Importance of component quality?


I've been browsing hollandspiele's online catolog the last several days. They have so many games that look so so good. I'm especially interested in Agricola: Master of Britain, The Wars of Marcus Aurelius, and Infamous Traffic. But I keep on seeing what I consider to be poor art assets, and poor component quality. For instance, most of their games have paper maps. I know paper maps are common in wargames. But I'm not a war gamer as such. 

Hollandspiele is not the only company like this. I want to try some of the Splotter games, but I can't bring myself to pay that kind of money for something that looks like Roads and Boats. 

So how important do you think board game components are? Do you think I would have liked Castles of Burgandy if it had been produced by Stonemaier or FFG? How often do shiny components mask a poor game? 

There is also the truth that chrome in a game sells. Scythe is my favorite game. But, I don't think that it would have been the raging success on Kickstarter that it was if it weren't for the stunning art. Many people were dissatisfied with the seeming disconnect between the art and the game play, though I think it works pretty well. How often does the game community buy *stuff* rather than gameplay? 

The components are the way we interact with the world that the designer /artist created. Are there times that they interfere? 

Some would argue that the beautiful prepainted buildings in Tapestry actually are unclear and interfere in gameplay. I've also heard that the beautiful evocative tree in Everdell actually is in the way for some of the people at the table, and takes them out of the game to a certain extent. 

So what is the middle ground for the gamer? There is nothing wrong with buying the components, but at a certain point it becomes a seperate hobby. What are games that emphasize component quality, and helpful design, without falling into the "more is always better" trap? Should I be more willing to drop a little money on Hollandspiele or a lot of money on Splotter?

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Owner19 months ago

I think theres a few things at play in board gaming when it comes to art/component quality. I think art/theme/novelty/components will sell a game. That alone will get games to the table but the ones that continue to get played are the ones that have some meat to them. It's the mastery of both theme and mechanics that make the top games great.

Supporter19 months ago

Usually as a rule gameplay trumps bling. Still, out of the ones with the bling that I'm interested in will always go to the top of my wish list. 

Supporter19 months ago

A game needs to have a great theme, great mechanics, and a great look and feel. 

Take your Wars of Marcus Aurelius for example. That is a cool theme! But the art and components really don’t sell you on the theme. And at that point the mechanics might not even matter because you don’t care about the game. 

Everything needs to work together to immerse you in the game and give you a great experience. 

That’s not to say that the art has to be hyper detailed or the components need to be massive plastic figures - but they need to be well designed and evocative. They can be simple, but they should still be thematic. 

Supporter19 months ago

And what people consider to be sufficiently good art will vary from person to person. 

Supporter19 months ago

Fair point. But I’d assume there is a threshold of decency that most of us could agree upon. 

Supporter19 months ago

I assume so. But I have several more questions. 

Do the components/art matter more in an abstract game or a thematic? I could see this going both ways for me. In a thematic game I "need" good components/art to draw the theme out. In a abstract I love the tactility of good components. 

We are in a age where, by and large, art and components are improving in huge ways. At what point will we reach the point of diminishing returns?  We shouldn't be striving for the minimum acceptable level of quality, but are we living in an age where more attention is getting paid to the art than to the game play? If not, will a time like that come? 

Don't get me wrong. I love good components. I love good art. But I have also played friends Kickstarters that were gorgeous, until one tried to play them. It feels to me like this is the direction that the industry is heading. Is that feeling wrong? 

Supporter19 months ago

1. I think you are right in saying that it goes both ways. If the game is thematic, components and art help to immerse you and draw you into the experience. If they are poor and the art is lacking, then your immersion is broken and the experience suffers. 

Likewise, if you have an abstract game, then components are really all you have to work with. If they are poor, then your game experience will suffer. 

2, There is definitely an upper limit on the amount and quality of components. I feel in some ways we are already there. 

Look at a lot of the projects on Kickstarter. So many of them seem to be flash, style, and miniatures over gameplay.

Take the Batman Gotham City game that comes in TWO boxes, for example. You can’t tell me that all that plastic is really making the game better. Sure it looks cool, but from what I’ve heard the other pillars of great games - theme and mechanism- are simply lacking. 

3. You are not wrong. Especially with Kickstarter projects. I’ve tried to convey that the art and components need to mesh with the theme and mechanics of the game. All 3 need to be balanced for a game to be amazing. 

19 months ago

“Well designed and evocative.” 

Great way to put it. Both simple and complex art can be just that. 👍

19 months ago

It depends on price.  For me Terraforming Mars just isn't worth it, even though the gameplay wasn't bad, there is no way I'm picking up a copy unless I can get it super cheap.  I'm perfectly happy playing a game with bad components as well, but it really bugs me when there is a premium price tag on a game where they obviously skimped on the production. 

19 months ago

I find this interesting, because although the art is lacking and components are...well, at least they’re there...I absolutely love Terraforming Mars. I do wish the components were better, and that they used less stock images and more original art, but I really like how the game plays. But I know a number of people that won’t even consider it because of the art. I think it’s interesting what individuals prioritize. :) 

19 months ago

It isn't even the art as much as that the game had more mutilated plastic bits than I've ever seen, and the the cardboard quality was nowhere near what it should have been for the price. 

