We all have ideas for new board games. Okay, maybe not all of us. But who hasn't sat through a long game of Monopoly or Risk and thought "This game would be way better if..." After taking that first step away from a base game, it's only a few more to determine rules and objectives, maybe even moving to designing a game board (or whatever you would call the set-up for "Cones of Dunshire"). You might be ready to commission custom boxes, but hold one second. How do you know what the box needs?
Yes, the box needs to fulfill the basic needs: holding the game contents safely and securely, providing a pleasant experience for the user, things like that. But the cost associated with custom boxes usually doesn't rise to the top of the list. It's admittedly less interesting than choosing player tokens or designing a game board. But it's arguably one of the most important parts of launching your original board game.
Custom Boxes: Your First Quest
New ideas for board games can come from any source of inspiration. It might be, like we mentioned above, a new take on an old tradition. It could be something entirely new and original, educational or strictly fun, or any other variety of elements. But in the early planning of the game, keep in mind how this needs to be packaged. Not just from a business or marketing sense, but from a practical and logistical standpoint as well.
Pare down what's necessary to play the game
From an imaginary perspective, designing an intricate game with lots of player pieces and tokens, cards and chips, might come off like a great idea. But a game doesn't need to be upward of 100 pieces to be fun (well, unless we're talking about a literal puzzle). Think of it this way: the more pieces your game has, the more it will cost to produce, and the more it will cost in stores. Additionally, it will affect your packaging requirements.
Using your pared down model, start to think through what style of packaging is necessary
Custom boxes need to be able to provide protection for fragile game pieces or simply provide a home for the collective pieces and board. If these pieces are heavy, then a sturdier material, like chipboard, is going to be needed. If they're breakable in any way, consider foam inserts or plastic molding trays to keep them safe. Or, if there are other things that need to be kept from rolling around (like dice), that's another kind of tray. At Sunrise, based in Minnesota, we've helped many gamemasters think through their packaging. Bring your needs to us, and we can work through them.
Make a list of the things necessary for the box
And not just art. People who pick this thing up off the shelf want to know a little bit more, so give them a little teaser. Provide a statement about the game and any other relevant information. Does it include small, possibly choke-able pieces for little kids? Add that a caution might be necessary. Is there a recommended age range for the game? Add that too. Add anything that might be necessary from a legal perspective, but don't forget that this is what needs to sell customers.
Sunrise Packaging has been helping gaming auteurs in Minnesota and beyond to create their masterpieces for decades. We know how to prevent expensive errors and miscalculations, and how to help you think through what elements your custom boxes need to be effective. Contact us today!
If you’re watching Netflix’s Stranger Things, take note: no spoilers appear below, but there is minor discussion on plot points. The introduction to the main characters features a scene that would convey very different things just a few years ago. They’re sitting around, playing Dungeons & Dragons (or DnD). Since the show takes place in 1983, it’s clear that they’re being depicted as classic 80’s *nerds,* so to speak. And to drive the message home, they’re also part of the AV Club, get picked on by bullies, and are general outsiders. However, with the relatively recent rise of “geek chic,” these kids are endearing through our 2016 lenses. Also, DnD is experiencing a resurgence of popularity due to all this attention. Since Sunrise Packaging is in the business of boxes, it seems appropriate to turn our attention to making a custom game box for the new wave of DnD-ers.
DnD Needs Assessment
Although online versions exist, this is a game best played in person with a group. It’s a group effort. As the OG of fantasy role playing tabletop games, the custom game box needs to be as iconic as its contents. Color schemes typically fall on the darker end of the spectrum, highlighted with fiery reds, oranges and yellows.
The party of adventurers might always meet at one person’s home, or the set might travel around. This means the box needs to be both durable and easy-to-move. Light, built in handles of some sort, but rigid and strong enough to withstand transportation. DnD game boards usually fold up, but a custom game board might need more room to lay flat. Some kind of rigid insert might be necessary. Partially for presentation, but also to keep the pieces and dice intact. It’s kind of like using a peg board for tool organization. When they’re outlined, you know exactly which one is missing. Same goes for a custom box insert.
