Board Game Box Inserts To Rock Your Box Off

Box inserts are a pain in the neck to the gaming industry. I mean, what could be so trivial? They’re only boxes and only cardboard, so what’s so special about that? Well, it turns out, as gamers, we are somewhat particular about our box inserts. Who would have guessed that people who spend ages planning and scheming to make the most out of each turn would be fussy?

For non-gamers this is going to seem like a weird topic to write about; however, box inserts are a genuine source of controversy within the hobby. We spend a lot of money on games, and the last thing we want is for them to be badly stored. This has led to a lot of gamers being very specific about what we want to see when we open a box. Yes, “we”, I include myself in that group.

Essentially, what we want to see are well-organised boxes that have space in them to store everything perfectly. Is that so much to ask?

Yes? Pah! Well, let’s have a serious talk about inserts then.

Over-Inflated Opinion

It is possible that, as gamers, we have been spoiled. In the old days of Monopoly, everything would be bundled in a box with just a few slots for the papercash. That was what passed as good insert design, which blew our minds. When Scrabble came along with a green bag (!!!) it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Granted it was part of the game, allowing for the blind drawing of tiles, as opposed to an actual box component, but it was something, and we loved it.

Then, with this recent renaissance of games, we have seen boxes that have spread across the entire range of insert goodness – from naked boxes to the fully fledged box with everything in its perfect place.

Then we see this –

LoW Box
The perfect insert?

Yes, the Lords of Waterdeep box.  Everything, in that box, has its place. Everything is exactly one or two millimeters larger than it needs to be to ensure ease of use. The meeples have their own rows based on colour, and even the 100pts marker tiles have their own slots. That slot has a little indent in it to allow it to be pushed out easily and oh wow – this is an amazing box.

I mean, look at it. It’s beautiful. Look how organised it is.

So yes, modern gamers have, to some extent, been spoilt as to what to expect when they open a box. Lords of Waterdeep is (in my opinion) the pinnacle of great design, but there are plenty of great boxes out there. T.I.M.E Stories also has an amazing box, and as do (not quite to the same extent – but still 9/10) Betrayal at House on the Hill and Mysterium. They are beautiful boxes with plenty of room for everything inside.

Plenty of Room For…

That being said, there are plenty of examples in the industry for inserts that are just outright awful. For this, I think there needs to be a distinction made. Firstly, small Indie games, we have different expectations for. We don’t always expect them to have awesome inserts when the game itself is just a small budget production. Games are, after all, about the gameplay and the box insert comes second to that.

That being said, games like Splendor have caused quite a bit of controversy in the gaming world. This is not because Splendor has a particularly infamous insert – it’s just freaking huge. This has led to gamers wanting to create space on their shelves and coming up with condensed versions. Splendor falls into the category of “games with okay inserts that could have been done better”.

SB
The infamous box. Personally, I don’t have an issue with it; however, it is easy to see where space could be saved.

Games like Descent, The Game of Thrones LCG, Arkham Horror, and X-Wing, however, have notorious designs for not storing things well. The avid gamer may realise something familiar about those four games, and that is they are all made by Fantasy Flight. FFG keep their inserts very basic, and they do this to keep costs low. The reasoning is all well and good, I suppose, if it makes the games slightly cheaper, however, for Descent (in my opinion) this is taken too far.

Card Game Box
Not the best way to store a card game.

The Descent box is frustrating and one of only a few boxes (to this day) where we have actively thrown away the insert. This is because it is designed to store the game when everything is in flat pack, not when everything is popped out of the cardboard. It genuinely matters, as it means the box never really shuts properly again – which is really freaking annoying!

Box
This is how NOT to store £50 – £70 (depending on where you buy it from) board game.

So What Makes a Good Insert?

That aside, I think there are a few rules to creating awesome inserts that should be observed, and this is where this article reaches a peak. We’ve had a bit of a discussion and we think this list comprises sums it up. These are our guidelines for companies who want to create great box inserts for game boxes.

