I recently watched a video by Daniel Davis (The Dungeon Dive YouTube channel) in which he talked about how his expectations of Secrets of the Lost Station were not met when he began playing it. Aside from his interesting views, what caught my attention was the fact that the game comes with 95 missions. 95! My thoughts were, who is going to play all this content? Why is so much content even provided? And if this why is obvious, why do people feel the need to go all-in, and get not one, not two, but five expansions all at once?
Secrets of the Lost Station is of course neither the first nor the only 'offender'. The game that became for me pretty much a synonym of 'bloat' is Shadows of Brimstone. I used to own the City of the Ancients core box and, because I enjoyed it, proceeded to purchase three expansions (Caverns of Cynder, Frontier Town, and Masters of the Void). And guess what? I never played them. After finishing the base game, I had enough of the system. Other games attracted me more, I moved on. Had I gone all-in, I would have ended with an obscene amount of expansions that would simply gather dust and would occupy half a bookcase.
Let's take another example: everyone's latest darling, Middara. Isn't she bursting at the seams with stuff? The Kickstarter page of the reprint goes on and on and on. The all-in pledge costs 500$, nearly a monthly wage in my country. 2383 people backed this tier. It would be perhaps justified if the owners were dedicated to this 'lifestyle' game, shunned all other games, and played it religiously. I suspect, however, that people who acquire these gigantic pledges also back numerous other projects, many of them equally large.
From a company's point of view, the bloat means more money up front. It makes sense that they adopt this marketing model. But from the customer's perspective, this is, in my eyes, exploitation of an unsatiated need for completion and abundance. 'There's a hole in my soul', as the song says, and it won't be filled no matter how many expansions and add-ons are thrown into it. The base game of Grendha: Search for Lost Triumphs comes with 277 minis. But hopefully people will also get the other 3 expansions, or else the game is unplayable.
For me, excess is oppressive. I look at the expansions to Nemesis which sit here half-painted, rules unlearned, and feel guilty. I paid good money to acquire them, I must get them to the table. I understand that not everybody feels obliged to actually use the things they buy, and sometimes games change hands as soon as they are delivered. I'm not against Kickstarter, but bloated campaigns are turning me off, like fries swimming in ketchup. Companies are employing fast food tactics, serving us trays of four-tier burgers, stuffed with bacon and toppings. We keep ordering them, leaving heaps of uneaten junk on the tables, rushing to the counter to get a new mega-order.
- Would you like expansions with your order, sir? How about an add-on?
- Sure, what the heck. I'll take the whole menu.