DnD Custom Game Box
So what have we arrived at when it comes to a custom game box, specifically for DnD?
For starters, a custom two-piece setup box is the classic game box style.* The turned edge style is also ideal for the design and strength components. Turned edge boxes are made of chipboard, which is extremely durable. It also lends itself well to a variety of wraps which can best display dynamic DnD graphics and colors. Further custom options can include foil stamped linen or embossed fibers for a slightly Medieval-like feel.
To keep the innards and gaming items in place, the set up box is perfect for multiple types of inserts. Think custom die cut foam, thermoformed tray, insider liners…the options vary as much as DnD gameplay. Add in some sort of handle and you’ve got a party in a box. Literally.
When I report on a game for this blog, I try to make sure it ticks a few boxes. For one, it needs to have depth; a plot or mechanic of sustenance so that I actually have something to talk about. It needs to be entertaining, for obvious reasons. And, perhaps most of all, there needs to be something noteworthy about the packaging.
The game I played this weekend is called T.I.M.E Stories, published by Space Cowboys–and it didn’t just tick all the boxes, it punched through them. Especially in the packaging department. Calling this game box “noteworthy” is an understatement.
But we’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s see if I can sum up T.I.M.E Stories. Oh boy.
Stories Old as Time
Describing the story of the game is tricky. Not because the game lacks a plot (the exact opposite actually). In fact, the plot is so deep that half the fun is just making your way through the twists and turns in the story. The premise is that you’re a temporal agent of the T.I.M.E. Agency. So, yeah, it’s a time travel game. Those are rare enough in general, but T.I.M.E Stories is truly a gem. As a time-travelling cadet you are transported back to a time in history to fix some sort of disturbance. In the case of the base game, the destination is a mental asylum in 1927. All you know at the outset of the game is that something is going down and you need to handle it.
Want to know what it is? Tough. For one, the unfolding story is the ultimate mechanic. To spoil that is to ruin the game. And for two, well, my gaming group and I didn’t exactly beat it yet…
That’s right. Our first mission was a failure. But that’s the beauty of time travel. You can go back again and again until you get it right. And, believe me, you’ll want to go back.
If you didn’t guess, T.I.M.E Stories is cooperative. You and your team are trying to unravel the plot together via choices, puzzles, conflicts, and plenty other creative twists that you won’t see coming. As in all games, your choices are still your own and there’s always points of contention with your teammates at some point. But much like variety is the spice of life, competition is the spice of games–even co-op ones.
If you’re thinking But can I ever play again after I beat the story? welcome to the 20 straight minutes I spent in the game store trying to decide if it was worth it. But having played it, I can tell you that answer is a resounding yes. For a number of reasons, actually.
First of All
Good luck beating it on your first run through, hot shot. There are so many twists and turns in the story that even if you do come out victorious on all the challenges your first time through, you still probably missed a lot of side quests and scenarios. If you play again, your goal should be to discover those extra rooms, clues, and items. Or, if you did discover everything, next time do it faster. That’s the whole point of the T.I.M.E. Agency. Trying to achieve that “perfect run.”
There’s a dice-rolling element. I’d call it a combat mechanic, but there’s a lot more gray area in this game than just cut-and-dry combat. The clever and tension-building dice roll mechanic will make any replay a different adventure altogether.
There are more scenarios available utilizing the base set. Currently, there’s 3 available stories beyond the Asylum scenario, each with their own characters, plots, items, and quests. The stories have an end but, potentially, the game is endless.
Though, technically, it is a story-based game, meaning once you’ve played through, you get what’s going on. But much like a good movie you watch again, or a favorite book you come back to, eventually you’ll want to relive the experience.
Of course if you only play to play it once through, it’s very easy to savor the flavor of this game. That’s where the ingenious packaging comes in.
