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Feeling it - Board Game Components
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And yes, in many cases, a cheap aesthetic I actually do find appealing all the same.
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.
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.
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).
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.