Tracking down the tastiest board game Easter eggs hiding on your shelves.
This was news to us, but apparently board games are filled with edible goods. Yes, according to our reports, those cheeky designers have hidden delectable Easter eggs in loads of our favorite board games. And no, we’re not talking about Wingspan’s suspiciously scrumptious-looking tokens. If you’re feeling as peckish as we are, then join us as we scour our collection for the best board game Easter eggs hiding on our shelves.
The best board game Easter eggs - Part one
We take our food (and gaming) talk seriously, so to rate our board game Easter eggs as accurately as possible, we’re employing two of the official Going Analog scoring metrics: Sneakiness and Edibility. Each hidden delight will be ranked on how likely we are to notice it in regular play and what it’d bring to a full-course feast of components.
Jaipur’s panda pelt
Don’t trust that smiling chap on the front. He’s out to deceive you, because Jaipur’s one-on-one trading showdowns are anything but friendly. In fact, the game’s flair for friction extends beyond the box itself. Hidden among the many camel cards within is one featuring the pelt of an unfortunate panda.
This unlikely merchandise is more than just an entertaining board game Easter egg or Bärenpark escapee, however. It’s actually a targeted bit of shade toward Zooloretto, a panda-fronted 2007 release from designer Michael Schacht. At the time, the French board game scene saw a friendly rivalry emerge between Zooloretto’s bamboo-munching bears and the camels of Jaipur designer Sébastien Pauchon’s previous game, Yspahan. The two boxes went head to head as both were nominated for the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award in the same year. Schacht’s Zooloretto scored the ultimate prize, but Pauchon had the last laugh with the addition of Jaipur’s panda pelt two years later. Be warned, board game designers are very petty.
Sneakiness: 2/5 -- They weren’t exactly being subtle with their meaning, here.
Edibility: 0/5 -- Far too much gristle and fur for our liking.
I see Essen everywhere
As host city to the world’s biggest yearly board game convention, Essen is pretty close to mecca for our humble hobby’s most fervent followers. But outside of our box-obsessed community? Most people will struggle to point it out on a map. The city barely scrapes into a list of Germany’s top 10 most populous and is best known for having a ridiculous number of shopping centers.
Yet, as the motherland of all things tabletop, designers will go out of their way to feature it on maps and signs. Pandemic, Ticket to Ride: Europe, Dominion, Power Grid -- Essen pops up with such a frequency that those out of the loop would be forgiven for assuming they’d uncovered a secret freemasons code. Pour one out for nearby neighbors Cologne and Dusseldorf which, despite being larger and more globally recognized, are almost always overlooked.
Sneakiness: 1/5 -- At this point we’re shocked when a map doesn’t opt to include the city.
Edibility: 5/5 -- Essen literally translates to “eat” in English, so we’re assuming every game including it counts as three courses.
Risk Legacy’s secret package
Legacy games have had us plastering boards with more stickers than a teenager’s laptop for several years now. But back in 2011, the idea of modifying components and tearing up cards was a terrifying novelty. Risk Legacy had us cracking open cardboard crates long before Pandemic made it cool, but the game’s best trick wasn’t even mentioned in its manual.
Hidden underneath the Risk Legacy’s base inlay was a secret package taped to the bottom of the box. It featured one warning: Do Not Open. Ever. We can’t comment on whether curiosity killed the cat, but it certainly led to the demise of hundreds of Risk soldiers.
We won’t spoil the exact contents, but the revelations inside could entirely restructure the game board and player objectives. In a fiendish move, there were also a variety of secret envelopes distributed; you never knew which game-altering catastrophe was going strike when you broke that seal. And let’s be honest, you were always going to open it.
And if you’re after more hidden caches, consider exploring Gloomhaven and Betrayal Legacy’s expansive boxes...
Sneakiness: 5/5 -- We shudder to think how many copies were discarded without ever noticing the secret envelope.
Edibility: 3/5 -- Plenty of extra content but a disappointing lack of egg invasions.
Concordia notes where the Romans won’t roam
Honestly, the Gaul of this one. No, really, check out Concordia’s Gallia map and you’ll spot a tiny village nestled in an outcrop of historical France’s northern coast. It’s one of the only distinct landmarks outside of the game’s actual cities, and if you didn’t grow up reading French comics -- just us? OK -- then you might be wondering why it’s given such prominence.
Designer Mac Gerdts (or perhaps artists Marina Fahrenbach and Dominik Mayer) was clearly an avid childhood reader, as this board game Easter egg is a nod to classic “Asterix & Obelix” comics. The teeny-yet-tempestuous village led by Vitalstatistix appears to have proven so problematic for the Romans that they even started marking it on their trading maps. That or they’re hoping that one day the village might sell them a vial or two of magical potion.
Sneakiness: 2/5 -- The Gauls were always a proud bunch, even their Easter eggs are plonked in plain sight!
Edibility: 5/5 -- French cuisine is famous, so we can only assume that the village’s super-strength brew tastes delicious!
Oath’s “hide the pain” Herald
Forget references to physical media -- we’ve grabbed a random youth from the street, and he assures us that kids these days care only for internet memes. You can go now, Timmy. Flitting through Oath’s deck of Advisors, you’d be forgiven for skipping over the nondescript smiling Herald in favor of something more flavorful. Anyone unfortunate enough to be described as terminally online, however, will recognize the pained smile of this stock photo celebrity in an instant.
