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  • Essays
  • Compressed Collections - Fitting Board Games into Smaller Spaces

Compressed Collections - Fitting Board Games into Smaller Spaces

O Updated
Compressed collections (Topic Discussion)

As many of you probably know, I only have limited space for games. That's why I very much like small box games that have a lot of gameplay crammed into a small volume. It's also the reason why I have been reboxing games that come in bigger boxes, compressing them down and getting rid of all the extra air that came with the original packaging. I have written about this in my article "Box clever?" a couple of years ago, and this time I want to give you some concrete examples of small box games crammed to the brim and larger box games that I have shrunk down.

Let me start by promoting a number of small box games that I absolutely love and that really show how much game and how many components can be put into the smallest of volumes.

Starting with the smallest size, Mint Tin Mini Skulduggery by subQuark is really tiny and the lid of the tin just about closes to keep everything snugly inside. There is a custom metal coin, 16 white stone skull beads, 8 black stone skull beads, 4 crystal skull beads and 3 six-sided dice. Yes, it's a lighter game that relies heavily on luck, but it's a lot of fun and can be played literally anywhere. I've played it a lot with my daughter while waiting for food, but also with my wife on a small bench while we were out for a walk. It's a wonderful game that shows that it's possible to go small.

The Blessed Dark by Nathan Meunier comes in a standard size mint tin, rather than a small tin, so has a little bit more room for components. Again it's packed brimful with a folded instruction sheet, 32 mini-size cards, 3 black six-sided dice and 20 red plastic cube tokens. The gameplay is quite strategic and will appeal to people who like a good mix of luck and luck mitigation with some strategy and tactics. It's a lot of fun and doesn't take up much room at all.

Of course, there are many more mint tin games, but I can't mention them all here. Let me just point out Microbrew by One Free Elephant, which also comes in a standard-sized tin and contains a huge amount of tiny wooden components and mini cards, and the classic and ever-popular Mint Works by Five24 Labs, which is a bit taller, but also full of lovely wooden components and small cards.

Moving on from mint tins, there are a number of small box games, that come in cardboard boxes. The obvious choice here is all the games from Oink Games of course, which all seems to be packed with components and all offer different levels of complexity and different types of mechanisms, while always being a lot of fun. Deep Sea Adventure always comes to my mind, but there are many more in the series.

Again, there are a lot of games that come in a really small box, especially a lot of deck building games and other card games, but again I don't have the space to name them all.

Moving up a size are games that are still full of components, with very little air in the box, while also offering a lot of great gameplay. Assembly by Wren Games is a great co-operative (or solo) puzzle game, while the upcoming Bots Up! comes in a similar size box and is a lot of quick robot battling fun for 2-5 players. Swatch by Minerva Tabletop is also a wonderful game that comes in a small box with very little air and is a great action selection game that will appeal to people who like a little bit of strategy. They are all wonderful for different reasons and can be taken with you quite easily anywhere - but for me, they are at the threshold of being a small box game.

So all of the above are great examples of games whose packaging has very little air in it, which means they take up little space on your shelf or, like in my case, in the cupboard. Yet, there are plenty of games that aren't so great and come in big boxes, so they stand out in shops and give potential buyers the feeling that they get good value for their money.

I have been able to shrink some of these games down to a much better size. In doing so, I had to sometimes compromise, but the result is still a very playable game that you can finally take with you more easily, giving you more choice for games night. I will leave my biggest accomplishment to last and start with some games that are relatively easy to make smaller.

The Hanging Gardens by Hans im Glück is basically a deck of cards, a stack of tiles and a handful of wooden components. The box it comes in is basically your classic cardboard well, leaving the components rattling around. You simply take everything out of the original box and find a smaller one that fits it nicely.

I found these wonderful Wham boxes for cheap which work really well and have enough room for everything, without leaving much space. They have a milky clear lid, so you can see inside. You could probably also get a couple of deck boxes to fit everything in and store the game that way. Suddenly it is the right size to easily take on holiday with you.

I needed a Wham box twice the size to fit all the components of King of New York in. I had to print out a smaller version of the game board to make it fit, but that was a relatively small sacrifice. Game boards are usually the largest component of games and often stop people from trying to shrink their games down. However, there is nothing wrong with you printing your own downsized version of a game board, as long as the game is still playable afterwards of course. You'll be surprised how much room you will suddenly have in your cupboard for more games, if you do that.

