turn, expect a bit more from a game. The more complicated Chess, for example has an age of chivalry vibe to it with every piece having a name and look harkening to that era.

A lot of the appeal of games like Magic: The Gathering doesn’t just come from the excellent game-play, but through the design and feel of the theme. One could argue that it would play just as well with no artwork. Action (spell) cards would be titled things like Action #327 or character (minion) cards as Hero #43, but, even with the exact same gameplay rules, no one would want to play it.

Themes (and budgets, don’t forget the budget) should shape how a game looks and develops. A game crafted around a well thought-out theme, at least looks the part. Provided as much effort goes into making the game enjoyable, it should be a winner.

Be wary of generic ‘facelift’ games that have your favourite fandom on the box but the game really could have had any theme and be exactly the same. The gazillions of iterations of Monopoly, for example are, with few exceptions, no different to the original except you get to be Boba Fett, Hermione Granger or Mario instead of a shoe. Also look out for games featuring a great, big plastic MacGuffin that does nothing but shriek “THEME!”

Some themes can really make or break a game, particularly if they’re targeted at the wrong audience. Dinosaurs, Space or Fluffy Kittens can be real crowd pleasers whereas Demons, Sorcery, Zombies and War can be a real turn off to many. Or vice versa, which is what makes themes a really interesting subject.

When looking at a new game, you are probably attracted to it because the theme appeals to you but think, does the theme actually fit the game and, of course, is the game any good? Conversely, if a friend keeps asking you to play a game whose theme rattles you, can you look past it and see the beauty of the game underneath. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it only runs ink deep.

The games that I find work well with their themes are Terraforming Mars, a game so cleverly integrated into its theme that it couldn’t be about anything else and Photosynthesis which uses the direction of sunlight striking trees to generate energy.

Standard edition Vs. Junior edition

For day 14 of #blogmas 2020.
Yet another article I originally wrote for Board Game Crate.

Quite a few titles now come with a Junior version of the same. Is this just a money-grabbing ploy to get us to purchase a watered-down version of a game we already own, or is there a place in our gaming collections for them?

In my experience, regardless of the game being played (or any activity for that matter), children need adult supervision. As a parent, I find myself playing the part of referee with the added bonus of being included in the game. My roles include ensuring that turns are taken fairly, the rules are followed accurately and the playing pieces aren’t hidden in socks or bulldozed by a toy duck. At the game’s conclusion I also comfort the one who doesn’t win while re-educating the victor on the finer points of being a good sport and limiting the victory dance to less than a minute. To those ends, I find myself just as busy with the Junior versions as I do with the standard versions and find myself wondering why bother with the Junior.

Well, the first and most vital benefit of the Junior is that they are often quite a bit shorter so my time in purgatory is lessened somewhat. The pieces are generally larger and brightly-coloured and are easy to locate and retrieve from pockets and under the furniture making it more likely that there’s a complete game ready for next time. Also, the better-designed games also give a good rebalancing of play so that I don’t always win – whereas the standard versions that require more experience/strategy or skill can slew the games in my favour. In some cases, the Junior version is actually quite different from the original giving me a different gaming experience, but not one I’d necessarily share with an adult group of gamers.

However, most standard games can be adapted to accommodate younger (or inexperienced) players. Most of us have forgone particular rules or game aspects when introducing a game to a novice of any age for the first time and many games even have ‘Family’ or ‘Beginner’ rules included. Also, many games on my shelf have very enticing covers and I’m often asked if they could play that with me. Some games get a flat-out ‘No,’ as an answer but, as my children get older, more and more games are given a go (successfully) and none of them have a Junior version (or they do and I don’t have it). As the kids get older still, I fear that the Junior games will get left on the shelf time and time again until they’re relegated to the loft, or given away.

Like most children’s toys, the Junior editions can be great for the age groups they’re aimed at, but have limited staying power and do little different than the main games (with a little bit of rule tweaking). Of course, there are exceptions to this and if you have one of those gems, treasure it.

Is there a board game for you?

This is for #Blogmas 2020.

Another gaming article I originally wrote for Board Game Crate.

So, someone in your household has ordered themselves a box of board games with some weird-looking games and you’re not sure what to make of them.
Up until now, board games have been for other people. You have not the fondest of memories of playing Monopoly in a caravan on a rainy day, or trying Mousetrap with missing components and you’ve decided that board games are not for you.

Of course, you may be right – but are you aware of the variety of games on offer?

They’re not all card-shuffling or dice-chucking, unless that’s what you like, in which case, there are hundreds of different card games. There are deck-builders such as Dominion where you use Medieval-themed cards to get more cards or Card Drafters like Sushi Go! where you swap cards to collect sets of food. Dice games like Liar’s Dice where you bluff about what you’ve rolled or Quarriors! in which you use your dice to combat your opponents.

If you don’t like components and ‘fiddley bits’ try Escape From The Aliens in Outer Space which comes with paper, pencils and cards with which you plot out your secret route on a map while finding the other players’ locations – or keeping away from them (a real thriller). For a more party-game scene try Telestrations which is Pictionary meets Chinese Whispers (hilarious). Both games are good for six or more players.

For stories and story-telling there are so many Role-Playing games where you become a character and go on an adventure. If you’re not a fan of dragons or elves look up your favourite fandom and you may be surprised to see that there’s a Role-Playing game based on that (or something similar).
For more structured story-telling, try Rory’s Story Cubes or Once Upon a Time which provide cues in the form of dice or cards to help construct the stories, which can be as elaborate or as short as you want.

