What’s in a Box?
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?
Settlers of Catan
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.
King of Tokyo
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.