My biggest achievement to date is shrinking down the Carcassone Big Box (German version), which, as its name suggests, comes in a huge box with many, many components. Again, I was able to fit it into the same size Wham box that I used for King of New York. I had to print out a smaller version of the scoreboard and I also had to relinquish the Wheel of Fortune, but everything else fits in perfectly. It's amazing and allowed us to take this popular game on holiday with us and play it with the family and of course it freed up so much space in my cupboard. It was really worth the effort.

There are more games I have my eye on as well. The most recent one is Splendor. It's basically a deck of cards and a small stack of tiles, plus a number of poker chips. The box itself is huge in comparison and mostly air. It should be really easy to fit it into a smaller box and make room for more games.

I'm sure there are many other games that could easily be scaled down. I know, many of you want to keep the original box, because you want to display it and of course, that's absolutely fine. For people like myself though, being able to get rid of the air is very important and is the only way for me to keep more games without having to stash them under the sofa or getting rid of games.

So if you're tight on space too, why don't you give it a go? What games do you have that might be worth shrinking down? Or maybe you've already done a bit of compressing yourself. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you.

There Will Be Games

Oliver Kinne
Oliver Kinne (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Oliver Kinne aims to publish two new articles every week on his blog, Tabletop Games Blog, and also release both in podcast form. He reviews board games and writes about tabletop games related topics.

Oliver is also the co-host of the Tabletop Inquisition podcast, which releases a new episode every three to four weeks and tackles different issues facing board games, the people who play them and maybe their industry.

Articles by Oliver Kinne

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ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #312537 28 Jul 2020 13:02
I've done a little of this kind of thing. In my Carcassonne The City wood box I also have The Castle, Over Hill and Dale, and Original with first couple expansions.
the_jake_1973's Avatar
the_jake_1973 replied the topic: #312539 28 Jul 2020 13:47
I tend to smush as many of the expansions into a single box with the base game. My Memoir 44 box has all the tiles and figures and the boards are outside the main box which is good enough for me. My Dominion cards are in card binders for easy storage. Plano boxes are the order of the day to condense my Command & Colors Nappys and Ancients.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #312540 28 Jul 2020 14:15
I try to fit all expansions in the box with the core game, but sometimes it's impossible. I have a few that are now in two boxes. Unfortunately with some of them, they are not split up so that the core game is all in one box, so I have to be carful not to accidentally only take one box if I take the game the games to play somewhere other than my own home.
Disgustipater's Avatar
Disgustipater replied the topic: #312541 28 Jul 2020 14:31
I always try to smash all the expansions into the base game box. I got both Root expansions and KS goodies into the base box. The lid sits about an inch high, and it’s heavy, but it works.

I also condensed my Carcassonne Big Box. I made foamboard prototype before making a wooden one that, as is usually the case, I never got around to actually making.




I always wanted to find an old-timey suitcase to build an insert in for my complete Arkham Horror 2e set. It also never materialized and at this point it’s probably not worth the effort.

I always feel like I accomplished something when I can cram as much stuff into as small of a space as possible.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #312544 28 Jul 2020 14:52
Oliver, if you really want to save space storing games with boards, spend some money to get each board screenprinted on fabric. Then you can easily fold or roll up the board to fit with the components in a much more compact space.
ChristopherMD's Avatar
ChristopherMD replied the topic: #312545 28 Jul 2020 14:52

Disgustipater wrote: I always wanted to find an old-timey suitcase to build an insert in for my complete Arkham Horror 2e set. It also never materialized and at this point it’s probably not worth the effort.


I always kept my eye out for an old chest or something, but yeah never materialized. Right now its all split between the Core and Miskatonic boxes.

I do still want some sort of WWII ammo box or crate or something to put D-Day Dice stuff into. The boards are 8x5 I think so finding the right size container that's period-appropriate also hasn't happened yet.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #312547 28 Jul 2020 14:55
I have plenty of storage space but try to minimize the space that a game takes up so it is easier to bring to a friend's house. I've got all but one of the Cosmic Encounter expansions, but I have got it all down to fitting in the base game box plus one small box just for the races.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #312555 28 Jul 2020 16:39
Like everyone else, I'm a "one box if at all possible" person. Almost all expansion boxes and definitely all original dividers get recycled instantly. Cyclades and all of its expansions? One box. Neuroshima and its 18 armies? One box. Cosmic Encounter and its six expansions? One box. It's heavy and I've had to reinforce it with tape twice, but it works fine. I even managed to get all of the minis for The Others into two boxes: the base box has all the Sins and the Omega Team box has all the heroes. I had someone attempt to take me to task for this on BGG as the "difference between people who paint and people who don't." I countered by telling him the ridiculous number of GW armies/fleets/gangs that I'd painted and still managed to fit into small spaces for easy transport. Proper varnishing and the light grade of plastic that CMON uses means you can bundle figures together without harm. I have 8000+ points of fully-painted Skaven piled together in a single plastic container. It's not a big deal as long as you're careful.

