Losing at Board Games: Gen Con, Art, and Lifeless Plants

I was browsing my friendly local game store (FLGS) one day in August, happy to be sheltered from the summer heat, and hoping to find some fun games to play.

As I was perusing box after box after box, evaluating which game  I should buy (or should lobby the Political Mastermind to buy for me) I realized that the art on the game box plays a huge role in impulse buying/playing decisions.

 Side note and unsponsored plug:
My FLGS is the kind of store that is an asset for the board game hobby.  It has an immense selection, and a library of open games that you can try out as you want to.  In addition, they have daily events that rotate around central themes – either based on individual games, or specific genres.  I have read about many of these stores, which become community hubs for the board game community, but if you are an Illinois gamer, you should check out The Wandering Dragon in Plainfield, IL. It is the kind of store that encourages the hobby in a social way.  
(Side note and unsponsored plug concluded)

Why do I bring this up?  Well, when you are browsing a huge game selection the art choices on each individual game really start to stand out.

 In a stack of games, which box screams “play me right now!!!”

This question is particularly relevant if you haven’t played any of the games you are browsing.


Gen Con

The huge Gen Con games convention just concluded in Indianapolis, IN.  Gamers posted photos of their convention hauls – these photos were of stacks of between 10 and 50 games.  As I looked at these photos I was evaluating “does this game look interesting” based only on looking at a photo of the side of the box.

It looks good to me.  To you, it looks as appealing as a lifeless plant withered by summer heat.

What all of these conversations have to come down to, in the end , is that the appeal of individual box designs is subjective based on who is looking at them.

I’ve written about Smash-Up before in this column.  I bought this game based in large part by how geektastically awesome the box looked.  It has pirates! and aliens! And big fonts that indicate how immensely FUN the game should be!

I brought this box home, and left it on the table.  The Political Mastermind took one look it, and said “ugh.”

It was a tough sell to get her to play it.  When we did, we both enjoyed it immensely.  But if she had been the one shopping for a board game, she would not have given this box a second look.

Enter Pastiche.  When this box arrived, the Political Mastermind immediately wanted to play the game – It looked appealing to her.  The box is dripping with classic art theme, and it took no time at all to get this to the table.   We both enjoyed the game – but the box sold her that it would be a great game to play even though she didn’t know anything about it in advance.

This is my concluding discussion for today’s rambling column.

How do I organize my game collection?

1) I throw out boxes that are way too big for the games they contain.  Card based games are the biggest culprit here – and I store them like this:


2) I lovingly organize games whose boxes look really great, and which house games that fit well within their boxes.  These games fit into a few broad categories when they are shelved:

organized by game designer
organized by game designer
organize by game type
organized by game type
organized by company
organized by company

I’m really bad at Tetris

I store boxes in the way that makes them all fit with a minimum of work.  I don’t have a good eye for shape organization, and want to leave plenty of room for future games:

needs more games!
needs more games!

A Three Part Conclusion

1) This column is a meandering mess, wandering aimlessly through the forest like a confused faun.

2) Organize your games in such a way that it looks like you don’t have enough. Buy more games, and support your FLGS if you are fortunate enough to have one.

3)  Gen Con seems like it was a great excuse to acquire a lot of games.  Welcome back to the real world, Gen Con attendees… and a realization that you have way more games than you’ll be able play in the next month.  To people overwhelmed by their game collections I say: winter is coming.

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