The Story on the T.I.M.E Stories Box
Image: Space Cowboys
I’ll start with the visuals. In a word: perfect. The custom game box is unbelievably eye-catching. Much like Tokaido, it favors the minimalist approach. But T.I.M.E Stories’ box makes Tokaido’s box look like a Jackson Pollack painting. Stark white with a simple, nearly-invisible font that ensures you’ll have to get up close and personal with the box to find out what it is, the biggest visual component is a right-skewed rendering of one of the time travel pods.. A subtle sliver and a hint of things to come. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the outer packaging is the use of both matte and gloss laminations, creating two different textures–one soft touch, one smooth–in conjunction with the crisp turned edges. If you turn the box over or unbox the game itself, that’s when the colors really start to pop. The gameboard itself is beautifully minimalist as well, allowing the beautiful era-appropriate artwork of the cards to shine once the game is in play. The simplicity of the board also lends itself to the replaying of scenarios. New decks, same board.
But that isn’t the ‘ingenious’ part of the game box.
The really cool feature of this box is the custom thermoformed insert. It’s the definition of unique. Not only does it pack the game components away in a very organized fashion (a huge bonus in itself), the molded plastic insert acts as a ‘pause’ feature, kind of like a video game. Specially-labeled and spaced compartments allow cards and tokens to be put away so that if you need to take a break in the gameplay, you can easily pick up where your team left off. There’s your other replay value factor: much like a bookmark in a book too good to finish, you can stretch the hours of gameplay out as long as you like.
Kudos, Space Cowboys. You thought way outside the box, by thinking way inside of it. Most impressive.
As an avid board-gamer and a packaging aficionado, I have to say that T.I.M.E Stories really is all it’s cracked up to be. Exciting story, nail-biting dice rolls, smart mechanics, high-art graphics, and truly unique features makes T.I.M.E Stories a game for the ages. H.G. Wells would be proud.
What did you play this weekend? Keep up with Geeky Goodies’#WhatDidYouPlayMondays hashtag and remember Sunrise Packaging for all your custom game board and game box production needs.
That which we call a box. By any other name would look as sweet.
This Shakespearian question crosses my mind a lot lately. I’m completely immersed in custom boxes, especially custom game boxes. I wish I could say it was just a professional thing, but in my free time I’m cruising a little gaming group on Facebook called Boardgame Geek. Why? Because I’m addicted to shelfies. No, not selfie–shelfie. The trend among tabletop gamers to show off their collections of game boxes. Shelves and shelves of board game boxes, a veritable library of geeky goodness!
These shelfies are a thing of beauty, showing off the crisp graphics and wraparound printing of custom box designs as much as the collections themselves. As I scan these photos, noting which game boxes my eye goes to first, I have to wonder what’s in a box? What makes a custom box design really pop? What makes a stack of rigid two-piece set boxes become a photographic masterpiece?
To further explore this, let’s look at 3 different games and their custom box design. What makes them stand out?
I should mention that most of these games can be found in the top-selling category of just about any store or site. So there must be something to this, right?
Let’s just get this out in the open, shall we? Catan is probably the biggest board game in the universe. There I said it. It’s a timeless classic. The archetypal perfect game. I’ve heard it referred to as the “gateway game” for people transitioning from Monopoly to the wonderful world of in-depth tabletop gaming. I put off playing it for ages (since I’m kind of a board game hipster) but, having recently converted, I have to say it’s a great game. But that packaging? That’s your box? Of all the game boxes you could have gone with, that’s what you’re going with?
So simple, so plain...so perfect?
The scene has a classic feel–and why mess with a classic? The warm colors are still bright enough to pop. You can almost see the canvas as though it really were a Renaissance painting. With digital offset printing, these details can be brought to life on a custom box. Now that’s a pro tip: don’t sweat the small stuff when it comes to detail. Game boxes are the first feature of a game a buyer sees!
Bottom Line: Catan knows what it is. And it works.
