Just like with art, while great components don’t make up for poor game design, they can enhance the experience and make a good game even better. Opening any of the games below can truly impress when people see what’s included in the box.
#5 – Mythe: Pop-up board & sacred cheese
For a small box push-your-luck game, Mythe has some impressive components: in particular, the metal sacred cheese piece and the unique pop-up board. The art on the board matches that of the over-sized cards, bright and colourful which meshes beautifully with the pop-up construction. Add in the sweet dragon and mice meeples and the metal sacred cheese (which has no actual in-game function), and this tiny box conceals a beautiful production. The game itself is a fun push-your-luck that involves choosing your cards out of other people’s hands making the real meat of the game trying to read your opponents and guess where they’ve hidden the good stuff.
#4 – Riff Raff: the boat
Dexterity games tend to draw a crowd, partially due to often exuberant play, but also due to the fact that they tend to look pretty interesting on the table. Among dexterity games, Riff Raff is probably the most impressive, thanks to the teetering, ever-rolling boat that players are attempting to load with their cargo. It takes a bit of time to assemble, but once put together, this game is guaranteed to draw a crowd of onlookers.
I love this game so much, even it usually involves Kit and/or Chris singing at the table (they have various song variations about dirt). Players are turn of the century archeologists attempting to find artifacts at various dig sites, and once they’ve gained the knowledge needed to start excavations, that’s when the awesome components come in. Players use a wheel to determine how much they will dig based on their knowledge and the time they want to commit – these dials are super nice, spinning easily and everyone seems to love using them. Once they’ve decided on their dig parameters, the player then grabs the beautifully printed bag, edged in the colour of the dig site and pulls tokens, hoping for treasure but likely finding sand. The dials and fancy bags could be replaced by a reference table and blank coloured bags, but the fact that they’re so much nicer makes a great game even better.
#2 – Potion Explosion: the ingredient dispenser
Potion Explosion is a really fun physical implementation of a match-3 video game that uses a central ingredient dispenser as a source of marbles. The four colours of marbles roll down channels, clacking together satisfyingly when others are removed, and providing the possibility of escalating “explosions” and thus more resources for the harvesting player. The whole construction is impressive, and I was even more impressed when I realized it could be assembled in one of two different styles depending on which faces of the punch out pieces you left visible, letting you create either a pristine dispenser, or one where the artwork featured cracks and wear to make it look well-used.
#1 – Mechs vs. Minions: everything!
Mechs vs. Minions from Riot Games exploded onto the gaming scene and the production values of every single component were extremely impressive, especially combined with the game’s price tag. From the intricate, pre-painted player mech figures to the handfuls upon handfuls on minions (multiple sculpts!) to the use of spot-gloss on the gloriously thick map tiles, everything was beautifully done. Add in the metal rune coins & gears, the perfectly designed sealed mission envelopes, and the custom inserts keeping everything in place, and this box was a dream to open and explore. The fact that the game is super fun to play made it almost unfair to everyone else who released a game around the same time.