Presumably added for the sake of the pun alone, Oath’s Herald card is an Easter egg reference to the Hide The Pain Harold meme featuring retired Hungarian engineer András István Arató. If we had to work in Oath’s world of backstabs and secrecy, we’d probably share his obvious agony.
Sneakiness: 2/5 -- If you’re in the know, you’ll know.
Edibility: 3/5 -- Gains an extra point for featuring a cup of tea, but we’re starting to suspect there won’t be any actual eggs on this list.
Scythe’s map of mysteries
We can all agree that Scythe’s board is gorgeous, but have you ever really looked at it? And we’re not talking about scanning it to assess strategic standings. Look a little closer at those oil fields, mountains, and rolling fields, and you’ll begin to notice a scattering of unusual additions. Is that Santa leading a reindeer into a tunnel? What’s that head poking out of the lake? How didn’t we see any of these before now?
Spot one and it won’t be long before you start to see Easter eggs littering every inch of map. On the basic board alone, the list of secrets includes the Loch Ness Monster, Little Red Riding Hood, a hobbit house, the Groke from the Moomins, and Thor raising a hammer to the heavens.
The best of the bunch are hidden on the expansion’s modular boards, which include Mario, a Xenomorph, and the St. Louis Gateway Arch. There are plenty more stashed within the deck of encounter cards, too. Done looking yet? You were so distracted that you missed Polania invading and making off with all your metal.
Sneakiness: 5/5 -- An enormous cache of board game Easter eggs hidden under the stomping feet of our mechs. Well played, art designers.
Edibility: 4/5 -- We gave the board a few licks and found it surprisingly tasty.
A game within a game (gameception?)
If you’re bored of the current board gracing your table, it might be time to start hunting the boards within your board. There are more than you might expect, because as designers have realized, what better way to advertise your games than within other games?
Inspect the tables of Agricola’s small houses, and you’ll find some feature Bohnanza, another game by designer Uwe Rosenberg. Crane your neck towards the cargo on the front of Le Havre’s box, and you can note that the dock workers are actually shipping copies of Agricola. It’s not just Rosenberg employing this trick either. In their down time between building traps for would-be heroes, the goblin-like minions of Dungeon Petz can also be seen enjoying a game of preceding game, Dungeon Lords.
Where some publishers are concerned, self promotion is almost a guarantee. Castles of Mad King Ludwig includes a copy of Suburbia on one of its tiles, and Suburbia itself includes a pizza restaurant named after publisher Bezier Games’ other title, New York Slice. The Bezier extended universe, if you will. Dexterity-flicking game Ice Cool even has a copy of itself laid out on a table within its break room. That last one begs some troubling metaphorical questions about the penguin inhabitants being aware of their own false existence. Our brain cells are beginning to ache, so let’s move on, shall we?
Sneakiness: 4/5 -- Your trickery has given us an excuse for our compulsive game ordering.
Edibility: 1/5 -- Agricola may be about farming, but more cardboard wasn’t exactly what we were after with this harvest.
Terraforming Mars’s Kim Stanley Robinson tribute
In Terraforming Mars, your aim is to transform the barren red planet into a breathing green-and-blue one. It’s only right, then, that designer Jacob Fryxelius saw fit to include a nod to legendary sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson. Robinson’s most famous works include the “Red,” “Green,” and “Blue Mars” trilogy. The story sees first colonists of our solar neighbor find themselves working at the behest of gigantic transnational corporations. Sounding familiar yet?
Terraforming Mars chucks a lovely nod to the inspiring books into the game’s example of play. Detailing the opening round of the game, the rulebook lists the three competing players as Kim, Stanley, and Robinson. There’s a more explicit thank you in the manual, but we’re much bigger fans of this sly reference for those in the know.
Sneakiness: 3/5 -- Own up, how many of you actually read the example turns in manuals?
Edibility: 4/5 -- The text might not offer nutrients, but you can’t tell us those energy cubes don’t look tasty.
The Crew is crowded with them
The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine’s cooperative trick-taking game has clearly mastered the art of snatching awards left, right, and center -- even we couldn’t resist showering it in praise! But what about the game’s art itself? You’d be forgiven for giving the sci-fi theme little thought while solving puzzles, but we’d recommend a closer inspection of those numbered sets. Placed in order, each sequence creates a panorama picture, but it’s the tiny details that’ll reveal a hand flush with board game Easter eggs.
Hidden within The Crew’s suits are references to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” the Nostromo ship from the “Alien” movies, and designer Thomas Sing himself. Check the reflection on the “7” card, and you can even see that the astronauts are also enjoying a round of The Crew. No wonder things keep going wrong on this expedition.
Sneakiness: 4/5 -- In space, no one will notice your subtle references.
Edibility: 1/5 -- We might refer to our stomach as a black hole, but we’d really rather not try eating beside an actual one.
This is only part one of our board game easter eggs list, so stick around to check out more secrets hiding in your favorite boxes. Have you found any board game easter eggs of your own? Are any of them actually edible? Save our starving team by leaving a comment on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. If you’re after more board gaming content, stick the Going Analog Podcast in your ears or test your brain with the Board Game Quiz Show!
Author bio: When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Gloomhaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found gobbling up all the latest and greatest party games, then wondering why he can never find the time to actually play them with friends. Share your love of deck builders with him on Twitter @Fernoface, or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.