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Published on February 7th, 2015 | by Colin


Cardcore Gamer: Lost in the systems


New games are being released all the time and it can be hard to decide what to buy, especially when what’s in the box isn’t the whole story…

One of the nice things about buying a board game is that you pay one flat amount for a complete game, without any need for accessories, batteries, special protective headgear, or a saddle. At least that can be the case and it usually is, but there is a trend, seemingly in line with the rise of Kickstarter projects, that is starting to get right on my proverbials; the proliferation of game systems.

I’m not talking about games like the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game, or the Living Card Game formats – games where you buy a starter box with the expectation of expanding the game over time – I’m on about the way games are being released with a whole year of expansions ready to go from day one. I’m a huge sucker for game expansions; if I like a game, then I will probably buy every stupid thing you care to release for it, but that used to happen over several months, or even years. A game was released, you had time to learn it, enjoy it and eventually feel like you wanted more and then POW! NEWS! An expansion is announced and you get to be excited all over again at your well-worn game getting a jolt of new life, like a beloved, Frankensteined friend.

Pacing expansions in that manner also allows you to buy into several games at once, riding out one game, then jumping to another, only to hop back when an expansion appeared. It also enabled designers to respond to feedback and shape their games accordingly (this still happens, as the recent Cyclades: Titans shows) or to play with the formula, taking the game in different (sometimes stupid) directions, as with Carcassonne. I can’t dump the blame solely on Kickstarter’s sandals, but that site definitely has a lot to do with the way things appear to be going: A game project is announced, pledges flood in, stretch goals are smashed and before you know it, a towering pile of game boxes are on the shelf, expansions at the ready before you even have the shrink wrap off.

Gaming, like most hobbies, requires money and time and for those of us with limited amounts of either the decision to buy a game becomes which game system to buy into, and where to slap your cash down is no longer “Which game should I get?” but “How much do I need to buy before I’m getting the full game experience?”. Choosing to invest in a system also opens up a whole host of questions; How stable is the company behind the game? Do they engage their customers on rules queries, or update their FAQs? Is their customer service worthy of the name? Are they planning to release a second edition just around the corner? Is there another company readying an all-too-similar game for release?

Of course I am basing this on my own brain (and probably being a bit of a knob). Board game systems aren’t the be-all and end-all of the table-top gaming hobby, there are plenty of completely stand-alone games released every year. The best advice I can offer is, as always, play the game first and do a little research – either that, or just buy the core game and leave it there.

But honestly, who even does that?

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