19 months ago

I’ll admit the player boards are pretty rubbish. One sneeze can ruin an entire game! Haha But if you have damaged plastic pieces, Stronghold should be able to replace those. I do think the price tag is a little high, but since I got it for Christmas a few years back (thanks Mom!), I guess the poorish quality doesn’t bother me much because I wasn’t the one that paid for it. But do contact Stronghold to see if they can replace the damaged bits. 

19 months ago

It wasn't my copy so I can't say for sure if they got replacements or not.  I assume so because if the components bugged me they would have bugged the owner of the game even more.  In the end it did cost them a sale because otherwise I would have picked up my own copy after the owners of the game moved away. 

19 months ago

Yeah, I totally get that. Art should be functional in games, and if it's kind of crap, then that will hurt sales more than they're probably willing to admit.

Supporter19 months ago

Makes sense. 

Supporter19 months ago

You mean the plastic items arrived damaged? That's bad. I imagine Stronghold should replace those.  Is that not the case? 

Supporter19 months ago

I was wondering if maybe Stronghold did OK for a median line. Their components tend to be a little more budget as is their art. But they have a bunch of really good solid games that are quite affordable. 

For instance : they currently have Kanban but this is their last year with the title. Next year Eagle Griffin is coming out with the new edition. I'm sure that the gameplay will see some change, but I'm also sure that the price will slightly more than double. I am actually somewhat interested in the new edition when it comes out, because it will have a solo mode.but I'm afraid it will prove to be more money than I can justify for a single game.

Kanban: Automotive Revolution (Driver's Edition)

Kanban EV

19 months ago

Industries change, and this is no exception. Art and components are part of marketing now. I use books a lot as examples (because that's another hobby of mine), but I think it still relates. We're always told to not judge a book by its cover. I whole-heartedly agree...but if I'm perusing the bookstore and see a book with great cover art next to a similar book with bland and non-appealing cover art, I'm obviously going to go with the more glamorous one. That is, unless I know (through reviews, word of mouth, etc.) that the "bland" one has better content. Art sells books, there is no doubt about it. But I have purchased books with blah art because I've heard from many reliable sources that it's a good book. And they have been. Fortunately, cover art for books don't make product cost more.

With board games, everything is created to bring the player(s) an immersive experience. Art definitely helps. So do good-quality components. Are the eggs in Wingspan necessary to make it a great game? Not at all. They could have gone with cardboard tokens (like they did with the food), and it still would have played the same. But it sure looks good, and that helps a game sell. I, personally, love games with beautiful art and high-quality components. But, money being what it is, I can't afford to get many games that come pre-blinged. I think Wingspan is a good happy-medium.

One thing I wish Outer Rim had done better is using higher-quality character pieces rather than cardboard (which is already starting to show wear from the plastic stands). It's certainly not going to keep me from loving the game, but appearances do help.

Another example of rather boring quality is B-17 Flying Fortress Leader. With so many cardboard tokens, the thing is a nightmare to organize, and they certainly don't do much to draw you into the game. That said, I love the game. It's way up there on favorite solo games. Sure, the game could certainly have been augmented with small minis or wooden tokens, but it works for what it is, and I love it. And it definitely keeps the costs down.

I think, in the end, the amount of quality a game has depends on the person. Me? I love good, detailed art, but if a game simply has basic art (i.e. War Chest, Fire Tower, etc.), it's not going to stop me from really enjoying it. Same with components. Wingspan and The Reckoners (with deluxified metal components) have super nice components, but you know what? I'd still enjoy the gameplay if they were more basic. Of course, there's something immersive about quality components, so I'm not sad in the least that i have a few games with fantastic pieces.

Wow, sorry for rambling. I tend to do that sometimes (most times?) haha

Supporter19 months ago

You do good. This was entertaining. 

19 months ago

I live to please haha I think better while I’m writing, so generally I’m unraveling my thoughts as I string together words. It’s how I roll haha

Premium User19 months ago

Components don't make the game, but they certainly make it more appealing. I definitely consider art and component quality when looking at a game, and I don't feel bad about that. There are so many quality games these days that I have little desire to buy one that isn't visually attractive. That's not to say I won't ever do it, but the likelihood is smaller. I will have a much easier time convincing my wife to play with me if the game looks nice.

A game that I think does it well without going too overboard is Wingspan. The cards and player boards are downright beautiful, not to mention the box. The quality is top-notch as well. But at the end of the day it's not too expensive (MSRP, anyway), and they didn't go overboard on frivolous miniatures and things. There are still wooden cubes for turn indicators, and the first-player token is just a nice piece of cardboard.

With Everdell the tree is definitely a concern, as every review I've seen has brought it up. I'm sure there's a way to play without it, and I read that the new Kickstarter expansion had an option for some component to replace it, so that's nice, I guess. Personally I'm not going to let it dissuade me from getting the game, as I'll likely be mostly playing this at 2 players (my wife and I), so it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Linked Games
An Infamous Traffic
Agricola, Master of Britain
The Castles of Burgundy
Wars of Marcus Aurelius: Rome 170-180CE
Roads & Boats