Epic Gumdrop Ep 22: Expansions


Does every boardgame need an expansion? If you look at the history of boardgame expansions since around the mid-1970s, with their explosion in the past decade, you might think so.

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(Length: approx 36min)


Please note: some time after recording I found that you could indeed sort expansions as a category (if you look at a specific game expansion listing, it has a category tag as an “expansion for base game”). While my total numbers are hopelessly off (there are nearly 900 pages of listings, which must be something approaching 10,000 expansions listed), Cosmic Encounter still comes out as the main expansion-frenzy-parent. I also suspect my general numbers about the explosion of expansions per decade is relatively accurate (even with totals being off). One day I will revisit this. For now, take a look for yourself if you dare:
BoardGameGeek Expansions for Base Games

This episode we searched the BoardGame Geek database for the term “expansion.” We returned nearly 1700 items and threw these in a spreadsheet so we could sort them by year and remove fan/unofficial expansions from the list. Here’s a pdf of our Expansions Spreadsheet (using data up to Oct 5, 2015).

Some things to keep in mind with this data:

  • BoardGame Geek inception is Jan 2000
  • Many expansions do not use the word “expansion” in the title (eg. Dominion)
  • Due to naming convention this list also doesn’t suffer bloat from the multitude of collectible and living card game expansion packs
  • We did not compare the data to the total number of base games produced in this period or sort out the average amount of expansions per game title (although one of the first games we look at, 1977’s Cosmic Encounter, has nine expansions so early games are well represented).

BGG Total: 1520 official expansions

  • 1970-1979: 9 total
  • 1980-1989: 47 total
  • 1990-1999: 50 total
  • 2000-2009: 381 total
  • 2010-2015: 1029 total
  • (plus 145 unofficial or fan expansions not included in these totals)

Some ideas we explore this episode:

  • Are publishers producing platforms instead of games?
  • Are numbers of expansions simply proportional to increasingly large numbers of games being produced each year?
  • Are some genres (deckbuilders and miniatures) more represented?
  • Do most games now have expansions?
  • Do expansions merely help keep initial price point down while still ensuring fun base game (and gaining option to go deeper for those inclined)?
  • Does the completionist in you groan when you see the expansions coming out? Or is it expected/appreciated?

Please let us know what you think about this episode, or about boardgame expansions in particular! Love them, hate them, can’t live without them?