Photo by Sophie Elvis on Unsplash

Have you ever played a game and wished that it wouldn’t be over so quickly? Or have you ever played a board game you loved multiple times, only to find that it began to feel repetitive?

I know I can say yes to both those things. That’s why I’ve gone hunting for the best board games with expansions packs to create this list.

An expansion pack basically just adds more content to the board game in question. It can help change up the gameplay or simply add more of the same to it. Either way, it allows you to spend more time enjoying a board game you love, and in my book, that’s a good thing.

Best Board Games with Expansion Packs

Catan

Catan is a classic board game beloved by people all over the world. In this game, your goal is to settle in a new land with a number of players, acquire resources, and trade for resources you need but don’t have.

It may sound boring initially, but it’s surprisingly entertaining, and each game plays a little differently. That’s why it’s fantastic that Catan offers expansions to players – it’s already a game with a high level of replayability. Thanks to expansion packs, you can continue to break it out for get-togethers or family game nights even more.

Plus, this is the kind of board game you can get really into. There are whole communities revolving around Catan, and even Catan tournaments to partake in if you feel so inclined.

Pros:

  • Large fanbase means you’ll be able to find people to play with fairly easily.
  • Each game can play differently, meaning the game usually has a fresh feel to it every time.
  • Supports anywhere from 3-6 players, thanks to an expansion that increases the number of potential players by 3.
  • This is a great family-friendly game that’s suitable for children.
  • If you want something particularly unique, there are multiple different versions of this game, including a space and Game of Thrones edition.

Cons:

  • Some owners have mentioned that the card holders seem a little flimsy.

Splendor

Despite being an immensely popular game, Splendor is a game many people haven’t heard of – including myself, until recently. Having learned more about it, though, I think you should definitely give it a try if you’re a board game enthusiast.

In Splendor, each player is pretending to own a store that sells valuable gems. To acquire the gems, they must buy mines, build caravans to transport their goods, and set up storefronts.

It’s not necessarily as complicated as it sounds. In fact, games can usually be finished in as little as half an hour, and it’s a great option for family game nights. If you like it, there are, of course, expansion packs you can buy to give you more content.

Pros:

  • Games don’t necessarily take a long time – only half an hour on average.
  • Suitable for kids ten and up (although you could probably play it with younger kids if you’re willing to help them learn).
  • Better for small, intimate gatherings, as it only supports up to 4 players.
  • The gems are represented by fun, poker chip-style pieces.

Cons:

  • A few owners mentioned that the quality of the gem chips could be better.

Ticket to Ride

Like Catan, Ticket to Ride is another classic game that has a dedicated following. I don’t know about any Ticket to Ride tournaments, but it’s still a beloved game with lots of enthusiasts.

Basically, what you’re doing is building railroad networks. If you can build a longer railroad, you earn more points.

It’s a simple game that can usually be learned quickly. Although the base game has players building railroads in North America, there are expansion packs that allow you to construct your transportation empire in other regions worldwide.

Pros:

  • New players can often learn the game in just several minutes.
  • It’s safe to play with the whole family.
  • Supports up to five people.
  • You can even play the game with Amazon’s Alexa if you don’t have anyone else to play with.

Cons:

  • Many players noted that you need a large table to play the game on, as it takes up a lot of space.

Pandemic

Going through the Covid pandemic has been frustrating, depressing, and exhausting – to say the least. How many times have you imagined saving the world since the onset? How many times have you wished everyone could be safe?

Frankly, I can’t give you advice on how to achieve those goals – but you can experience something similar on a micro-scale in the board game Pandemic. In Pandemic, players become a team of medical and strategic professionals working together to quash an outbreak before it spreads all over the world.

You can make the game as difficult or as easy as you like with the addition of epidemic cards in the deck. Playing it at harder levels will make you really appreciate the scientists and professionals in real life who work to keep us safe.

Of course, the game also has expansion packs to add more content to the game. There are also other versions to try.

Pros:

  • Classic game that makes you develop a deeper appreciation for medical professionals.
  • Perfect for smaller gatherings, as it supports up to 4 players.
  • Players work together rather than compete.
  • Games take around a single hour.

Cons:

  • It can be confusing to learn at first.

Photosynthesis

PhotoSynthesis is a board game that has won numerous awards. So if you’re looking for something that you know will be fun and mentally stimulating, this one is a good pick for you.

Additionally, once you’ve got the board set up, it’s surprisingly pretty. The objective of the game is to gradually grow a forest, ensuring each tree in your forest has what it needs to survive. Obviously, the game deals a lot with the growth and life of trees, so it could also be a kind of a neat tool to teach kids about nature.

It’s also something you can feel good about buying. The manufacturer only uses recycled materials to make each set.

Pros:

  • This is a prestigious game that has received many awards.
  • It’s made only from recycled materials.
  • Suitable for the whole family, so don’t be afraid to get your kids involved.
  • It looks impressive on your table, since players will literally be making forests.
  • Many players feel that it’s quite easy to learn.

Cons:

  • Although it says you can play it two-player, many owners feel that it works best with 3 or 4.
  • Games can go on for a longer time, with some reporting a minimum of one hour.

Mansions of Madness

Full disclosure here: I have a soft spot for Mansions of Madness. I am a huge fan of Lovecraftian games, so anyone who’s read anything else I’ve written won’t be surprised that I included this one on here.