  • Nothing Should Fall Out When You Put The Game Box On Its Side – Most gamers have to get pretty creative about how they store games, which often means a game being stored on its side (or occasionally upside down – I store my Fluxx boxes this way – long story). Nothing should fall out when a game is on its side. Period. Nothing is more annoying than having to store a game flat because things fall out, taking up valuable gaming-shelf-real-estate.
Upside Down Boxes
Okay – so Fluxx prints the logo upside down on the side of the box, so I store mine upside-down so we can read the logos/names easily on the shelf.
  • Baggies Should Be Included – There is nothing wrong with a game needing baggies to store tokens and counters; however, if they are needed then they should be included. Don’t make me go around the UK Games Expo looking for baggies because your game box is a mess. No-one sells them – and I mean, like, NO-ONE sells them.
  • Keep The Box The Right Size – Okay, so this is more one about the box itself than the insert, but boxes should be the right size for the game. Don’t do a Splendor with an un-necessarily huge box, but do allow space for expansion packs where possible, if the expansion isn’t big enough to need its own box. The Smash Up box is a perfect example of this. It’s got ten spaces for expansion decks in it because the expansions would be a pain to store otherwise. Kudos Smash Up.
Box 2
There are plenty of room for expansions; however, there is no room for the tokens that come with some of the expansions…

Those, I think, are three ideas I would use for guidance for box inserts – but then again, what do I know? I’m just a gamer and a blogger.

So, there we go, a brief look at box inserts. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

13 thoughts on “Board Game Box Inserts To Rock Your Box Off

Add yours

  1. Great post! One of my first posts on my blog was about inserts and how crappy many of them are.

    If I had had the game at the time of writing, I would have included Royals in the “good insert” examples. It is excellent. All of the differently-shaped scoring tiles have their own spots and there are deep pockets for all the cubes. The board sits perfectly to hold the cubes.

    Only bad thing is that it’s hard to get all of the cubes out when setting up due to the steep sides.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never played it. Is it a good game? I know that problem well however! It’s the same with TIME Stories. I reset the box yesterday (the box is set up so you can save mid-game) and struggled to get some of the components out they were so well stored.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is an awesome game. A little bit of Ticket to Ride in there, in that on your turn you can either draw cards or play cards to claim certain areas of the board, but it is much more than that.

    I really like it. I’ve played it twice, so may be time for a review soon. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve taken to making my own box inserts out of foam core. You get exactly the layout you want for a minimal cash investment and they don’t take that long to do. Descent, Imperial Assault, Mansions of Madness, Roll for the Galaxy all have custom built organizers now. I refuse to buy things like Broken Token organizers on principle. We shouldn’t have to spend 15% of the cost of the game to get an aftermarket organizer. BTW, if you’re looking for foam core tutorials and diagrams of how to make them see The Esoteric Order of Gamers. Great site!

    In the meantime, I agree that more games should have inserts like Lords of Waterdeep or Niagara or King of Tokyo but gaming giant Fantasy Flight Games (the worst offender, awful inserts) are expensive enough already without taking on another 10 bucks for an insert.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I refuse to buy things like Broken Token organizers on principle. We shouldn’t have to spend 15% of the cost of the game to get an aftermarket organizer.

      Amen brother. Those are ridiculous.

      I went over to The Esoteric Order of Gamers and watched the foamcore videos. I was thinking “Pfft, yeah right” but by the end I was like “Hmm, that’s pretty cool, I have a couple games that could use that treatment…” The tutorial videos are way too long even at 2x speed, but still pretty good stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I found that doing a couple of box inserts exactly as he’s laid out is enough of a lesson to then design and build your own to get exactly the organizer you’re wanting.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Funny, when I saw the pic of LoW I figured that was your example of a bad box design…I mean, it’s fine as long as you don’t have the expansion (I know the expansion has its own box, but they could have easily designed the main box to hold the expansion as well, there’s plenty of room in there). And it DEFINITELY violates your “Nothing Should Fall Out When You Put The Game Box On Its Side” criterion…

    And I really like the Splendor box haha. It’s not really THAT big, and I like that everything is nice and secure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It depends how hard you cram the board in 😛 – in all seriousness, yeah, you’re right, you can’t turn the box upside down, but it stores sideways alright.

      I also quite like the Splendor box, but there is so much controversy around it online. Some people really hate it.

      Like

  6. I honestly thought the Lords of Waterdeep insert design was one of the worst I’ve ever encountered. Everything needs to be put in perfectly, otherwise it won’t fit. Also because everything is loose, if you shake the box or put it upside down, everything will get mixed up. I ended up just buying a plastic organizer from the Dollar Store to more quickly store all the pieces.

    Like

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