Going Analog

Where video game industry veterans introduce great board games to video gamers

Board Gaming Sins: Box sizes and crappy rules

Shelf-hogging giants and baffling breakdowns mark the first entries in our dark catalogue of Board Gaming Sins.

It’s a long time until Christmas, but we’re already preparing our coal deliveries. Does that seem mean spirited? Maybe but trust us; it’s well deserved. Because as much as we love board games, at times it feels like they don’t love us back. Now we’re willing to forgive a few irksome habits here and there for the sake of the relationship, but some decisions are just too much to take from a simple box. 

In our new Board Gaming Sins series, we’re taking justice into our own hands. Or, er, words. Collected below are the first in a long list of the worst board gaming sins: heinous crimes so vile that the guilty parties should be cast into the fiery depths, to be locked away eternally by the barons of board game hell. But since we don’t have that kind of authority, a bag of coal delivered to their doorstep will have to suffice. Board games do have houses, right? 

Sin #1: Not respecting our shelf space

Board Gaming Sins  - not respecting our shelf space
Could you guys get any bigger?

Good lord, look at the size of that package! It’s not a phrase we expected to blurt out in the middle of a convention hall, but hey, it was warranted for Dark Souls: The Board Game. Kickstarter creators seem to be in an endless competition to one-up each other with the biggest, most bountiful boxes of miniatures these days, showing them off with pride at gaming conventions across the globe. 

Mega minis are lovely to look at, sure, but there’s just one problem: Where exactly are we supposed to keep all that stuff? A gigantic dragon or Dark Souls boss might look epic on the table, but when it’s time to call that game night a wrap, Dalafos the Eternal is going to need a home, and ours sure doesn’t have enough space for him or his cardboard container.

Perhaps we’re being unfair here, because Kickstarters are far from the worst offenders. At least they have the decency to fill their gigantic caches with oversized toys for us to play with. No, far worse are the games whose boxes have no right to be the size they are. 

Board gaming sins episode 1 - giant boxes
If you aren't afraid to do some dirty work with scissors and tape, Splendor can be quite the space saver.

Take Splendor, for example. Do you really need such an obnoxiously large box for a few chips and cards? No, and after a quick bit of work with some tape and scissors, look how compact a game you have on your hands! Heck, with a box that small, Splendor could even fit in our public transport collection. Not all of us own acres of land to park these cardboard cruise ships in, so please, please, respect our shelf space!

Other guilty parties: 

Point Salad

Did two decks of card really need this much space and plastic? Take some lessons from Sushi Go! and Cockroach Poker, please! We’ve heard the Czech version is smaller and ditches the plastic, so why isn’t this a standard everywhere?

The majority of Fantasy Flight games:

Listen Fantasy Flight, we know you like to have at three manuals with each of your games and room for people to design their own impressive inserts to store miniatures, tokens, and figures. But maybe we could at least cut out the cardboard inlay which takes up almost all of the box for no reason? Give us something, here.

Every single epic RPG on Kickstarter:

Perhaps stretch goal miniatures weren’t quite such a good idea.

The punishment: A neverending game of Tetris, but all the pieces are board game boxes of non-standard sizes.

Sin #2: The incomprehensible rule book

Board gaming sins episode 1 incomprehensible rule book
We're sweating just looking at this image.

The dice have been rolled, and the fate of the entire game rests upon the razor-thin balance of this final contest. As the table frantically adds the scores, you’re pretty certain you’ve won, but then your friend brings up a pesky technicality. Does that really apply here? Should that apply here? Oh god, we’re going to have to consult the manual again, aren’t we? And just like that, a fraught battle slowly withers away into half an hour of page-rustling tedium.

When you need to know the basis for a niche ruling in the midst of a tense game, the manual ought to be your best friend. Yet for some reason, a host of them seem to revel in making us jump back and forth for even the simplest of queries. The true litmus test is whether your first response to a ruling dispute is to grab the manual or whip out your phone and head to Google. If you’re browsing the BoardGameGeek forums, the manual has already lost. 

Rulebook writing is far from easy, but keep it simple, keep it structured, and for the love of all that is dicey, do not include a critical rule in a tiny footnote or boxout halfway through the tutorial! If not for us, do it for the sake of bored gamers worldwide, diligently waiting for their host/partner to answer a question they assumed would be straightforward and now definitely regret having brought up.

Other guilty parties: 

Space Base:

You’d have better luck searching the universe’s cosmic background radiation for answers than scouring this galactic mess of a manual. Keep the randomness to dice rolling and not the structure of your rulebook!

Descent: Journeys in the Dark:

So, do you want to explain to us again how Line of Sight works?

The punishment: For more details, refer to page 42 of subsection 72c, paragraph 3. No, in the footnote.

We’ll be back with our second round of Board Gaming Sins soon, but if you have your own pet peeves then share them with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! If you prefer your gaming words to travel through the air, check out the Going Analog Podcast instead!

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 henry@moonrock.agency.