Now this is my kind of game box! Bright colors, explosive graphics, robots and monsters! King of Tokyo is the brainchild of Richard Garfield, the developer that famously brought the world Magic the Gathering. As for the custom box design, the turned-edge graphics aren’t quite wraparound (a preference of mine) but are used in a very cool way to feature all the characters. The lamination is a combination of soft-touch matte–which reduces glare and looks sharp–and a glossy lamination around the lettering and monsters. A unique combo for sure, but it definitely works to make the name shine. A note about the game board: it’s small. Instead of going for the usual bi-fold chipboard, King’s gameboard is rigid single piece, no-fold. It’s used very smartly, and conservatively, since there is not a lot of real movement in the game.
Bottom Line: Contrasted with Catan, this game box has a lot going on. Totally different color scheme. Personally, I’m a big fan of game boxes that appeal to the “anime visual overload” factor, and that style really fits King of Tokyo‘s theme.
In a nutshell, Tokaido is a fascinating cultural game of tourism. That’s a pretty small nutshell to try to cram it into, but the most striking element of this game is its subtlety. In all elements, not just on its custom box. The visuals and artwork are all contrasted against a stark white backdrop. You can tell from the packaging, that the game favors a simple, elegant visual presence, completely different than the first two games. Whoever designed this particular setup box was taking a cue from the current trends in luxury packaging: organic lettering, soft graphics, and a minimalist presentation.
Bottom Line: Compared to other game boxes, Tokaido marches to the beat of a different drum. But the striking nature of its custom box is undeniable.
All these custom boxes will stick out in a shelfie for different reasons. One with a timeless traditional look, one with a futuristic blast of color and detail, and one as a stunning example of clean uniformity. All draw the eye with very different effects. When choosing a design for your custom game box, it’s important to keep all these elements in mind. Maybe one day your game will be featured in a shelfie.
I can safely say that board games are the name of the, well, game around my homestead lately. My roommate and I have been spending our spare time discussing everything from hit points to game mechanics to hypothetical company names. Maybe it’s that Gen Con is just around the corner, or that an old friend of mine just launched a Kickstarter campaign for his custom game due out next year, but something is definitely in the air.
The indie custom game scene appears to be at its peak, and I’m absorbed with all the aspects. As much as I’m a geek about story and characters, I’m also a geek about the design side. The game board intrigues me, sure, but I’m what you’d call a custom game box enthusiast too. Between graphics, blurbs, and logos, I love to judge the proverbial book by its cover.
Last week, I found myself at a game shop. Surprise surprise. As I made my way up and down the aisles, I tried to keep track of what caught my eye. It wasn’t necessarily the graphics. I mean, sure, a splash of color or a cool character rendering couldn’t hurt your custom game, but what really drew me in was the packaging. An interesting shape or texture. Features.
Which of course got me thinking. So if you’re a game designer about to box up your hot new board game, then you may want to consider these…
Cool Custom Game Box Features
Handle boxes make a great presentation for press kits, but they can also add a little flare to your custom game. A game box that looks like a briefcase or a treasure chest could certainly benefit from this little element. Plus, handles are just plain handy. They make your game easier to transport. Keep your meeples upright, peoples!
Who doesn’t love magnets? Think about the last time you got a box or a device with a magnet. Now think how much time you spent playing with said magnet. It’s like a game within a game! Okay, maybe I’m just easily entertained, but magnets do add an extra level of security. The smooth snap enclosure also increases the value of your game by leaps and bounds.
How many times have you had a board game that you loved but lost the rules? Or some other important paper element–a card, or a booklet perhaps? What if you included a sleeve in your custom game. It could safely hold rules, cards, maybe even a custom DVD to go along with your game. You could even utilize the sleeve to create a little window into your game box, another cool design feature!
Hold Out for the Fold Out
You might think this idea is bonkers, but I think it’s the next revolution in game design. Folding game boards are pretty standard, but what if your custom game box became your board game! Yeah, I said it! Using buttons, magnets, tuck tabs, it wouldn’t be a stretch for the box could transform into a gameboard. Major cool factor in my book.
