I believe that board game companies are in a marketing arms races. Each year board games achieve new heights in art, component quality and box design. This drives the retail price up and forces other companies to produce equally beautiful and elaborate products…and raise prices to pay for it.
I am about to commit heresy among board game fanatics, but here we go.
My question is this; do board games really need these beautiful board game components? I am not saying sell games with sub-standard components that fall apart after three games or go the Cheapass Games route and simply reuse the same tokens/meeples over and over again. Solid, durable components that get the job done without 10 Pantone colors and art worthy of Leonardo da Vinci on every token are acceptable to me.
I advocate this “generic” approach for a couple of reasons. Primarily it is about getting board games out to the public and cheap allows more people to play. That and it helps overcome “sticker shock” from hobby newcomers when buying a new game. $25.00 is a practical impulse buy. $50.00 is enough to give pause. Move more retail units and the hobby grows stronger. This is a good thing.
While cost is clearly an issue, I have a feeling. Nothing firm mind you, just a feeling deep in the back of my skull that this “marketing arms race” drives game design and that is evil. I keep asking myself, “Did ‘Board Game X’ really need 300 miniature plastic goblins or did the need to add cool components drive the design?” Did a competitor come out with a 250 goblin game and you have “goblin envy?” Of course, this is purely subjective, but some of the “BIG” board games released over the past couple of years seems oddly…over-designed. If the tail did indeed wag the dog, then we all suffer for it. Lean, fun mechanics should drive component design, not the other way around.
Speaking of design, a generic approach would put new game designers on equal footing with the established juggernauts. Start-up costs for a board game publishers are huge and a public that accepts a great game with less than great components might encourage more designers to release games. This is a good thing because the next “Settlers of Catan” is on a kitchen table somewhere waiting for a release…
Do you agree or am I alone in my thoughts?
Please feel free to rant at me in the comments below.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer