These games think outside the box...with their boxes.
You’d probably assume that a trip to the box factory would make for a mind-numbingly tedious excursion. Think again. These board games are out to prove that cardboard cases and creativity can mix. Board game boxes needn’t just be hosts for gorgeous artwork or uncanny abominations; They can play a key role in and outside of the game they package. Here are six innovative board game boxes that dared to give their packaging a second purpose.
The most creative board games boxes
Burgle Bros 2: The Casino Capers
Bonus Box Benefit: An extra dimension
There are plenty of games out there which use their box as a base. Commendable, but to Burgle Bros 2? Not nearly ambitious enough. In The Casino Capers, you and your friends attempt to beat the house, taking on a series of daring heists against lucrative gambling dens. Cracking the codes to their vaults will see your team of swindlers split between two floors made up of 5x5 room-tile grids.
Wait, two floors? Didn’t the original game have three? Yes! But Burgle Bros 2 is busy expanding in another direction. To set the game up as intended, the casino’s second floor is physically suspended above the first. Propped up by four legs, the game’s box folds open to create the extra real estate.
It’s a ridiculous setup that realistically only makes the game harder to play. But, just like the star of a Hollywood crime caper, the flashy arrangement oozes just enough arrogant charm that we can’t help but want it in our home.
Isle of Cats
Bonus Box Benefit: The purrfect place to put your pet
Isle of Cats is a game about rescuing magical, polyomino-shaped pussycats from a doomed island, slotting them into your ship in ways that inexplicably earn you points. It’s a concept laser-focused on one demographic: cat owners. And based on the game’s box, that’s a group that the designers fall into as well.
Flip over Isle of Cats’s lid and you’ll discover a bonus setup step which reads: “If you have a pet cat, you should place it here while playing.” Providing a vessel for both your in-game and real-life cats? Now that’s feline-friendy game design. But while Isle of Cats will have you spending fish tokens as a lure, we probably wouldn’t suggest slapping a sea bass in the box lid. Not unless you fancy trying out the game’s solo mode, anyway.
Bonus Box Benefit: Hidden terrors
Spoilers for Risk Legacy follow.
Many dangers lurk in the sealed compartments of Risk Legacy’s box. But none -- not missiles, tanks, or nuclear launches -- can match the excitement and terror of opening the ultimate hidden package within this evolving version of the classic dice-rolling wargame.
Stashed under the insert and taped to the bottom of the box, a sealed package labeled “Do Not Open. Ever.” lurks in every copy of the game. There’s no reference to it within the rules, and you’ll never be asked to search for or open this mystery sleeve.
Discover and disobey those stern instructions, however, and you’ll unleash one of many nasty surprises upon your campaign. Supernatural events, zombie assaults, environmental disasters -- the event cards within vary from copy to copy. What’s guaranteed is that each pack will reshape both the game’s map and the wars you wage across it.
After Risk’s revamp ignited the Legacy trend, hidden components and packages have become a staple of the campaign format. But for those who unwittingly stumbled upon this secret back in 2011, it was revolutionary. Competing players gathered in council to answer a single question: Should we open it?
Bonus Box Benefit: Alluring alignment
The elegant monochrome lines adorning Illimat’s box make it one almost impossible to resist pulling out from a shelf to inspect. Invite someone to your place and this is the package they’ll inevitably end up looking over while you’re brewing that coffee or tea in the kitchen.
Illimat is a game of zone-based card collection and rules manipulation, though you wouldn’t know it from a glance. The title isn’t even listed on the front. It’s relegated to a cardboard sleeve which most buyers will promptly discard. A design decision that, while not favorable to marketing, only adds to the intrigue.
Instead, Ilimat’s cardboard casing plays a key role in distributing the game’s seasons -- sections which determine the actions available in that given quadrant. The box’s base is placed open side down in the center of the circle. Spring, summer, autumn, and winter are marked by each edge, with certain played cards rotating the box and thereby shifting the zones.
The overall experience feels part way towards an arcane ritual. Throw in some candlelight and a few ominous chants mid-game, and you could likely convince your elderly neighbor that playing Illimat is actually an attempt to call some unearthly horror from the bowels of hell. That’ll teach them for being nosy.
Bonus Box Benefit: A sub-zero skating arena
Icecool has taught us many things. The reason penguins can’t fly, for example, is because their education system seems to value slipping, sliding, and smacking into one another more than teaching the skills required to pilot a Boeing 737. It’s also shown just how easily a board game box can be part of the playing space.
Slip the lid off this “box in a box” dexterity game, and you’ll discover that the base (along with the numerous containers slotted within it) is decorated like an elementary school after an ice-age apocalypse. All you need to do before flicking penguins around for points is pin the frosty rooms together with fittingly fish-shaped pegs.
It’s a brilliantly simple and thematic setup -- ideal for an equally breezy game, even if said breeze does come with a chill. If only the lid was incorporated, too: We’d be able to say that it ticks all boxes for this list. A pun only marginally less criminal than the title of the game.
Bonus Box Benefit: Sneaky screening
We normally spend our time complaining about board game boxes being too big. (Seriously, we’ve only got so much shelf space!) But Sabotage’s trunk of team-based spy vs supervillain subterfuge neatly sidesteps our usual pet peeve. This is a box that manages to justify not just its base size but even the fact that it grows larger when unpacked. Why? Because splitting the table is essential to the game’s design.
Spies need to move discretely around their team’s copy of a 4x4 grid, free from the nefarious gaze of the villains conducting their own secret schemes across the table. To do so, they can utilize the ultimate undercover gadget: Sabotage’s expanding box. Folding its edges outward, the game box unfurls into a vertical screen that splits the table in two. Spies and villains, your actions are safe. Provided your opponents haven’t installed hidden cameras in your house, that is.
We didn’t have room to give these imaginative board game boxes full shoutouts, but if this list has sparked your interest, be sure to check out these as well:
- Boop: For making the box a cute quilted playspace onto which even cuter kittens and cats can jump (to tactically displace one another, naturally).
- Niagara: For lifting the game’s kayak-carrying river board up high enough on the box’s back to allow the iconic location’s “Falls” to dangle down over the end.
- Bananya: For managing to make a litter tray box lid both adorable and something we want to stick our hands in -- all to discard or collect cat cards and complete our set!
- The Exit series: For presenting fiendish and thematic puzzle boxes that sometimes need to be dissected both literally and figuratively.
Want to submit your own ideas for inventive board game box behaviors? Drop us a message on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter! And for more creative board gaming insight, be sure to give the Going Analog Podcast a listen.
Author bio: When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Frosthaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found scouring the web for the latest and greatest games, then wondering why he never has time to actually play them. Share your love of deck builders with him at @Fernoface on Twitter or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.