Notch Your Usual Box
Thumb notches, thumb notches, thumb notches. You gotta have the thumb notches, especially when it comes to custom game design. This is true for any box really. This handy little design feature makes your game infinitely easier to open. What’s the point of having thermoformed compartments for all your individual pieces if you’re just going to shake everything loose trying to get the box open. Cards all scattered, meeples everywhere like a mini hurricane hit. A little thumb notch goes a long way.
It can be tricky to stand out in any market, but with custom game design on the rise, the market is about to get even bigger. No matter what game box feature you go with, always remember to stand out, make a splash, and blow your audience away!
Customized incentive games are a great way to boost sales at the same time as boosting morale. Why? Because they’re fun. Incentive games are so well received because employees because they’re competitive. They can also take the place of a raise or bonus that just isn’t in the budget. But just like with any game, customized incentive games have rules. Not just for the player, but for the game-maker as well.
It’s Called Gamification.
And it means using elements of game development to promote an increase in productivity. It’s taught in business classes and preached about in textbooks. It’s not just a fun thing to talk about in the breakroom. It’s a trusted motivational tool.
How Can Customized Incentive Games Help?
There are many different variations of incentive games, but customized incentive games set the gold standard. Anyone can tape a twenty over the water cooler and say most sales wins, but what about tomorrow? And the next day? Seems like that would get expensive. And what happens when you don’t put up the bill one day? Chills. But a creative boss can do better (and probably save a little dough along the way) by creating a unique game experience with a board game that is tailor fit to your business. Many companies use custom board games for corporate retreats, team-building activities, meeting a sales goal, or even as a holiday bonus. Later we can get into ideas for customized incentive games, but for now, let’s talk about the universal rules for business owners considering customized incentive games.
This should be an obvious element of customized incentive games. Customized means personalized. A game that is made specifically for your business or trade. Let’s look at the Monopoly model. A standard chipboard game board with a border of squares where players need to progress. If you owned a restaurant, you wouldn’t fill the squares with goals like Be Positive or Promote Synergy. You would want something like Sell 5 Desserts in One Shift, or Sell 3 Bottles of Wine. Be specific. A good game shouldn’t have wiggle room. And while we’re being personal, consider adding some inside jokes or an experience unique to your business.
Nobody likes an unfair game. Customized incentive games are no exception. Incentives are always pretty tensile. Some employees are content with their performance and don’t want to be pushed. But a game that’s fun is contagious. Competition is contagious. Know what isn’t contagious? An impossible goal. No server is going to sell 20 bottles of wine in one night, or 20 cars in a day. A game like that is over before it even begins.
Another problem with taping a twenty over the water cooler? There’s nothing to do. Except your job, of course. But how’s that incentivizing? It’s important to get up out of your chair, especially in an office setting. Even the smallest excuse to be less sedentary is a win. If you’re a CEO of a chain, consider sending a customized incentive game to every branch of your business. Something that can be set up at the front of the office. After a few people get up to move that piece, everyone will want the chance.
Just like any game at a retail store, the package needs to sell. Your employees won’t be sold on a piece of paper tacked to the wall. That’s about as memorable as a staff meeting. Use the opportunities of a customized incentive game to really wow your staff. A durable chipboard game with turned edge printing gives the game a real feel. Like they’re playing a real game. Playing to win.
Which brings me to the biggest rule: the payout. Maybe it’s money. Maybe it’s a free night’s stay at a hotel. Heck, maybe it’s a pair of socks. Whatever the payout is, make sure you can actually pay it out. You customized incentive game is only as good as your word. And if you promise winnings that can’t be paid, you lose the trust of your employees. You get one shot. If your incentive game doesn’t deliver on its promise, nobody will play again.
Experts estimate that 70% of the world’s top performing businesses use gamification to boost their sales. It is a proven method for improving productivity. And it isn’t just for employees. Elements of gamification can be geared towards consumers as well.