Why do board game boxes suck?

Why do so many games have such shockingly bad box designs?

You can’t get away with having an ugly looking game anymore (unless you’re trying to look purposely cheap) but a box design that results in a bunch of game pieces in your lap every time you open it? That’s just dandy.

Even when a box has a plastic insert meant to keep all the pieces in check, these often fail the second that it’s turned on its side, which is a rather large failure in my opinion, seeing as most people store their games this way. I certainly do.

I have yet to open the Splendor game box without being assaulted by a rain of plastic discs!

Our copy of Steam Planet is, for some reason, over a meter long. Why?!

They appear to have remedied this in a recent reissue, but who ever thought that would be a good idea in the first place?

It doesn’t have to be this way, you know.

There are good games out there.

I played Century: Spice Road the other day, and the box for that is brilliant – it has a plastic insert that actually, shock horror, holds all the pieces in place.

I was always impressed by how well Dominion, a game with twenty seven million cards all stored in one box, manages to keep everything where it’s supposed to be even after I’ve put it sideways on a shelf.

Is it really that hard to make a box that does its job and keep everything in its place?

Speaking as someone who has never had to design anything in their life, I think I can say with the utmost authority that it isn’t.

BoardGameGeek and statistics

About a year ago, in an effort to guilt trip myself into reading more, I started logging and reviewing my books on Goodreads.

It really worked! And this was in no small part due to the fact I now had stats on books I was reading (I love me some stats).

Now, one of my friends, V, does the same thing for all of her board game plays on the BoardGameGeek app, and I realised I could do the same for my board games, which lead to one of my board gaming resolutions to be ‘logging my games on BoardGameGeek’.

BoardGameGeek WebpageOne of the things I really like so far is that it gives you an h-index of your games.
For those that don’t know, an h-index shows states that you have played h number of games h number of times.

Since logging, I have played one game three times and two games twice, giving me an h-index of 2.

Once I’ve played three games three times, it will go up to 3 and so on.

The h-index started life as a measure of how ‘good’ academics were based on their number of papers vs number of times they’ve been cited.

In academia, the h-index has been widely criticised as basically just being a gauge of how long a researcher has been publishing papers, rather than a real estimate of quality and it got me wondering how beneficial a boarding gaming h-index would be.

I am slightly worried that I will start playing my favourite games over and over to up my h-index, rather than trying out new things, hence the reason I added the resolution to play at least one new game a month.

My hope is that I will make me start playing those games I quite like, but don’t play as much as my core games, in an effort to get into the double digits.

board game collectionThe app also lets you log who you play with, giving you the corresponding h-index.
While I was again worried that this would end up with me playing with my core group of gamers, it does help solve an issue I have when playing with new people: getting people’s names.

I go to a weekly board gaming group which always has someone new, but I am terrible at asking for, and then remembering, names – there are people I have played games with half a dozen times, but I have no idea what their names are.

The app not only gives a reason to ask for a name, but the act of physically writing it helps me remember.

I’m going to keep logging, and try seeing if it does change my gaming habits as much as Goodreads changed my reading habits. I’ll report back here with my findings.

Every game is better with a traitor mechanic

I have a friend who maintains that every game — EVERY game — would be improved with the addition of a traitor mechanic if only we could work out how to implement it.


Pandemic: You win if the others lose. Hands are played closed and no one is allowed to say what cards they have explicitly. Convincing your ‘team’ you can’t help and persuading them to make bad choices is how you win.

Flash Point Fire Rescue: You set the fire. You win if the others loose BUT all deaths, including yours, are permanent. If you are in the building when it collapses, you lose. If you get caught in a fire, you lose. The main team only need to find five civilians to win.

Ticket to Ride: There’s a chance that one of the initial tickets is a traitor card. Instead of getting points in the usual way, you get the points of all the tickets your opponents failed to complete.

7 Wonders: Less of a traitor mechanic, more of a being-an-arse mechanic (most of them are from this point to be honest). Your wonder is all about making other people lose points and there are extra black city cards in the deck to help you.

Terraforming Mars: You get your own special deck with all the attack cards in. You win if after a set number of generations (depending on the number of players) Mars has not been terraformed.

Settlers of Catan: You are the robber. You ALWAYS control where the robber moves and automatically roll a seven on your turn. Instead of building settlements and cities, you steal other people’s. It takes eight points to win.

If you can think of any games to traitor-ise, drop me a note in the comments below.