Welcome to… Summer thematic expansion review

The Welcome To… Summer Thematic Expansion is one of several small expansions for Welcome to, released in 2018.

When Welcome To… came out I thought, “How has no one thought of this before?” It took the Yahtzee-style roll-and-write idea but swapped out dice for cards. This made it possible to ensure all the options would come up, and at a set frequency (as you go through the whole deck of cards).

It also had a great theme and art style (building a 50s-style housing project), with the cards having an obvious advantage over dice in terms of artistic footprint. It won several awards alongside four Golden Geek nominations, and is currently sitting just outside the BGG Top 100 Games list. For the full lowdown and rules explanation, check out my original Welcome To… review.

What does the Welcome to… Summer expansion bring to the party?

The Welcome To… Summer thematic neighbourhood gives you a new set of 50 scoring sheets. There’s also three city plan cards that only work with this expansion (so you’ll need all the cards from the original game too). The sheets are remarkably similar to the originals. Three streets, each the same length as before. The parks, pools etc are worth the same victory points. Even the pools are in the same places. But what’s that noise I hear in the distance? Oh my… ice cream van!

The top two roads have an ice cream van at one end, while the longer street has one at both ends. And there’s an ice cream scoring column added. 20 houses also have an ice cream cone added to them, with 1-3 scoops of ice cream in each one. The three new cards involve – surprise surprise – ice cream. All are number 3s, so you play with one per game. Although I guess you could go maverick and use them all.

For solo play, nothing changes – odd, as you don’t have an opponent to race to street bonuses with. Annoyingly there are rules for a solo variant using AAA cards, which come with the Easter/Doomsday expansion. That then adds a way to cross off those bonuses – but you need those mysterious cards. This is poor form, as I can’t see many Welcome To… completionists popping up. It’s also pretty lazy and tight. So if you’re here for a solo expansion, you’ll want to avoid this unless you have those AAA cards.

How much does it change the game?

As mentioned, the game plays exactly the same as the original – but with two added scoring wrinkles connected to the ice creams (and associated vans). When you mark off your first house on a street (whether it is marked with an ice cream cone or not) you draw a line from that street’s truck to the house (the bottom line has two vans, so you choose which direction to come in from – and ignore the other van). If it has an ice cream, you also ring it (as you would a swimming pool).

With the trucks route predetermined (or set by that first placement), it can’t go back on itself. So when you mark off an earlier house with a cone, sorry – no ice cream for them (gutted). When you mark off the next house in that street’s van direction, you continue its line (marking off an ice cream if it is at the new location). If it’s the last house on a street with an ice cream cone, you also mark off a bonus square – but only the first person to do so for each street gets that bonus. In final scoring, you score a point for every circled scoop. If you marked off the bonus for a street, you add a point for each cone you circled in that street too.

The city plan cards are tricky, but one really goes against the main way to score points from ice cream (wanting you to score no ice creams in three estates). But they’re all strangely low scoring for the challenge they offer. One needs you to get all the cones in a street, while the last requires three four-house estates with three cones sold. We don’t tend to go for them, as the rewards don’t seem to fit how hard they are to do.

Is the Welcome to… Summer expansion value for money?

Frankly, there’s not much here. The expansion came wrapped in cellophane (unboxed), and has no new art on the cards (and half the amount of sheets versus the original) – so seems a bit steep at £12. Especially as a fresh set of 100 original scoring sheets is considerably cheaper (lets not mention laminating…). 

Looking at Board Game Geek, 10 expansions are listed for Welcome To… – some seemingly sold as double packs (such as one with Ice Cream and Outbreak). So it would seem, depending on region, you’re going to get more or less value. And sadly this seems like one of the worst examples.

Is it essential?

This is going to be hugely group dependent, so I’m going to break it into three scenarios. Also, I’m talking about getting ANY Welcome to… expansion – not this one specifically. As mentioned above, you can probably get better value form one of the other thematic expansion packs (if you can find them).

First, if you’re happy with the original and have plenty of sheets – no. Second, if you have run out of sheets but were still happy with the original – yes. And third, if you want a little extra challenge from the game – maybe. 

All round, it’s a tough call. There are 100 sheets in the original box – that’s a lot of plays. But if you’ve gone through them, you could comfortably play on new sheets without the new rules (as the rest is as-was) anyway. So why not get a new version for the variety it offers, just in case? But if you have plenty of old sheets, and like the original game, there’s really not much extra offered (by the summer expansion at least).

That said, what there is amounts to extra decisions. And the more gamery of you out there are going to dig that. Oddly, the hardest decisions come right at the start. Once the trucks start moving, decisions become easier (you may give up on a street in terms of ice cream, for example). But if the first card draws are all 6s and 7s, it’s a nightmare. But throughout, each time you look at the cards, you have one extra variable in your head. Personally, I prefer this to the original. But will keep the original sheets for teaching (or ignore the ice cream part if I’d run out of originals).

… and does it fit in the original Welcome to… box?

You should (exaggeration alert) be able to squeeze the three cards into the box… and the sheets are the same size as the originals. I’ve used about 20 of each, and still managed to fit them all in with the box lid fully closed.   

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