As many of you probably know, I only have limited space for games. That’s why I very much like small box games that have a lot of gameplay crammed into a small volume. It’s also the reason why I have been reboxing games that come in bigger boxes, compressing them down and getting rid of all the extra air that came with the original packaging. I have written about this in my article “Box clever?” a couple of years ago, and this time I want to give you some concrete examples of small box games crammed to the brim and larger box games that I have shrunk down.
Let me start by promoting a number of small box games that I absolutely love and that really show how much game and how many components can be put into the smallest of volumes.
Starting with the smallest size, Mint Tin Mini Skulduggery by subQuark is really tiny and the lid of the tin just about closes to keep everything snugly inside. There is a custom metal coin, 16 white stone skull beads, 8 black stone skull beads, 4 crystal skull beads and 3 six-sided dice. Yes, it’s a lighter game that relies heavily on luck, but it’s a lot of fun and can be played literally anywhere. I’ve played it a lot with my daughter while waiting for food, but also with my wife on a small bench while we were out for a walk. It’s a wonderful game that shows that it’s possible to go small.
The Blessed Dark by Nathan Meunier comes in a standard size mint tin, rather than a small tin, so has a little bit more room for components. Again it’s packed brimful with a folded instruction sheet, 32 mini-size cards, 3 black six-sided dice and 20 red plastic cube tokens. The gameplay is quite strategic and will appeal to people who like a good mix of luck and luck mitigation with some strategy and tactics. It’s a lot of fun and doesn’t take up much room at all.
Of course, there are many more mint tin games, but I can’t mention them all here. Let me just point out Microbrew by One Free Elephant, which also comes in a standard-sized tin and contains a huge amount of tiny wooden components and mini cards, and the classic and ever-popular Mint Works by Five24 Labs, which is a bit taller, but also full of lovely wooden components and small cards.
Moving on from mint tins, there are a number of small box games, that come in cardboard boxes. The obvious choice here is all the games from Oink Games of course, which all seems to be packed with components and all offer different levels of complexity and different types of mechanisms, while always being a lot of fun. Deep Sea Adventure always comes to my mind, but there are many more in the series.
Again, there are a lot of games that come in a really small box, especially a lot of deck building games and other card games, but again I don’t have the space to name them all.
Moving up a size are games that are still full of components, with very little air in the box, while also offering a lot of great gameplay. Assembly by Wren Games is a great co-operative (or solo) puzzle game, while the upcoming Bots Up! comes in a similar size box and is a lot of quick robot battling fun for 2-5 players. Swatch by Minerva Tabletop is also a wonderful game that comes in a small box with very little air and is a great action selection game that will appeal to people who like a little bit of strategy. They are all wonderful for different reasons and can be taken with you quite easily anywhere – but for me, they are at the threshold of being a small box game.
So all of the above are great examples of games whose packaging has very little air in it, which means they take up little space on your shelf or, like in my case, in the cupboard. Yet, there are plenty of games that aren’t so great and come in big boxes, so they stand out in shops and give potential buyers the feeling that they get good value for their money.
I have been able to shrink some of these games down to a much better size. In doing so, I had to sometimes compromise, but the result is still a very playable game that you can finally take with you more easily, giving you more choice for games night. I will leave my biggest accomplishment to last and start with some games that are relatively easy to make smaller.
The Hanging Gardens by Hans im Glück is basically a deck of cards, a stack of tiles and a handful of wooden components. The box it comes in is basically your classic cardboard well, leaving the components rattling around. You simply take everything out of the original box and find a smaller one that fits it nicely.
I found these wonderful Wham boxes for cheap which work really well and have enough room for everything, without leaving much space. They have a milky clear lid, so you can see inside. You could probably also get a couple of deck boxes to fit everything in and store the game that way. Suddenly it is the right size to easily take on holiday with you.
I needed a Wham box twice the size to fit all the components of King of New York in. I had to print out a smaller version of the game board to make it fit, but that was a relatively small sacrifice. Game boards are usually the largest component of games and often stop people from trying to shrink their games down. However, there is nothing wrong with you printing your own downsized version of a game board, as long as the game is still playable afterwards of course. You’ll be surprised how much room you will suddenly have in your cupboard for more games, if you do that.
My biggest achievement to date is shrinking down the Carcassone Big Box (German version), which, as its name suggests, comes in a huge box with many, many components. Again, I was able to fit it into the same size Wham box that I used for King of New York. I had to print out a smaller version of the scoreboard and I also had to relinquish the Wheel of Fortune, but everything else fits in perfectly. It’s amazing and allowed us to take this popular game on holiday with us and play it with the family and of course it freed up so much space in my cupboard. It was really worth the effort.
There are more games I have my eye on as well. The most recent one is Splendor. It’s basically a deck of cards and a small stack of tiles, plus a number of poker chips. The box itself is huge in comparison and mostly air. It should be really easy to fit it into a smaller box and make room for more games.
I’m sure there are many other games that could easily be scaled down. I know, many of you want to keep the original box, because you want to display it and of course, that’s absolutely fine. For people like myself though, being able to get rid of the air is very important and is the only way for me to keep more games without having to stash them under the sofa or getting rid of games.
So if you’re tight on space too, why don’t you give it a go? What games do you have that might be worth shrinking down? Or maybe you’ve already done a bit of compressing yourself. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.