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Feeling it - Board Game Components

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10 Aug 2021 05:18 #325407 by oliverkinne
So let's start with money in games. If you haven't...

If you have followed me for a while, you probably know that I like to have metal coins in games, instead of cardboard chits or paper money. Recently, I purchased the wonderful Iron Clays poker chips when I bought the deluxe edition of Brass: Birmingham and I must admit, I really like those as well. In this article, I want to talk about how board game components can change the enjoyment of a game - for better, or worse.

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10 Aug 2021 15:20 - 10 Aug 2021 15:21 #325408 by n815e
I’m really into components. I appreciate beautiful or thematic pieces to play with.
But I also greatly enjoy components that have been created with thought as to how they function.

Things like recessed player boards. The way the order dials stack in Star Wars Armada. The planning tray of Samurai Swords. The stat slider from Mythic Battles.

Components are a big part of the experience for me.
Last edit: 10 Aug 2021 15:21 by n815e.
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10 Aug 2021 15:31 - 10 Aug 2021 16:27 #325409 by Gary Sax
I've become much more component focused, but only for games I play a lot and already enjoy. It doesn't inherently make games better, but it does enhance the zen playing experience of a classic to play with aesthetically pleasing components. It's why I'm critical of my own purchase of fancy kickstarter enhanced components before I even play the game; this effect only kicks in with great games for me. I spend so much time at screens that playing a game I love with great components is time for me to disconnect from that type of interaction. I play a good amount of TTS too so I'm hardly a luddite but I get a different vibe from it.

Wingspan and Petrichor come to mind as extremely aesthetically pleasing component games that did nothing for me at all.

edit: it goes without saying that I have become wealthier too since I was a dirtbag grad student; that might also be driving this.
Last edit: 10 Aug 2021 16:27 by Gary Sax.
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10 Aug 2021 16:27 - 10 Aug 2021 17:04 #325410 by sornars
I'll echo n815e and Gary Sax here, board game components are an enjoyment multiplier but scale based on the quality of the game mechanics. They can make good games great and great games amazing; however, it's very rare, particularly given modern manufacturing quality, for components to make a good game bad (or a bad game good for that matter). Board gaming is a physical, social and visual hobby, if you remove the appeal of the physical elements you'd likely find board gamers playing video games instead.

Two games that stand out in my memory in terms of the components improving the experience: Oath's Kickstarter edition and Parks. Both games are extremely solid games who's appeal would be evident if played on prototype components but the lovely art and meeples in both games elevates the experience through their physical presence.

In addition to the aesthetic benefits of good components, good components can actually enhance gameplay. I've been considering investing in some quality poker chips. There's a reason 18XX gamers replace paper money with chips - making change eats up an inordinate amount of time and using chips can save you 30 minutes per game while also letting you survey the board state clearly.
Last edit: 10 Aug 2021 17:04 by sornars.
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10 Aug 2021 16:29 #325412 by Gary Sax
^I bought some of those silly boardgaming kickstarter poker chips (iron clays?) when they want on a fire sale a few months ago. They're very nice for the price, I'd be horrified if I had bought into the actual kickstarter, but you might see if they're still being clearanced anywhere near you.
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10 Aug 2021 18:44 #325421 by mc
More and more I could not give less of a toss to be honest. It's not that I don't appreciate a good looking game, I can for sure, and have aesthetics that I like more than others; and one of the things that I enjoy about Boardgames is in fact the physical nature of them. But pure aesthetic quality makes little to no difference to me when it comes to enjoying a game, with the one exception of clarity. It's not that I'm that "the game is the only thing that matters" snob, I don't think, but more that I've got more into PnPing and proxying things so playing with bits of paper and bits and pieces from other games are just fine. I've got several games that are some of my favourites that my kids drew with textas on scrap paper. I've always liked my theme to come through via the mechanisms, and that's really just solidified for me. So yeah, metal coins really do not make a difference me at all. Wooden cubes would be fine for Carc. The cheapest of cheap plastic dice is absolutely fine. Cardboard tokens are totally fine.

Of course I'm pretty much a minority, and so, those proxied games and dodgy pnps and things I have don't get pulled off the shelf because for others they aren't as interesting. But for me, eh. I'm often left cold by things that are supposed by others to be amazing.
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10 Aug 2021 20:15 - 10 Aug 2021 22:52 #325426 by Sagrilarus
I’ve come the the conclusion that the physicality is meaningless to me. What remains is how the parts convey information of game state, which on occasion amazes me.

Some of my favorite games are really cheesy printings. I wouldn’t trade my AH50 copy of Acquire for any of the other ones. Super easy to assess the board, and one of the hotel chains is named Sackson. I value that more than plastic buildings. And it cost me $15 new.

