The internet’s cup runneth over with unboxing videos, but very rarely will folks pause to appreciate the RE-boxing of beloved tabletop games. I’m pretty sure the Fourth Law of Thermodynamics, after all, reads something like, “That which comes out of a board game box, must go back in.”
Most boardgames opt for one of two approaches:
Board Game Storage: The Obligatory Partition
Obligatory Partitions are most often seen in card games, although board games are not exempt. They typically come in two forms:
- A partition down the middle.
- Protrusions from the sides that keep components in the middle.
Sometimes you’ll see both. And sometimes this is totally…sufficient. But we’re aiming for sexy here, not sufficient. AuZtralia is a great board game! But when the Old Ones have been bested, you place all components into one of the million baggies and toss them rather unceremoniously on one side of a singularly partioned bottom of a box and then just stack all the boards on top. Meh.
Team Play is also a great game, but it lacks a single partition that could be used to keep the red cards and the blue cards separate. You can’t even see any blue cards as they’ve shifted so much since I last packed it up!
Board Game Storage: The Empty Rectangle
This is by far the worst boxing solution. There is no thought or care given to storage of the game’s components or boards. There’s just an empty box with a game like Terraforming Mars. I’ve seen shoe boxes receive more engineering than some of these game boxes receive.
That’s a tremendous shame, because I toss a shoe box immediately after I remove the shoes; I’m not putting my kicks back in there, after all. A board game, on the other hand, I’m likely to unbox and repack hundreds of times (assuming the game is a great one!).
Beyond the mechanics of taking things out and putting them back in again, components are less likely to weather well if they’re able to move freely about the box like an unruly passenger aboard an airplane.
Great Board Game Storage Exists!
There are, however, games and gaming companies that kick all kinds of butt when it comes to the design of their boxes and anything that constitutes an insert for them.
Take Dice Forge for example. Dice Forge has one of the sexiest and most thoughtful component packagings that I’ve ever seen! Not only is there a place for every single component in the game (and they number over 200!), but the sleeve they provide for the Temple Board is genius.
It shows where all 60 of the purchasable die faces go on the Temple Board, and it covers them up and locks them down when you’re not playing. You set it up once and never have to bother with it again. This is how it’s done, folks.
And if all of that wasn’t enough, they even provide a diagram that shows how to pack up all the pieces when you’re done. That is some extra mile work, right there.
Or take Wingspan, which overcomes the dreaded Empty Rectangle by providing packing instructions which show how all components fit nice and neatly into the provided space like Tetris pieces:
Many board games boast inserts wherein “everything has its place;” much like Dice Forge. Lords of Waterdeep comes to mind–there are little niches and cubbies and slots for every single component. But if you turn that game on its side to store it vertically, well…you’ll create quite a mess!
So some games have recessed storage on top of which resides the game board so that during transportation or storage, no components move so much as a millimeter. The Thing: Infection At Outpost 31, in addition to being an excellent game, is one such title. You could treat it like a Blizzard at Dairy Queen and turn it upside down and not a chit will move.
Its board literally snaps into place. That design touch alone is worth awards.
Other games go for a modular approach and totally nail it. Dice Throne Season One has neat little bins in which reside all of the components for each of its six characters. Sure, the boards and cards for each character, along with the rulebook, rest lazily atop the bins, but it was a good idea.
But Dice Throne Season 2 channels their inner Emeril Lagasse and kicks things up a notch (BAM)! Each character comes in its own, wholly self-contained plastic box. Bonus points are due to the Battle Chest for its book-like exterior, too!
Game storage can be done exceedingly well! In fact, poor game box design is such a rampant problem that whole third party companies exist that specialize in custom inserts for otherwise unruly boxes.
Does how a board game is stored encourage or prevent me from playing it? In most cases the answer is entirely neutral unless it significantly adds to setup or teardown.
But when a gaming company puts some effort into not just the box art, but the box’s innards’s design, they deserve some kudos and thanks. A well-designed box insert makes both set up and pack up easier.
Sadly, as I sat to write this post and spitballed with the other Nerds titles worth praising in this regard, it was a difficult task. 90% of my own gaming library is “meh” at best and awful at worst in this regard.
But that 10% totally nails the great board game storage and they’re the real champions.