Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, October 06, 2021
We need more Jaws of the Lion

So I got my copy of the Paleo board game yesterday, from Amazon, for €40 (including shipping). Also yesterday was the launch of a Kickstarter of another board game called Mythwind. If you compare photos of the components of Paleo and the components of Mythwind (core game), the physical amount of game you get with these two is about the same. But Mythwind in its most basic version costs €72 + €22 for shipping. If you go "all in", which adds a 5th character and miniatures, you end up paying €150 overall, including shipping. And honestly, I don't think you get 2 to 4 times the fun out of Mythwind that you get from Paleo.

There is a certain trend in 2021 with board games, especially crowd-funded board games, that the value you get for your money is significantly worse than it was in previous years. That has a number of reasons: One is that value added tax wasn't enforced much previously for Kickstarter games; the small volumes plus the thin illusion that customers "donate" money to a company and receive a "reward" back kept the tax man away for a while, but not any longer. For Europe that directly means everything gets more expensive by around 20%. Another factor is that most board games are made in China, and shipping costs from China have gone up by a lot this year. And finally, the specific business model of Kickstarter in which you pay now and receive your goods later means that companies need to account for inflation, and sell you stuff at next year's prices; which didn't matter when inflation was very low, but now increasingly plays a role.

These trends don't mix well with another trend: Deluxification. One reason Mythwind is more expensive than Paleo is that in Paleo the character trays are in cardboard 2D, while in Mythwind they are in plastic 3D. That has a cost. It also has a benefit, but not everybody really needs those nicer components. The game this year where this struck me most was Descent: Legends of the Dark, with a MSRP of $175. Yes, the game has beautiful, high-quality miniatures and 3D terrain. But a lot of people would have preferred 2D terrain and cardboard standees if that had meant the game at half the price. Of course, different people have different amounts of disposable income, and some can easily afford $175 board games. But I can't help but compare this with a triple-A computer game, which is likely to give you a comparable entertainment value / time for a third of the cost, and even cheaper if you wait a while after release.

One shining example for me is Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, which provides a half-price alternative to the regular Gloomhaven. Less components, but the same basic gameplay, and with the added advantage of being faster to set up and more accessible than the original. I'd buy Descent: Jaws of the Lion, but the original is too rich for me. I would especially ask makers of board games to always offer a cardboard standee version instead of miniatures: Not everybody appreciates miniatures equally, and not everybody can paint them, so to some extent the mono-colored miniatures look less good than colored cardboard standees.


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