One of the first posts I did on this blog talked about how board game box inserts can be so important.
The problem with even good inserts has always been “what about the expansion(s)?”
That’s a viable point. I’ve seen many games where the insert is awesome, but as soon as an expansion is released, the insert has to go away because it’s not designed to fit anything other than what came in the base game.
That’s why the latest “Big Box” phenomenon is so intriguing, because it’s basically releasing a box, with some extra content (maybe a few extra cards, maybe some card sleeves), and that’s it. No new game play, maybe some deluxe versions of tiles and such (like the Terrforming Mars big box that’s also a deluxe version of the game with awesome tiles and plastic in addition to being a Big Box).
Or you could do what Garphill Games (and Renegade Games Studios) is doing with some of their games.
Yes, this is a review of my recently acquired Raiders of the North Sea Big Box, and I have to say it is awesome. (see my review of the game here)
All of the Garphill games I have come in the tiny square box that they are known for. It usually fits the game perfectly (though Paladins of the West Kingdom can be a bit of a puzzle) but expansions?
The first expansion may fit (barely), but the second?
Don’t even bother.
However, the Big Box for the game comes complete with space for everything you could need.
Let’s take a look at it from the bottom up.
As you can see, there’s a space for everything.
All of the plunder (except for the six extra gold that came with the Hall of Heroes expansion) is placed in the drawstring bag. This includes the Jarls from Fields of Fame because it’s easy to just remove them if you draw them and aren’t playing with that expansion.
The space for the drawstring bag is a little tight, but it’s definitely useable.
Bracketing the plunder bag are two slots for sleeved cards. It’s easy to keep the base game cards on one side and the two sets of expansion cards (separated however you want, I have them separated by the extra sleeves I’m not using) in the other slot.
Speaking of cards, the big box comes with 200 custom sleeves that fit the cards perfectly and have the glorious box artwork on the backs. This is more sleeves than you need unless you have all of the promos and stuff. I had a bunch left over.
The one small (and I mean very small) thing about that is that the Jarls have a different card back from all of the other cards in the game. Once you sleeve them, they all have the same backs.
Since I haven’t played the expansions yet, I don’t know how much that matters, but it seems like a small issue to me. It could easily be mitigated by keeping the the Jarls separate when you store the game.
Having a separate space for all of the other stuff is very helpful, though. Not using Fields of Fame and wounds? Don’t pull them out. Not using Hall of Heroes? Don’t pull out the mead and the extra gold.
Having the center column for all of the various tiles rather than having a separate space for each set of tiles does seem to be a bit of a misstep, but since all of the tiles are shaped differently, it’s easy to tell them apart and grab the right ones quickly.
Once you have all of the pieces in, there is space on both sides of the central column for the player boards.
These slot in easily and, even better, completely enclose all of the pieces. They won’t be bouncing from one space to another when you shake the game up!
However, be warned. While they won’t be migrating to another piece’s space (thus avoiding a West Side Story problem), they are all loose in there so they will rattle.
Don’t shake them up too much.
On top of all that goes the main board and all of the rulebooks.
This covers up the center column and thus keeps all of the tiles in place.
Everything fits so snugly in the box with very little wasted space. A place for everything and everything in its place.
How can you go wrong?
I’m of two minds on the box and its artistic design, though.
Let’s post the cover image again so you don’t have to scroll up.
Beautiful artwork, but what the hell game am I playing?
The name of the game is on the side of the box.
This is perfect for storage, because when you go to grab it off your shelf, whether you are storing it vertically or horizontally, you can easily see what game you are grabbing (and really, if you can’t remember which game it is, maybe you have too many games? Just a thought).
Like I said, I’m of two minds.
The artwork is fucking cool, so why would we want to mar it with writing?
But part of me wonders if maybe the game’s name should be a little bigger, even if it’s not on the front of the box?
Either way, this big box is phenomenal. I am so glad I bought it.
I was a bit leery at first.
Why should I spend $30 on a box and some sleeves?
But then I realized I might be spending $30 on a custom insert from Insert Here (which makes brilliant inserts that are well worth the money, so check them out! I have inserts for a number of my games, including Village, Palace of Mad King Ludwig, and Royals).
If I’m willing to do that, why not buy from the game company and get some sleeves in the process?
Shem Phillips has confirmed that there will be big boxes for all of the West Kingdom games at some point, once all of the expansions are out.
I think that’s awesome.
Once the expansions are done, why not put out a way to put everything together?
Sure, not everybody needs it.
But a lot of people eat this up.
Consider this a hearty endorsement for the Raiders of the North Sea big box.
Now to go get rid of all the other boxes I have for this game. (Editor – “You heathen! You can’t throw out a game box!”)
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