WTF Moments in Gaming: Free air with your board game purchase

There has been a growing trend in games lately. Games are coming in larger boxes. And the larger boxes are not filled with components. There have been several instances of publishers doing this. And the trend doesn’t seem to be stopping. There are a few reasons for this. One is that the publisher sells you a base game that will be big enough to hold the expansions that are on the horizon. But many of these instances are where the publisher wants the game to command a higher price tag. I won’t spend too much time condemning publishers for this practice. Why should I? Let’s instead have a hilarious look at some ridiculously large boxes for games.

 

 

 

1. Splendor

Splendor by Space Cowboys
Splendor by Space Cowboys

2014’s Splendor (from Space Cowboy Games) took the gaming world by storm. It’s a family game that plays quick and has some meat. And there’s much to praise here.

Splendor was the Golden Geek Board Family Game of the Year, Tric Trac de Bronze winner and nominated for about every other accolade they bestow on board games nowadays.

But the one award they won’t be bestowing on Splendor will be 2014’s Most Efficient Use of a Game Box. The components take up about 15% of the game box.

Components from Splendor
Components from Splendor

 

 

 

 

 

 

The size of the box most likely was chosen to add perceived value. Splendor retails for around $40.

Splendor components
Splendor components

 

 

2. Core Worlds from Stronghold Games

Core Worlds from Stronghold Games
Core Worlds from Stronghold Games

 

Core World is one of many Dominion clones: a rethemed deck builder. Players have virtually identical starting decks and then go on to play solitaire until the game is over.

Our group tried it out a few years ago. I “missed out”

Components for Core Worlds
Components for Core Worlds

because I was at another table. But the game was so bad Mongo traded it forthwith. I think the game mechanics and lack of player interaction were the biggest reasons for the game’s lack of success with the

Muskegon Area Gamers. But certainly the non-environmentally friendly game box was not that endearing either. The game comes with 27 chits and 210 cards and 5 player aids. Oh, and a refrigerator box.

 

3. El Caballero from Rio Grande Games

El Caballero from RGG
El Caballero from RGG

The board game renaissance we now enjoy is in part due to the genius of Wolfgang Kramer and Richard Ulrich. Their 1995 release “El Grande” did as much for us hobbyists as Settlers of Catan even if most do not recognize this.

So in 1998, when word was uttered that this same design team was releasing a follow up game to “El Grande” called “El Caballero”, many in the gaming world were thrilled. Their enthusiasm probably waned when they opened the box and discovered this:

Components of El Caballero
Components of El Caballero

The game box seems to be about 20x the size actually needed.

Most people have forgiven the publishers for this since El Caballero enjoys a decent rating on BGG. But we won’t let stop of from having a laugh at the suckers who paid retail for this.

 

4. Race for the Galaxy from Rio Grande Games

Race for the Galaxy from RGG
Race for the Galaxy from RGG

Race for the Galaxy is a game that has an intense following. We’re talking Twilight Imperium/Diplomacy level of intensity. Those who like Race for the Galaxy seem conjoined with it.

I’ve found this intensity to be curious. I like Race okay. But it’s a bit of a filler that’s mostly solitaire in nature. When I wrote a review of the game saying it was slightly better than mediocre every fanboy on Amazon rose up to chastise me.

Components of Race for the Galaxy
Components of Race for the Galaxy

But the one thing they couldn’t refute was the box-size-to-game-component ratio. Once you discard the player aids (which are nigh unusuable–a point conceded by the fanboys), one is left with lots of Chinese air.

 

5. Res Publica from Queen Games

Knizia's Res Publica
Knizia’s Res Publica

Reiner Knizia makes some good games. Res Publica is his take on a trading/negotiation game. The theme? Totally tacked on. Like most of his games (I’m looking at you Ra!)

His games can use simple components to make a deep and fun game. Res Publica, for example, is only 140 cards plus a page of rules.

Queen Games has been making what can only

Queen Games Res Publica
Queen Games Res Publica

be described as cash grabs. They keep publishing games that are high in cost but low in quality. It’s unfortunate because Queen Games used to be a top notch publisher.

Queen Games got the rights to Res Publica. They added their own house art work. And then they packed it into this. The box is 7.5″ by 8″ by 2.8″. This seems like it’s about 5″x5″x1″ too large. The price is also a bit higher than you might expect: $40 retail.

 

6. Poison from Playroom Games

Poison from Playroom Games
Poison from Playroom Games

Another Knizia entry on my list, Poison is a trick taking game with a bit of a twist. You are trying to NOT take a trick.

The theme is totally pasted on. The game was called “Baker’s Dozen” in its first iteration and is called, “Friday the 13th” in its most recent iteration.

 

Components of Poison
Components of Poison

 

What you are waiting for with bated breath is: how much extra packaging did they use? The answer is: about all of it. The game comes with so much extra packaging one marvels at Playroom’s design choice. All the game fits in a small card holder about 1/10th the actual box’s size.

 

7. Steve Jackson’s Munchkin

Munchkin from Steve Jackson Games
Munchkin from Steve Jackson Games

Munchkin is the poster child for take-that games. You play cards against your opponent (take that!) while trying to achieve level 10 for your character.

Munchkin is also the poster child for why I don’t like Steve Jackson’s games. I find his designs to be both not funny and not serious. I cannot abide games that are neither. Munchkin is not serious. And games of it can last up to 90 minutes making it not funny.

Components from Munchkin
Components from Munchkin

And finally Munchkin is also the poster child for this list. Lots of air from whatever Chinese printer Steve Jackson is using these days.

The game comes with 168 cards, a rules sheet and a birdcage lining that says “something…something…buy Steve Jackson Games”.

The box is about 5x the necessary size. This affords the publisher the ability to sell these 168 cards for $24.99 retail.

 

8. Machi Koro

Machi Koro from IDW Games
Machi Koro from IDW Games

Machi Koro is a nifty little game. The game takes the resource gathering mechanic of Settlers of Catan and adds it to a card drafting mechanic of Dominion. When taking inspiration from other games, Settlers and Dominion are good ones to choose.

But boy did they screw the packaging pooch. The game comes in box that could have been about 80% smaller. The game comes with 108 cards, two dice and some coins. Amazon lists the dimension of this box at 9.2″x9.2″x2.8″. That’s lots of air. I hope it’s refreshing. Because the game retails for $39.99.

Components of Machi Koro
Components of Machi Koro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Epilogue

There has been a couple of areas of push back from the gaming community because of this. One is the cost. Gamers don’t like being bilked for lots of packaging. But the other is physical room. Gamers have constrained areas for their hobby. And if publishers keep making games with overly large boxes, gamers will have to be choosier in their game purchases.

The trend doesn’t seem to be subsiding. But many gamers have been noting it. Once the publishers realize we are onto them, they will change course. And find other ways to separate us from money.

And I’ll be there to put my ironic spin on it.

-Chris, a slightly amused Muskegon Area Gamer.

 

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