But it’s not just because I’m a sucker for all things spooky. I legitimately think Mansions of Madness has an intriguing premise, especially if you play tabletop RPGs.

This is basically like a choose-your-own-adventure story in a board game format. There’s a free companion app that you install with the game, and it runs you through each story and incident. Out of the box, this game comes with four extremely detailed campaigns to play through…but you can purchase more in expansion packs at your leisure.

Pros:

  • There are tons of expansion packs for this game that add new campaigns to play through.
  • The companion app will guide you through scenarios and stories – in fact, you can even play this game alone, if you want.
  • It includes a few hundred extremely ornate pieces to help you visualize the story.
  • Perfect for fans of horror or those who want to give their gatherings a creepy campfire story feel.
  • You can play it with up to five people.

Cons:

  • It can be a complex game, so I can’t really recommend it for children.
  • Games can take hours to complete – which can be a good thing, I suppose, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Carcassone

If you’re new to the world of board games and want to get into something that’s simpler to learn, Carcassone could be a good starting point for you. This beloved board game comes with a freshly revamped rulebook that was created to make picking up the game even quicker.

As a bonus, the box I linked to even comes with a couple mini expansions already. There’s no need to go and hunt for more, unless you’d like to.

Carcassone is a game in which players build a map together. Certain configurations are more valuable than others, such as completing roads, fields, or buildings. As the map forms, players set down their meeples (small people-shaped figurines) on the map to win points.

Pros:

  • It’s amazingly easy to learn.
  • The game can be different every time since the map is built by players whenever you play.
  • It’s a great strategic game for kids to play.
  • Games can be completed in under an hour.
  • There are tons of expansions and different versions to try.

Cons:

  • Like Ticket to Ride, this one can take up a lot of table space as the map expands.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

Forgive me, but I couldn’t help squeezing at least one more horror board game on this list. I love things that go bump in the night, and Betrayal at House on the Hill sums up those hair-raising experiences perfectly.

I think one of the best things about this board game is that it really does change every time you play it. Even the base game comes with fifty different scenarios to start with for you to play through. Each scenario has different objectives and endings.

Because there’s such a wide array of scenarios, it’s kind of difficult to explain what the gameplay is like. At its core, each player will pick a character to play, and they can set stats for that character at the beginning of the game. Then you wander around a decrepit house, searching for clues in order to escape.

The twist is that, by the end of the game, a random player is forced to become a traitor. You’ll never know who this person is, which is what makes it interesting. The moment someone becomes aware that they’re the traitor, they must suddenly work to thwart the others’ attempts to escape when they’d previously been helping.

Pros:

  • The game comes with 50 different scenarios to play through, although you can buy more in expansions.
  • Players start by working together, but then there’s a fun betrayal mechanic.
  • Can support up to 6 people.
  • The map changes each time you play, since players build the layout of the house together.

Cons:

  • You’ll need to set aside enough time to play this one, because games are generally at least one hour.

How to Choose the Right Board Game with Expansion Packs

Learning Curve

I think one of the first things you should consider before purchasing any board game is how difficult the game in question is going to be. Of course, this is entirely dependent on you and the people you’ll be playing with.

Are you all novice board game players, or do you have a lot of experience? If your friends don’t have much experience, are you willing to be patient and teach them?

For those with less experience or those who want a more casual game, look for games with a lower learning curve. These tend to be simple games with fewer rules. It’s not always easy to tell which ones are easier, though – you may need to check customer reviews to confirm.

Cost

Board games can be surprisingly expensive. When you consider all the artfully made pieces and boards included with them, I can understand why.

This doesn’t mean that I – and likely you, as well – don’t have a budget. One good starting point is to outline the amount you’re willing to spend on any board game. This way, you won’t end up spending more than you’re comfortable on one.

Duration

Board games are not one size fits all when it comes to time. Some, like Mansions of Madness, can take a few hours to play, and are best left for evenings you want to dedicate entirely to a single board game.

On the flipside, there are board games that can be finished in around half an hour. These types are excellent when you’re just trying to kill a little time before another event or when you want to divide your time together between other board games.

Fortunately, duration is really easy to find. Most board games will say it right in the product description. If they don’t, you can usually find this information on pictures of the box.

Number of Players

Another thing you’ll want to ask yourself is how many people are going to be playing. Do you have a large group of people looking to play, or just a few?

Board games can support different numbers of players. Like duration, this is something else that’s easy to find. Usually, it’s right near the top of the product description. If it’s not, you can find it on the box.

Wrap Up

Part of me wants to be really biased and pick Mansions of Madness as my favorite game on this list. As I’ve mentioned countless times, I am a huge horror fan, especially when it comes to Lovecraftian horror.

I understand that not everyone likes horror, though, and I want to recommend a game overall that I feel the most people will like. In that case, I would like to recommend Pandemic. It has loads of expansions to choose from, and it is particularly relevant in today’s climate. It’s obviously nowhere near as complex as an epidemiologist’s actual job, but I do feel like it may give you a greater appreciation for what medical professionals and scientists must contend with.

To top that off, it’s just an all-around great cooperative game. It can be challenging without being maddening, and it is rewarding to work together to win.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.