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Less is More - The Environmental Impact of Board Games
As we all know, plastics are the scourge of our planet and can now be found virtually everywhere - from the obvious places like landfill sites to the most unexpected such as in the Arctic. They have invaded the food chain and it is estimated that less than 10% of plastics is recycled each year globally. Some countries have introduced legislation banning certain types of plastics and we each can do our bit to help reduce the use of plastic and thereby reduce plastic waste - and we can try to influence the use of plastics in our hobby.
Most of my games were bought second-hand, which wouldn't have been possible without card sleeves. I have put 170 plays into Terraforming Mars and I can still sell it or donate it without loss.
Either way, I think the environmental impact of boardgames is completely minuscule in comparison to other activities. If we seek to be more environmentally concious in our gaming activities, taking public transportation and being more careful about what food you order is going to have a much larger impact than all these initiatves put together.
There's more plastic in ordering McDonalds than in a whole expansion of Twilight Imperium.
PD: I do agree on other areas, but I'm a sleeve fanboy.
I sleeve a fair number of my games where cards see a lot of shuffling. For instance ,while reorganizing my BSG stuff I sleeved all the small Skill cards, as they get shuffled many times per game, same for the Human/Cylon cards. The Crisis cards - where you barely get thru a quarter deck per game ? Didn't bother. Worn cards may be seen as a badge of honor, but with the in print status of games being ephemeral, preservation is important. Even in print games can be problematic to source parts for.
I think you sort of glossed over the elephant in the room - plastic miniatures. We got by with cardboard standees for years; now people are conditioned to expect, nay DEMAND, minis. The minis themselves, as well as the plastic inserts usually included to house them, add cost to game. The resultant box size increase adds both wholesale cost to the game itself as well as freight cost due to added weight and bulk.
I got into it with the lead PHALANX douchebag when they announced minis for the reprints for both SUCCESSORS and HANNIBAL. I explained that not only did the minis add cost and bulk to the project, they were LESS FUNCTIONAL than the cardboard standees, which had 2-4 different pieces of info, dual sided, making leaders easier to distinguish. They added cardboard standees as a stretch goal. He justified it by saying the minis would make the game more accessible, which esp in the case of SUC is a crock of shit. I skipped buying both, even though the games are among my favorites, esp SUC.
The mini rant aside, I get why publishers do it in most cases - quantity has a quality all its down, esp in the case of KS campaigns.
Oh fuck that. I'm tired of "accessibility" being used as an excuse to justify style over substance. Expensive, questionable style, at that.
Msample wrote: He justified it by saying the minis would make the game more accessible, which esp in the case of SUC is a crock of shit.
Most of my games were bought second (or third) hand. This wouldn't have been possible without sleeves and high-quality components.
Msample wrote: Worn cards may be seen as a badge of honor, but with the in print status of games being ephemeral, preservation is important. Even in print games can be problematic to source parts for.
FFG just announced the new edition of the Lord of the Rings board game and showed of the 'old' standees next to the 'new' minis and the old stuff looked much better.
I am planning to do a special edition of the cast on sustainability in the boardgame world as it is a really interesting topic I would like to see addressed more. I'd also love to dig into the margins of standees versus minis. Sure you can charge more for a big box full of mins, but the production costs of minis must be vastly greater than those of a standee.
I like @Eric Twice's comment about sleeving and agree that it allows to keep a game in pristine condition and therefore allows you to sell it later as if it was virtually new, allowing you to get more of your money back. However, I'm not convince that sleeving is better than just playing a game and allowing the cards to show their age. In fact, I quite like the look of cards when they have been used a lot. I guess, we have to agree to disagree on this one, which is fine.
Plastic miniatures, as @Msample says, are also a big contributor to the plastics count. I was hoping I implied this when I spoke about growing up with wooden components, especially wooden meeples, and then went onto saying that wood doesn't always work, but that plastic allows for more detail. It's definitely worth pointing out though, that miniatures are large lumps of plastic.
Like @Andi Lennon, I'm also often swooning over detailed miniatures. I love Rising Sun and Scythe for example. Moving those chunky figurines around the board feels great and probably feels better than moving cardboard standees. However, maybe it's time for both of us to reconsider whether our enjoyment is worth the plastic cost.
Finally, thank you to @thegiantbrain for his point about standees. I often find in Rising Sun that I have no idea which dragon figure to get out of the box and it's still confusing when they're on the board. The same is true for some of the figures. That's partly down to the sculpts of course. They could be made more distinct, but cardboard standees would probably be even clearer.
So, yes, thank you so much for all your comments. I'm glad the article started a bit of a conversation and was food for thought.
"Yet, wood has its limitations. If you want something highly detailed, then plastics are the way forward."
Glass can be injection molded just like plastic, and also, it appears that the entire world has forgotten about metals. Metal is always better than plastic. Always.
The problem is that people want to buy and play 100 games a year instead of buy 5 games and play them 20 times each.
The logical outcome of this all is that the only environmentally responsible way to make Boardgames is to not make them, and make video games instead.