Feeling boxed in: A rant about board game box sizes

Bigger… better?

Behold, my latest acquisition: Glen More II: Chronicles. A large box of cardboard treasures, and a re-implementation of an old favorite. And yet, despite the upgrade to a great game, this box has got me more annoyed than anything. For one thing, it doesn’t fit in a standard Ikea Kallax cube. It has to lay on its side to fit into what has become the defacto board game storage unit. Considering there is nothing inside the box that makes it have to be this tall, like some special large board etc this seems like an oversight or at least an odd choice. It also means it does not fit nicely with any of the other standard box sizes of board games in general.

Why all this whining about a box? Well, first, some context. Take a look at the original Glen More box. Isn’t it adorable? It’s hard to believe so much game used to come in such a little box. Now, granted, the components are… pretty meh. Alea, the publisher of the original game has been trying to revamp their image lately, with new releases of old classics that are upgraded to a bit more modern components. But for most of the storied history of the brand, you were there for the game first, and the pieces were… functional at best. In the 2010s and before, this worked. In the era of kickstarter, miniatures, metal components and, well, cardboard excess, this wouldn’t fly anymore. Even at the time, the tiles were flimsy, and there didn’t seem to be quite enough of the coins or victory point pieces to go around without making change all the time as points increased. I wished that such a great game got a little bit nicer treatment, like Days of Wonder who were the model of good components at the time.

Half of the box of Glen More II is dedicated to little boxed mini expansions.

Fast forward to the 2019  Glen More II Kickstarter campaign ,and I would say things went a little far in the other direction. While the kickstarter is not gaudy or overproduced, the box size still has me scratching my head. All of a sudden, this doesn’t fit in a backpack. All of a sudden I have to decide if I am bringing this one game or  2-3 medium games. It seems as though board game publishers in general have decided that their market demographic will just buy more shelves to make room for larger and larger games?

This is not the only case of the box size conundrum, other games have done this too. Endeavor came back into print with a new kickstarter edition, but was double the size of the original. Suburbia release a beautiful deluxe edition with an exclusive expansion but the box is the size of a small suitcase. At some point unless you are expanding your shelving solution you may be making the choice to keep one game vs two or three. And at that point the games value and fun has to really be worth it to justify the space. In the three cases above, all are expanded or collectors edition releases, so clearly appealing to an existing audience of fans, or folks who have heard buzz build up about the game over several years. Even more bold are the kickstarters for brand new unproven games that take up a monumental amount of shelf space. 

Perhaps this is just me shouting in a vacuum. Long ago I set down my own limits based on limited shelf space. This helps in several ways to stem the desire to accumulate  more and more games. But my goal is to have a well played, well kept library of games. And that’s just it. It is a library, intended for frequent use (in an ideal world) vs a collection, or a museum. I could likely own many more games if I had the shelves and the money to commit to them, and neither of those things are impossible to solve. But the time to dedicate to a collection twice as large is a whole different factor, let alone trying to keep even a fraction of those rules in my head. 

Bigger, thicker tiles with better art. Definitely an upgrade.

One might ask, why is Glen More II: Chronicles three times the size, did they make the pieces three times as big. Is there three times as much game here? Well, the pieces are indeed a bit larger, the tiles take up more real estate than the original and there’s a nice insert to keep it all organized. But most of what takes up space in this box are the Chronicles from the title. These are 9 miniature expansions, meant to give variety to the game. They are organized very nicely but also take up half of the box. I am all for variety and in a way this means if you love the game you already have modular expansions built it. No need to grab that expansion that used to come out a year or two later and would require some tetrising to fit in the box. But even then, a game and it’s expansion box rarely take up this much space.

Does not fit vertically

I admit that I am likely old man board games yelling at kids to get off his lawn at this point, but this is a trend that I am not behind. I am just concerned that there is an ever accelerating components arms race that seems to be distracting from what actually matters; the game itself. That’s not to say that all publishers are guilty of this. Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right and its expansions have lovely art and custom screen printer wooden pieces. But it all fits in a reasonably sized box. The box for their upcoming game Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile also seems to fit regular dimensions. They showed an increasingly rare kind of restraint in just selling one version of the game and its components. No add-on expansions, no major kickstarter exclusives. Similarly Garphill Games keeps knocking it out of the park with their unique takes on worker placement games with the Raiders of the North Sea series and West Kingdom series. All of these are incredibly economical in terms of the depth of the game vs the shelf space it takes up.

The proof will be how Glen More II Chronicles is on the table. And that is a pending judgement. I must admit, it looks beautiful. So here is hoping that it is three times the game of its predecessor. I will report back what I find out!

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