I have only been in in this hobby for 5 years or so. But, in that time, I have seen a pretty marked increase quality of boardgames components. Not only that, but believe that, in the last 5-10 years it seems like there has been an increased importance given to the art assets in boardgame components.
Now, by saying this, I realize that there are still games being released wherein the component quality and/or the art assets seem to be pretty low on the priority list when it comes to designing and developing a game. But, of course, there are also games that are released where the biggest effort seems to be put into the component quality and/or art assets. I haven’t played it, but from the gameplay videos I have seen and the reviews I have read, it seems like #Horizon Zero Dawn: The Board Game may fit into this description. But, of course, many, maybe most, games do focus, both on tactile/visual quality and on the game gameplay experience.
When considering art in a game or component quality there are a number of things that contribute to the perceived quality, or lack thereof.
There are two games I have gotten the last year or so that have really had me thinking about the way that art and components can help or hinder a game.
The first of these games is #Pax Pamir (Second Edition). Before I talk more about PP2E I do want to offer the disclaimer that I do have the metal coins. Those have been offered in every Kickstarter run by Werhlegig games, but they are a $15 extra. That disclaimer aside, this is a game with absolutely incredible production value. The map is a gorgeous cloth map. The cards are impeccably illustrated and are high quality. The coalition blocks are beautifully worked resin pieces that look great and feel sort of like some sort of chalky stone, like limestone or sandstone. The cardboard coins that come with the game are great, they look and feel nice. But the real crème de la crème is the metal coins. Those are spectacular. And, in lovely attention to detail, they are ever so slightly cupped to make them easier to pick up.
This game is, hands down, the game with the best production values that I have ever seen. I, however, don’t think it is the game with the most expensive production I have ever seen. What makes the production value so great is the extreme thoughtfulness put into the component quality and to the art. Every piece of art enhances the theme that PP2e is trying to communicate. Every component draws you into the theme. Those components actually make the game easier to play. For instance, the coalition blocks are easy to pick up and move around, but they also come in a cool clear box so that you can instantly see which coalition is in the lead and by how much. The coins are ever so slightly cupped to make them easier to pick up and move around. The player boards have the spots for your discs numbered so you can see at glance how many you have out. This is a game wherein every component has been thoughtfully considered, and the art and materials seem to all be chosen for how they contribute to the game as a whole rather than merely considering each component in a vacuum or being married to a preexisting ideal for what components they should use. Seeing what Werhlegig did with PP2e makes me super super excited for #John Company (Second Edition).
The second game I will mention is #Cloudspire from Chip Theory Games. Now I have a disclaimer for this game as well. I bought the premium health chips for this game. These are a real upgrade to the base health chips and, in a first world setting, I would say that they are pretty close to essential.
This is a massive game in a massive box. It is, pretty easily, the biggest box I own, and, unlike #The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth, if fills its box up. When Cloudspire was announced, Chip Theory Games announced that they would be selling it for the same price as there smash hit #Too Many Bones, but that it was, by far, their most expensive game to produce to that point. And, it is easy to see where the money went. It sports modular neoprene tiles, as far as I know it is the only game in boardgame land that has modular neoprene. It has 100’s of beautiful custom chips. There are lovely plastic holders. The rulebooks are gorgeous and well laid out. It is obvious that the art is worth a fair amount of money. There are a number of nice custom dice. The game comes with quite a few nice, heavy, plastic organizers for the dice and upgrade chips that are helpful, both in the box and during gameplay. It has, for each player, a lovely plastic market stand for their faction chips. And, I want to make it very very clear. I believe that the gameplay in this box backs up the component quality. The gameplay seems very good. I am not going to say that it is a bad game, but I will complain just a little bit about the component quality.
This, to me, feels like a very good game that has had exceptional components pushed onto it without consideration whether or not they fit. I will give you several examples:
These complaints might seem a little trifling, and maybe they are. I do truly love this game even with the perceived shortcomings I have mentioned. But, Cloudspire does seem to have needed to sacrifice some desirable aspects to the preconceived necessity of a certain type of components. Too be clear, this is forcing of components on games is not the sole purview of CTG. I have also suspected it with some euro games where they have all these cubes of this color…. And so they have to use them in their next euro whether or not it really fits or not.
These are some of my vapid vaporings about component quality, and a little tiny bit about art.
So, tell me, what do want in components? Are you a person that finds the component quality of huge importance? Or, are you one that don’t think that the quality is all that important? Have you played games with great components that the components distracted from the gameplay in one way or another? Or have you played a good game where the components were so awful that you didn’t like the game?