My Inner Publisher

Post by: Grant Rodiek

I’d be lying if I said I never want to be a publisher. People who speak to me “offline” (i.e. not publicly on Twitter) have heard me talk about this a bit. Really, it’s the desire to do things on my own, to try out my own ideas and tactics, to publish great things from designers, and carve out a slice. Being entrepreneurial is so very American and the beauty of board and card games is that, if you mind your costs and move slowly, you can do it without losing your shirt.

That’s not really the point of this. The point, is that I love expansions and add-ons for games, both as a developer and as a consumer. I think it’s a real shame that it isn’t more standard. It would definitely be a focus for me if I had the opportunity to make it so. I guess this is a little insight on my inner publisher (see how I tied that together!).

My standard take on expansions as a player is: If I like a thing, I want more of a thing. I suppose I could be lumped into the “Jones Theory” crowd, but I try to not buy multiple games with similar mechanics. If I find a game I love, I want a lot more of that game. I don’t want to buy 15 more games. This is why people love buying Dominion and Settlers expansions. I have a friend who only owns Settlers, but he has every expansion. Why? He loves that game.

As a developer, it’s a great way to earn revenue with a little less risk. You’re building off an existing IP with existing customers. Instead of a huge base game with tons of cards and components, you only need to manufacture a smaller pack. In case you’re curious, there are about 8 The Sims expansions with my name in the credits — I have a lot of experience with this business model and I’m very fond of it. Creature of habit?

I recently received my Alien Frontiers: Factions expansion, as well as the two small add-ons.

The packaging is super high quality, as are the contents inside, and in all 3 of these cases the improvement to the content is really meaningful. The expansion adds several new features and ways to play for only $25. The booster packs, which are approximately $10-15 apiece, add gameplay (the Faction pack on the left), and for the right, they add much cooler components. Custom plastic models instead of generic punchboard? Yep, that’s worth $10. Similar to this component improvement, Fantasy Flight Games sold miniatures for players to add to their Arkham Horror sets. If I was interested in that game, I assure you I’d own all of them.

Summoner Wars is brilliantly expanded constantly by its publisher Plaid Hat Games. For under $15 I can dramatically improve the experience with whole new factions. Even better, you can get the Master Set for under $40 or a more basic starter set for under $20. Such a great way to bring in new players and keep them playing!

Wizard Kings also has expansion armies. Not only do they add new armies, but they come in a VHS box. I own about 6 of these. I own 2 Memoir ’44 expansions and I have my eye on 3 more. Really, I could go on for quite some time!

Folks often scoff at expansions, sometimes for good reason. With some publishers and properties the players feel like they are being had at some point. “Really? Another?” It also rubs consumers the wrong way if they feel like content was withheld in order to make room for an expansion. This has been a recurring PR nightmare in the digital world with DLC shipped on disks. And, some people don’t share my personal mindset. They may not want to play all Summoner Wars all the time. They may want a little of this, a little of that, variety, and a plethora of new.

I’m pondering expansions already for Empire Reborn. I want to add Field Marshals with special abilities and naval units. I want to add new scenarios and campaigns. It’s premature, as the game is still in balance testing, but definitely something I may begin brainstorming more deeply.

What are some of your favorite expansions? What are some things you’d do if you were the publisher?

2 thoughts on “My Inner Publisher

  1. I agree: I’m an expansion junkie. Expansions scratch the itch of the collector within me. They also add to the mileage of games I already enjoy. I’m to the point now where I’d rather play a few games that I like often than every game under the sun once or twice.

    I try, though, to only expand when the fun is waning with the base game. With 7 Wonders, for example, I added in the Leaders expansion for the first time almost a year (and 30 plays) after I got it. I still haven’t used any expansions for El Grande, even though all of them came with the Decennial Edition.

    Dominion, I suppose, is the exception: that game, like CCGs, is designed around expansions. They feel more necessary from the start, but I also feel like this is information given up front.

    Nice article!

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