Pimp My Board Game

a pursuit of fruitless endeavors and endless refinements

Category: Philosophy

Why We Pimp

One of the main reasons I wanted to start this blog was to show off my pimped games and talk about how I created them.  After a while, I started thinking about why we pimp out our games and I found the question compelling enough that I’m starting a new blog series called, simply, “Why We Pimp.” In this series, I’ll focus on a narrow aspect of board game pimping and look at it from the philosophical perspective.

Of course, the biggest question is the general “why?”  Why do it at all?  Board game publishers spend countless hours designing beautiful games and yet we still want more.  Manufacturing for board and table top games has never been higher and the trend now is actually over-producing the value in a game. Take Cool Mini or Not‘s (CMoN) fantasy sports game, Kaosball by Eric Lang.  This is a relatively simple sports game with minis on a game board but CMoN decided really ramp up the production value by creating countless teams, each with their own minis and game bits.

Kaosball looks like your standard minis board game but if we look closer at the components, some peculiar things start showing up. Take the “team” of minis that each player can field.

Boardgamegeek user bumyong’s painted Malltown Zombies team

The team looks like your standard game miniatures except that big bust character.  It actually represents the team’s manager and that’s about it.  A big sculpted piece to sit there off-board and represent the player, for lack of anything else, in a thematic way. Pretty interesting production decision but the game doesn’t stop there.

Boardgamegeek user xcrun55’s picture of the team dice

Again, we have nice production value here.  The game includes these well engraved and painted dice but only that d6 in the foreground is needed.  Or rather, the two d12s in the back aren’t used as dice but instead, they are tokens to help track information on the game board.  Not a bad idea to use a big tactile piece that is easy to see and pick up to track the game state.  CMoN pushes this concept one step further and adds one of these non-dies to each team set in the team’s color.

So we have an example of a publisher pulling out all the stops to provide the user a totally pimped out gaming experience by adding production value that serves almost no mechanical benefit (or at most, redundant benefits).  And yet… we gamers still want more.  As you can see in bumyong’s image, providing beautifully sculpted miniatures is not enough. We need to pimp it further by painting the pieces.

Boardgamegeek user Minis by DJS painted up more Kaosball components

The pieces look amazing painted up but I believe it is not the actual quality or value of the pimped components but rather the user’s want to personalize the game in his collection. The user loves all the extras provided and enjoys the thematic non-functional pieces but wants the experience to become personal.  He or she wants to join in the experience of design and creation and help claim a little piece of the game for themselves.

I don’t believe this is just that the users wanted painted pieces.  Fantasy Flight Games goes out of it’s way to produce possibly the best pre-painted minis since now defunct Rackham gave us AT-43.

Fantasy Flight’s X-wing Force Awakens Core Set

And yet…

Boardgamegeek user Simon Andrews’ amazing repaint of the T-70

Big Pimpin’

One thing that has fascinated me in board games is the concept of taking a standard game and blowing the whole thing out to a larger size.  These “super-sized” or “Giant/Mega” versions of games are usually seen at game conventions or public spaces. I suspect this is mostly due to the cost involved in creating giant versions of the game and the space needed to play/store it but it also creates a spectacle and attracts a lot of attention.

It’s the spectacle that drives us to make giant versions of these games. It’s this unique aspect of play that engages the players and the audience in a way that takes something very familiar and maybe even boring and makes it into a memorable experience. For me, playing a giant version of the game brings me back to a child-like state where the pieces barely fit in my hands.  My movements are awkward and clumsy and I become fully immersed in the game itself.  It occupies a wide field of my vision and I am in the game as completely as I can ever be.

Giant games are also more engaging for an audience since the playing pieces and board components are large enough to see the game progress from a comfortable distance away.  The audience almost becomes the parent, watching their children at play.  The event takes on amusement as the audience watches these “children” play, even when that “child” might be your own father or an old friend.

All these thoughts were going through my head when I decided to try to make my own giant version of a game.  I had a dream to make a giant version of Fantasy Flight’s X-wing miniatures game but the cost to acquire large versions of the models prevented it from going anywhere. I still would like to try it some day as I’ve seen WizKids’ Star Trek Attack Wing in giant form and it looks great.

Giant Attack Wing

I was able to buy an old copy of Milton Bradley’s Broadsides and Boarding Parties from a friend and soon after, Ares Games released an Age of Sail miniatures game, Sails of Glory. This game utilized a lot of the movement rules of their famous World War I bi-plane dogfighting game, Wings of Glory.  I’d known that system well and with the Broadsides game in hand knew I had a good opportunity to make my own giant game.

Giant Sails of Glory

I’ll feature the full giant-sizing process for Sails of Glory in a Showcase but the experiences playing and seeing giant versions of games at conventions inspired me to strike out and make my own giant game.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén