The travesty of packaging air

Super Fantasy Brawl: Air edition (Photo credits: Sam Caton@BGG)

I recently played Clans of Caledonia and boy, the first thing that caught my eye was the box size. It was quite a sight to see a mid-heavy resource conversion game packed in such a compact box. It was a delight. The box is roughly the same size as Root, dimension wise and thinner than your standard Hans Im Gluck mid-sized Euro. This coming from a resource heavy Euro was quite unexpected.

Let me say that everything in the box fits well with the bits carefully packed in. There is very little wiggle room but that is good since you want the components snug and not rolling around during transit. You probably won’t be able to put custom components. Kudos Karma Games. Really a job well done.

These days, publishers and companies really have to wake up. We really can’t afford putting out large boxes with nothing but air. This is the least we can do for the environment to cut waste. I know the argument here: publishers have to attract eye balls and a large box with colorful features do that better than a smaller sized box. This is true for games displayed on shelves in big box stores but for many games that are niche, this is clearly not a priority. So why do publishers insist on a gigantic box? I am sure distributors hate large boxes as well. They need to rent space in warehouses to store these games. Large boxes just eats up space. Retailers have to put these massive games on shelves, thus reducing their ability to display more games. Who exactly loves big boxes?

Many gamers who live in dense metropolitan areas where space is a premium will also appreciate boxes with smaller footprints. In fact, even folks who live in sprawling ranch style houses, I have never hear them say “geez, I have so much space I wish the game boxes can be larger so I can fill up my basement.” Nope. I bet everyone wants a reasonable and as small a box as necessary to fit the game components.

I understand that people often equate size with content and quality which is a ridiculous notion. The quality of the components does not make a lousy game good. I think the advent of crowdfunding has done some damage because it has really promoted a “bigger/more is better concept” I wonder many crowdfunded games come in oversized boxes?

With smaller boxes, comes smaller inserts or better still, no inserts. Fewer trees cut down and less plastic. Again, part of the insert is to keep items from rolling around empty space, but if the components are already packed, they won’t be damaged. There is really no need to spend extra money to get custom inserts. Sure, I’ll admit some games with miniatures may need extra protection, I can understand the need for inserts. Euros with cubes though?? I don’t have a problem with big box games if you truly need a big box. I mean if you game comes with 100s’ of minis with large boards then sure, by all means, have a box large enough to fit all the items.

I think it is time to call out the publishers, particular those that make an effort to change. So, thank you, Karma Games, for doing a fantastic job. I will be sure to take an extra look at your games. Other games that have tried to reduce waste: Three Kingdoms Redux from Starting Player and Capstone and Root from Leder Games.

Perhaps we should start taking a more radical approach and start talking about reducing component waste as well. On a broader level, we ought to reduce the number of components in games. Clearly, many games share overlapping “resources”. Is it even conceivable or possible for publishers to come out with a “gamer’s” edition that only have variable and unique materials for the game? One can start by owning a set of beautiful components that can be used by multiple games. Your wood, wheat, stone, brick, gold, etc. I know Stonemeier Games came out with a set not long ago. These resources are found in dozens and dozens of games. Why can’t publishers agree to try and use these components in their games and come out with two versions: A “Complete” set and a “Gamer’s” edition. I know this remains a pipe dream, or is it? I think for this to work, people need to change their mindset that Less is More. I don’t think as consumers, we are even close to that level of thinking or acceptance. Most of us still embrace More is Better.

I am not in favor of leveling criticisms on publishers, but instead, let’s start giving publishers and designers due credit for making the effort to reduce box sizes. Let’s reward these publishers by fishing them out and congratulating them for their efforts. For my part as a reviewer of games, I will start:

Great job, Karma Games for Clans of Caledonia.

Fantastic job, Starting Player and Capstone, for Three Kingdoms Redux

Thumbs up, Leder Games for Root

Any others?

Clans of Caledonia (left; photo credits Kion. K@BGG), Root (middle; photo credits Emile de Maat@BGG), Three Kingdoms Redux (right; photo credits Carsten Buettemeier@BGG)

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