Pop Quiz!

Something different this week.

I’ve been rummaging in a lot of different games this week, and thought I’d ask you guys about a topic that I feel rather strongly about. It’s going back to an old hobby horse of mine: that the whole end-user’s experience needs (ideally) to be considered as a single piece and should be seamless. Often your client won’t let you do this, but it’s worth pushing for.

One thing that often gets ignored entirely is what the inside of the box looks like. Fitting stuff in is simply thought of as a matter of packing, not experience. In reality, the first impression is important. Sadly, there are few people who do this well. Awaken Realm stand out here as people who plainly think that experience through and put a deal of effort into making it a good one. Hats off to them.

For me, and I suspect many others, just looking at a game in its box is the start of the session, and it can set up a great time or cause your heart to sink a little. Judging by what I’ve read online, I’m not the only one who’s opened a box, looked inside, and just put it back on the shelf. Sometimes games are great in spite of this lack of care, other times it’s the only place care has been taken. The really great games are ones that consider the whole experience.

The following are three entirely not random games that have a different vibes for me.

What I’d like you to do in the comments is to tell me how each of these initial impressions makes you feel. Elated? Impressed? Disheartened?

Here are the games:

A: Age of Dogfights WWI.

A recent arrival from the wonderful world of Kickstarter.
I was both hoping and fearing it would be like this 🙂

B: 1066, Tears to Many Mothers.

This is the first in a series from Tristan Hall. The third instalment is on Kickstarter now.
Seriously?

C: PARKS.

Half game, half art project.
I’m guessing that the trays being in the shape of a log is not an accident.

Note that this isn’t about how the games play. It’s all about the shallow, yet vital, first impressions and how the image makes you feel.

So you don’t feel embarrassed, I’ll go first.

A: Gosh! That’s a box full of stuff. It’s not slickly presented, but it speaks of passion and reminds me of the kind of painful detail I’d put in my own games when I was 18 and knew for a certainty that more detail always meant better. Lots of different materials used. Clearly some (over)enthusiasm involved in the making of this. It’s a bit daunting and I’ll need to put aside some time to get to grips with this. It’ll be exciting when I do though.

B: Where’s the rest of the game? FFS. This box is at least three times as big as it needs to be and that’s just rude. People have shelf space to consider, you know. Reminds me of the bad old days of early “German games” (before they were called Euros) when paying for a game and getting a box of air was commonplace. Nobody liked it then either. Inconsiderate. Not a good start.

C: Classy. Custom inserts that you can take out and use as the supply on the table. Not only is it a full box, wasting no shelf space, but it’s useful in game too. They’ve made it easier for me to get the game on the table and quicker to set up and pack away, saving valuable gaming time. I like these people. Very positive start.

So what do you think?

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10 Responses to Pop Quiz!

  1. Okay, I Stated to read your response and quickly stopped because you saw the first game’s presentation WAY different then the way I saw mine. 😀

    A. Age of Dog Fights WWI: YE GODS! That’s a ton of stuff! Second impression: Is it all there? I can’t tell because it is all jumbled together / How will I know if I’ve lost things in the future?

    B. 1066, Tears to Many Mothers: Is there an expansion that will fill up the rest of the box? Once I open those cards, they are going to go EVERYWHERE!

    C. Parks: I. LOVE. IT. Not only is it filling the box space (Sure the windy artsy-ness is hollow, but it is filled with STYLE!), but the trays keep everything organized and with their reusable lids!

    TBH, I think Parks was thrown in as a ringer and as such you have now ruined me to all other game packing styles. I hope you’re happy!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks for your reply. The difference is part of the fun 🙂

      All of these are as they come, so I expect that Dogfights will get a bit more organised once I’ve checked the components and sorted things into bags or whatever. I used to play Squad Leader and must have had over 5,000 counters for it. All organised. It does look daunting though.

      There’s no expansion for 1066 and I don’t expect one. It’s a fairly small and contained game. There are, however, other games in the series, so you could put all three in one of their boxes and bin the other two. Can’t say that I’m very happy with that idea though. Oh, and it came with 3 or 4 ziplocks, so the card decks will go in bags to keep them from rampaging.

      PARKS certainly is impressive. There is one other example of presentation which beats it for me, but it’s not to hand, so PARKS it was.

  2. Andrew Kozma says:

    A. Overwhelmed.
    B. Disappointed? I’m not overly worried about shelf space, but why is that box so big? Turn-off for me.
    C. Excitement! I love the care put into the packaging so it almost feels like the game and the gaming starts when you open the box. I guess that’s true? The playing starts when you open the box.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks Andrew.

      Why is the 1066 box so big? I don’t know for sure, but the traditional answer is that you want to grab as much shelf space for your game when it’s in retail, to sell it in the first place.

      Your thought about the game starting when you open the box is my point; it *should* feel like that. I’m sad that more people don’t make the effort.

  3. gavroche says:

    A. WOW, so much stuff!!! Disorganized? Maybe, but that goes with the retro cover. I’m cool with it.
    B. Why didn’t they put the game in a nice little box? What’s the point of all the empty space? Not disappointed, just baffled.
    C. Nothing in particular. Modern, standard, efficient. It’s what i nowadays expect when I open a gamebox. I don’t see this as either o good or a bad sign for the game as game in itself.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Your last point is intriguing. I wonder whether that view may be more prevalent in younger gamers. It would make sense that expectations would rise along with norms and that there would be a sort of generational banding of opinion.

      • gavroche says:

        I think you are right. Standards have gone up, and something like a plastic custom tray for components has been more common for some time than it used to be. In fact, sometimes (not in this case as there is stuff underneath) when I see those plastic trays, I have the same thought I have with B.: why such a big box, because there’s just air under that oversized inlay 🙂 I’m seeing right through it, it doesn’t impress me at all even though rationally I’m aware it’s an extra cost for the producer. OTOH, if it’s not there I don’t miss it, perhaps because kickstarter with fancy components overload has made me somewhat skeptical about the ultimate value of such things.

  4. A: Economical, efficient, re-useable – I like.
    B: WTF? Where’s the rest of the game??
    C: Wow. That’s a *lot* of plastic.

    When looking at and developing games, I think a great deal about shipping costs, storage space and the minimization of waste. The games industry could do a lot better on reducing the environmental impact of its products – not only in terms of using less single-use plastic, but also in thinking about how their products are shipped and stored. Although I realize not everyone thinks about that when buying a game, I think the number of people who do is going to increase dramatically over the next 20 years, and “coffin box” games with hundreds of cards and vast quantities of heavy components are going to have seen their day, replaced by more efficient designs.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Excellent points.

      I agree that the games industry needs to pick its game up, as it were, when it comes to sustainability. You see more nods in that direction now, but there’s a long way to go.

      The huge increases in shipping costs over the last few years, especially 2020, should make any business more conscious of the weight and volume they need to ship. Passing costs on to customers only works so far, and I think we’re at or beyond that point. Similarly, the costs are too big to swallow if you want any margin. I’m looking at increasing numbers of KS campaigns that are simply more costly than the MSRP for nothing different, and that’s unlikely to be a good long term plan. It also pushes insularity, with US gamers buying US games, and so on. That’s not good.

      Back in the day, some games (mostly hex and counter wargames) were released in zoplock bag editions. Lately, the best of these have seen fancy editions with boxes, but perhaps we will see a move the other way. Or for fancy embossed leather or rare wood aftermarket game boxes to hold whichever of your ziplock bagged games you choose to put in. Seems a long way off, same as the complete death of the huge overproduction spectaculars. They’ve died down some, but I think there’s enough of an appetite in the market for them to continue for a while.

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