Welcome back to Tabletop Tastes: My Favorite Flavors in Board Games! Missed the last episode? Head over and check out Tabletop Taste #2: Salty Player Interaction.
I really appreciate when companies give a lot of love to even the little things in their product or service. These touches can be as subtle as the crisp packaging of an Apple product, the non-messy cap on a Tide detergent container, and the dippable ketchup packets at Chick-fil-a.
I am likewise impressed when a publisher goes the extra mile to make their game look and feel good. Perhaps no publisher out there understands this concept better than Stonemaier Games. When I first saw pictures of the 2019 darling, Wingspan, I said “Wow.” But when I first opened and unboxed Wingspan, I said “WOW!”
The art is top tier, the box feels great, the containers are perfect, the eggs are slick, the cards are gorgeous, the game has a freaking bird feeder, the rulebook even feels good. Say what you will about Stonemaier Games’ philosophy, but they know how to produce a game and it works.
PARKS is another game with a thoughtful production that rises to the caliber of its stunning art with inserts and tokens and bits that round out a deliciously beautiful package. The gameplay doesn’t revolutionize the industry, yet it doesn’t need to when it deftly assaults nearly all of your senses with everything else.
Root makes a knockout first impression with its whimsical artwork, screen printed meeples, chunky battle dice, and painstakingly arranged player aids. It’s brilliant production lures you in like a tasty appetizer, and before you know it you are waist deep in a much more meaty and nasty game than you could ever have predicted. Even as the group gangs up on your beautiful birds and throws your Eyrie Dynasty into dreaded turmoil, there is no denying how pleasing the game looks to the eye and feels to the fingers.
Men At Work likewise tosses its hard hat into the ring of premium with colorful components that have the perfect size, weight, and feel to match its laser-focused dexterity gameplay… and nothing beats that feeling when you first open the game and get to press the snug plastic hard hats onto each of the wooden construction meeples. Are these perfectly crafted hard hats essential to the gameplay? No. But are these perfectly crafted hard hats essential to the experience? YES.
I can think of no production more clever, more praiseworthy, or more essential than that of Wavelength. This is the kind of production that the designers crafted with the end in mind. They knew that in order to get the most of out of the concept, they needed a device that allows approximative gut-feeling guesses for teammates and dramatically climactic reveals from the psychic. The spinning target wheel, the clicky red dial, and the snappy blue screen are a thing of beauty. This device is a genius component worthy of Wolfgang Warsch’s brilliance. The game is even self-contained and almost instantly ready-to-rumble thanks to a carefully crafted box insert that eliminates the need for a table.
These games are so satisfying to setup and tear down, to touch and manipulate, to play and replay because the publishers were willing to invest in a thoughtful production. Compare these games to other legendary titles like Terraforming Mars, Castles of Burgundy, and Ethnos, and you may notice a subconscious reluctance to play the underproduced games over the premium feeling ones. No game needs a thoughtful production to be great, no game needs to be deluxified to be playable, but why not opt for something that looks good and feels good whenever possible?
Wingspan, PARKS, Root, Men At Work, and Wavelength are gorgeously thoughtful productions that can all be bought at a perfectly reasonable price (when in stock, of course); these games raise the bar for not only their slightly higher cost-to-manufacture components but also the perceptible love, care, and ingenuity that went into their presentation.
Fortunately, even when a presentation is a bit of a train wreck, like the above mentioned Castles of Burgundy and Ethnos, these games are certainly salvaged by the crunchy meaningful decisions they provide.
Click on to check out Tabletop Tastes #4: Crunchy Meaningful Decisions
LOOKING FOR MORE SAVORY GAMES WITH A THOUGHTFUL PRODUCTION? TRY FEASTING ON ONE OF THESE:
- Tasty Tactility: Splendor, Azul, Sagrada, Dragon Castle, Tapestry, KLASK, Crokinole, Junk Art, Roll for the Galaxy, Takenoko, Five Tribes, A Feast for Odin, The Estates
- Tantalizing Table Presence: Dixit, Horrified, Skull, Arboretum, Modern Art, Tokaido, Welcome To, Railroad Ink, Oceans, Inis, Viticulture Essential Edition, Treasure Island, Tapestry, Yamatai
- Satisfying Packing/Unpacking: Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig, KLASK, Onitama, Tortuga 1667, 7 Wonders Duel
- Home run Production: Camel Up (Second Edition), Pax Pamir (Second Edition), Brass Birmingham (Deluxe Edition), Scythe, On Tour, Dice Throne Season 2, Mysterium
Which thoughtful productions are most savory to you?