Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Games Workshop Expansion Boxes 1992-1996

I listen to podcasts in my car. Since I burn them to a CD, and since I do my burning at non-standard intervals, sometimes I listen to a podcast more than once. Sometimes a few times.

Dice Tower #303 - Expansion Boxes has been circling my ears lately. The big question for the episode is of course "What do you do with your expansion boxes?"

The folks fall into about 3 camps.

First camp: They buy an expansion. They move the components of the expansion and the base game into a unified box (either the base game box or the expansion box, whichever is bigger). The leftover box is discarded.

Second camp: They buy an expansion. They keep the components in the expansion box, stacking a complete base game and expansion game together on the shelf. And only mixing the expansion parts in when they WANT to play with expansion rules.

Third camp: They buy an expansion. The components of the expansion are combined with the base game like in the first camp. But the expansion box is RETAINED, in an empty state. In the very unlikely case the buyer decides he wants to separate the components back out again. Perhaps to sell. Perhaps just to look at.

These three camps were driving me just a little insane. Until one guy came on with a little different perspective. Greg Schloesser stated he almost never buys expansions, period.

I avoid buying expansions, too. I was going to write a big post about how I've never bought an expansion.

Big Mistake.

After more consideration this turned out to be rubbish, and many, many dark memories of past expansion experiences came flooding back to me. My mind was transported back to the 90's, specifically the years 1994 to 1996. A little company called Games Workshop had a hold on me. An iron grip, and they intended to wring the very last red cent out of me.

I'm pretty sure Games Workshop pioneered the must-have expansion. That is, the expansion you MUST have in order to play the base game in the way it was intended. Here are a few examples.

1. Warhammer Fantasy Battles - Battle Magic

Warhammer Fantasy Battles was the 3rd or 4th edition of the Warhammer Fantasy battle system. The base game included a heaping helping of orcs, goblins and high elves to help get you started. What Fantasy Battles did NOT have was rules for using any of your wizards. Since this was a FANTASY setting, typically armies would have at least one wizard blasting away. The rules for using magic could be found in a little $40 expansion called Battle Magic. I remember reading in White Dwarf how they just tried and tried to fit the magic rules in with the base game. But it was just too hard! So they had to charge me extra money. They would later charge me even more money for the even-more-magic expansion…Arcane Magic.

2. Warhammer 40,000 - Dark Millenium

Games Workshop evidently loved the revenue model for Battle Magic so much they came back for an encore with Dark Millennium. Again, they tried super hard to fit the rules for psykers (future wizards!) into the base game, but there was just too much content. How can you possibly expect us to pack so much creative content into one gigantic coffin-size box?

3. Blood Bowl: Death Zone

Death Zone added a few minor optional things to enrich the Blood Bowl experience. Like rules for half the teams (Goblins, Chaos, Undead, Wood Elf, Halflings and Chaos Dwarves) and rules for campaign mode. People were having all kinds of fun playing one-off games in Blood Bowl, but now you can play an entire season!

4. Necromunda: Outlanders

Outlanders came in at the tail end, and actually contains rules you DON'T need to play the base game. The campaign mode was finally included in the base Necromunda game, as were all the very similar "Underhive" gangs. Outlanders added some specialized "renegade" gangs, as well as new rules for existing gangs to be exiled from the underhive. Strangely enough, this was the expansion I appreciated the most. Seldom were the rules used, but I got to see an amazing 30 man gang of cannibalistic Scavies piloted by my friend Ryan and it was totally worth it for that alone. You also got some sweet new cardstock buildings to complement the base game ones, for more scenery maneuvering mayhem!

By 1999, Games Workshop was publishing Mordheim: City of the Damned. Finally, every rule you would ever need right in the base box.

Today's modern expansion is sort of a different beast. I think publishers have gotten really smart about the kind of content they contain. I've read accusations from people who claim sometimes a designer doesn't give you "the whole game" until you buy the first expansion. But you'll have a hard time finding a case of essential rules being withheld like the previous examples.

For modern games, ones I bought after say 2000, I have almost none of the expansions and don't really feel the need to get them. But I'm going to save that for another post! The post will also include the rules for using wizards in your campaigns, so you better read it!

1 comment:

  1. There were others during this time span…Man O' War had 2 expansions and then there was the whole Epic scale 40k system. But I mostly stayed away from these two areas and didn't get burned. OK, until I bought into Epic but that was way later.