But I’m a cranky old man. I’m even older than Gary.
Last edit: 10 Aug 2021 22:52 by Sagrilarus.
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10 Aug 2021 20:24 #325427 by mc
Yep, the physicality of the game that I enjoy is more the state of physicalness - i.e., it's a thing which only happens because we move the pieces around, and the game state is created by that movement. Whether or not it's a beautifully shaped piece of wood and thick cardboard with bucolc artwork or moulded plastic on nerd-fantasy or a lego brick on a piece of scrap paper, it doesn't bother me at all.

And yes, in many cases, a cheap aesthetic I actually do find appealing all the same.
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10 Aug 2021 21:30 #325428 by n815e
I’ll add that I’m the type of person that prefers to read physical books and I’ll even buy nice editions of them. Reading a beautiful book - hardcover, smith sewn, bound in cloth - is more enjoyable to me (if the book itself is good).

It’s not that I consider a game with quality components as inherently better than one without, or that gameplay takes a backseat to art. I love miniatures, but there are loads of games with great miniatures that I won’t touch because they aren’t good games.

For me it is a heightened sense of enjoyment that comes from an activity I love using physical components that are well designed for usability and/or aesthetics.

Like the experience gained with food, certain objects will immediately put me in a happier place. The marbled blue and red action dice from War of the Ring set the mood. The association with friends and fun that those dice trigger in my brain will make any session of that better.

The Big Damn Crate is not only a fantastic way to store, organize and minimize the space needed for Firefly, it also has a look and feel that set it apart and says “this game is special to its owner”.

One of my favorite game components is actually not one that I would ever use in any game. I have a hand carved, stone d6 that is about two thousand years old. Holding that die in my hand connects me to gamers from thousands of years ago. It is a crossroad of my lifelong loves of gaming and history. It’s just a d6, but it’s also an amazing vehicle of love, imagination, traditions and culture, wonderful times with people you adore and frustrating moments of brushes with fate.
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10 Aug 2021 21:40 #325429 by mc
Wow, that's really cool!
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10 Aug 2021 22:59 #325431 by Sagrilarus

n815e wrote: One of my favorite game components is actually not one that I would ever use in any game. I have a hand carved, stone d6 that is about two thousand years old.


I need a photograph of this object, your home address and a description of where you keep it please.
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11 Aug 2021 05:07 - 11 Aug 2021 05:07 #325434 by sornars
I'd argue that the PnP aesthetic can also be a conscious choice with respect to components that impacts enjoyment. For example the folio games published by Nate Hayden/Cave Evil require you to cut out the cards and assemble them which contributes to the whole experience and helps to create an emotional attachment before play has even begun. When you play one of those you know you're playing something boundary pushing even if the choice of components may have been a cost saving measure.
Last edit: 11 Aug 2021 05:07 by sornars.
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11 Aug 2021 06:00 #325435 by southernman
I love tactility and aesthetics in boardgames - probably in most things in life - and will try to find the best price/point for myself, but I am not one for buying expensive add-ons if the existing components are fine i.e. I like paper money, I'm not American so don't have a fascination with poker chips (I bought a small case poker set about 15 years ago, it was very cheap, that has nice heavy chips but I have not re-purposed it for any game, seldom even think about it) and metal coins are nice but not that much nicer.
I do love great artwork in games, more-so as I get older, and for the Awaken Realms masterpieces Tainted Grail and Etherfields I have bought sleeves to protect and prolong the life of all those incredible cards.
And I don't have an issue with plastic, we're happy buying it for everything else in our lives so I'm suddenly not going to pick on boardgames as the martyr, and unless the game says all wooden components have come from recycled wood then there is not too much difference (note I am a massive recycler at home, my main rubbish bin goes out very infrequently as a hell of a lot of my waste, including food, ends up in the recycling bins, so it's not out of indifference but just why am I selectively picking on one item).
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11 Aug 2021 06:14 #325436 by mc

sornars wrote: I'd argue that the PnP aesthetic can also be a conscious choice with respect to components that impacts enjoyment. For example the folio games published by Nate Hayden/Cave Evil require you to cut out the cards and assemble them which contributes to the whole experience and helps to create an emotional attachment before play has even begun. When you play one of those you know you're playing something boundary pushing even if the choice of components may have been a cost saving measure.


Yeah for sure. I genuinely do like that aesthetic of the home made thing. I rarely do a "good" job, but that just gives it a bit of a punk rock vibe, or something, and I appreciate that. Far from boundary pushing (come on Nate, release the files for Rocky Mountain Man already) I think my favourites I've made though are the Koljeka one I did for which I printed everything on paper and then glued it all on to cereal boxes with craft glue and then cut it up with scissors. I mean, it looks like rubbish, but it kind of suits it. I enlisted the kids to make a track for Heimlich and Co and it's just a piece of printer paper with their dodgy texta drawings on it - they chose what the buildings would be. But bringing it out to play is kind of fun.
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11 Aug 2021 06:21 #325437 by Greg Aleknevicus
Since you already have a set of poker chips, I'd recommend trying using them as a replacement for paper money. Many who have have reported that it, surprisingly, speeds play -- presumably due to the greater ability to identify denominations.
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