If you like working as a team, try Pandemic, Castle Panic or Battlestar Galactica where you work together (mostly) to beat the game by eliminating globe-spanning diseases, hordes of incoming orcs or Cylons working with a treacherous player.

Beasts Of Balance incorporates your phone or tablet as well as being a delightful game of dexterity and balance, one of a new generation of games incorporating contemporary technology.

Don’t know where to start? Seek out gaming groups in your area or download games from the Apple Store or Steam (for a fraction of the price of the physical copy – some are even free) to try out and experience different games and gaming styles. Alternatively try Board Game Arena to sample some games for free (or for a price) against your friends and family online. There are also gaming conventions where you can try out all sorts of games with help.

I can almost guarantee that there is a game out there for you, whether it’s the gameplay, theme, player-base, complexity or length that hooks you.

Introducing games to beginners

This is for #Blogmas 2020

Another article I originally wrote for Board Game Crate, now available for general enjoyment.

Usually, whenever I bring up the subject of board games, most non-gamers immediately conjure up such titles as Monopoly,Cludo or Game of Life. Now, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying those games, but the roll-and-move mechanic doesn’t really give preparation into deck-building, drafting, line-of-sight, tower defence, worker placement, co-operative, buffs & de-buffs, point salads and so on. Having seen first-hand the deer-in-headlights terror displayed by a new player subjected to StarCraft: The Board Game, I thought it best to provide some tips when introducing games to new players.

Choose games that utilise only 1 or 2 mechanics. For example, Dominion, being one of the first deck-building games, is just about deck-building so should be easier to introduce instead of games such as Star Realms that has added combat and synergy or Clank which has a lot more going on. Sushi Go nicely introduces the idea of card drafting and set collecting, to be built upon later by more complex games such as7 Wonders and Terraforming Mars.

Dumb down the rules – but don’t give the appearance of doing so. Many games nowadays have a ‘Family’ or ‘Newbie’ version of the rules for first play. Using these rules as if they are the only rules not only helps players get into the game, but also avoids them feeling patronised.

Play games that are still readily available. It can be really off-putting when someone accompanies a friend, partner or co-worker to a game, really enjoys it, and then searches online to buy it only to discover it’s only available for upwards of £250 on ebay and in German.

Be patient. We were all beginners once upon a time. If they struggle to comprehend a rule, try using analogies, show a youtube clip – or even give them the rule book for them to interpret for themselves. Be prepared to field the same question time and time again. Also, when they’re caught out by a rule you so totally did actually explain to the right at the beginning, just accept the blame for keeping it a complete secret and give them 50 points in compensation.

Be aware of short attention spans. In today’s world of soundbites, people can be less tolerant of sitting there while you read them all 64 pages of a rule book and then watching you sort and arrange seemingly countless components across the playing area while their sweaty hands grasp the hand of cards they were given at the start as if they were a lifeline to sanity. Set up before-hand and play to introduce, not play to win. Aim for a half-game so that they grasp the basics. Then, when they’re happy, start over.

Finally, accept there is such a thing as beginner’s luck and not rage out by being totally defeated by someone who’s still coming to grips with a changeable turn order. Remember, they need to enjoy their experience so they will come back where you can then properly demonstrate just how to completely destroy an opponent.

Expansions – What are they good for?

Another article that I wrote for Board Game Crate. This is for #blogmas2020

If you’ve ever been to a games expo or one of the better games stores, you may have encountered countless expansions of one of your favourite games. As you peruse this dazzling display you see that each one promises extra bits, more cards, alternative boards and Cthulhu.

Although many of these expansions won’t exactly break the bank, the sheer number of expansions accompanying some games can hit the bank account pretty hard.

Expansions are content add-ons (DLC, if you like) for a game that either couldn’t be released with the original game due to costs or time or are subsequent ideas that have been made available later. The base game will work fine without them, but if you are thinking about getting an expansion, consider the following:

If you already love the game as it is and enjoy the particular nuisances of it, then expanding it may well change that, and not necessarily to your liking. Try it first.

If you’ve played a game so much that it no longer has any surprises for you, then an expansion can reinvigorate your interest in it by giving you new goals to aim for or extra things to do. Dixit can benefit with more cards to talk about, King of Tokyo/New York gets monster variety with the Power Cards, Catan can be reimagined with new gameplay, and everyone needs more Cthulhu (apparently).

Don’t feel like you have to get every single expansion to a game to make it work. Pick the expansions that work for you. You don’t like Cthulhu – then don’t get that expansion. Some expansions may also be doubled up (Smash Up) for increased variety.

If other players in your gaming group also have the game, it might be worth syncing your expansion lists so that you don’t double-up unnecessarily. When they come to you, you can play your expansion, and vice versa, thereby increasing your gaming experience further.

If player limits are a problem, some change the game to support a greater number of players (Small World, Cosmic Encounter, Catan).

If you encounter an expansion of a game you particularly enjoy, it might be worth picking it up on the off-chance, you may be surprised and you may regret turning it down. I am constantly lamenting not picking up the long out of print expansion StarCraft: Brood War when I had the chance.

Once you’ve got an expansion you may wish to keep it in its own box allowing you to play the original (vanilla) untainted game – particularly if introducing to new players. Or you can fully integrate it all into the base game box (if it fits) and play the complete experience. Cards from expansions are usually marked so they can be identified and separated out again if need be.

At the end, no one is forcing you to buy an expansion but their relatively low price tags can make them idea gift ideas or even the answer to that difficult question: So what do you want for your birthday?