I "only" have all of the factions for Cthulhu Wars, but I still had to keep an expansion box for the GOOs, since it's just not feasible to get them all into even CW's oversized main box with everything else. I don't have any of the extra maps, though, as I'd probably need more space for them. As noted in another thread, Runebound 2nd Ed. is in two boxes: one for the base game and all the card expansions; the other for the four large expansions.

Unlike Disgustipater, however, I decided to split my Root stuff into two boxes, as I don't like having propped lids for some reason. I could probably get it all into the base box, but it just didn't seem that horrible a thing to bring two for that one. Dunno.
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #312557 28 Jul 2020 17:00
Condense all the way in this house. Rebox too, if it makes sense. HEROSCAPE is in a tub, NAVIA DRAPT is in a gallon-sized Ziploc. Expansion boxes get saved as craft materials for the kids, the guts of them go into the main box, every time.

My ARKHAM HORROR 2E is in three boxes, and one is propped. I was thinking I was terrible at this, but I remembered one has a Plano container of the core materials and if I tossed that I could get much denser.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #312559 28 Jul 2020 17:19

jeb wrote: My ARKHAM HORROR 2E is in three boxes, and one is propped. I was thinking I was terrible at this, but I remembered one has a Plano container of the core materials and if I tossed that I could get much denser.


Same here. I've got a plano box for all the tokens, which saves me from sorting hassles. Otherwise, in theory I could maybe fit all the cards in one box, and then all the boards and tokens and character/GOO sheets in another. No, wait, all those monster tokens would take up too much space even if they were unpunched. I think a three-box minimum is still necessary fro Arkham Horror 2nd.

Speaking of Arkham Horror, that reminds me that I need to create some custom investigator sheets for the main characters from Lovecraft Country. I was hoping to use visuals from the show, but it sounds like the show is telling one full season story instead of interconnected episodic stories like in the book. That makes me think that some of the protagonists in the book might not even be in the show.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #312560 28 Jul 2020 17:35
My Arkham 2e is in a rolling sewing machine tote. Slightly larger than two boxes, but easy to travel with and roll through hotels and conventions. Not as cool as an old fashioned suitcase or trunk, which is an excellent idea by the way, but I need those wheels when my room is literally a mile away from the game tables.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #312561 28 Jul 2020 17:59

ubarose wrote: My Arkham 2e is in a rolling sewing machine tote. Slightly larger than two boxes, but easy to travel with and roll through hotels and conventions. Not as cool as an old fashioned suitcase or trunk, which is an excellent idea by the way, but I need those wheels when my room is literally a mile away from the game tables.


When I used to go to GenCon on an annual basis, I always carried around a briefcase all day. It had room for business cards (from other people), a notebook, pencils, dice, an rpg rulebook and a one-shot adventure, plus a couple of CCG decks and a couple of small games like Kill Dr. Lucky. It also doubled as an impromptu referee screen if I got to run the adventure. By the second day, my arms always looked ripped like I had been doing steroids. A couple of days after GenCon, I would be back to normal.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #312563 28 Jul 2020 23:06
I consolidate expansions in the core box when it's possible, but it must be said that some game boxes were not designed with that in mind. I'm looking at you, FFG. My copy of Cosmic Encounter was falling to dust by the time we got to four expansions, though that was also because I was sleeving every card. When we moved I bought one of those Really Useful Boxes to store it in. It is kind of ridiculous to transport, but it gets the job done admirably. (I did the same for Talisman.)

There's an odd little hit of pleasure when I'm able to consolidate a box just perfectly. I think the one that makes me happiest is Argent, which has a lot of components packed into a fairly compact box. It's got space for everything, but only just. It makes me happy.

I've had to spill into multiple boxes for a couple of games, but very few of them are the kind of game I would throw in the trunk for game night. It tends to be either epic stuff like Duel of Ages II, or maybe large two-player games like Space Hulk. The only exception there is Power Grid, for which they eventually started releasing supplementary boxes, so it looks nice on the shelf. Plus I can just grab the main game if I don't feel like teaching expansion stuff.