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Board Game Inserts – Good And Bad

board game inserts cubitos

Today’s blog is going to be something a little different. It’s not a review, or a how to play, or anything I’d normally put out. This is more a bunch of thoughts about a specific topic. Sounds fun, right? Perhaps unsurprisingly, my thoughts are about board games, specifically their boxes. Board game boxes come in all shapes and sizes but the most common size, known by some as a quarter Kallax, is a square box, around the size of Ticket to Ride. This handily holds all the components and gets them to you within the cardboard confines but once you get the game, you might open it up and find a surprise. I’m not talking about a missing component or a note from someone saying they’re trapped in a board game factory. No, I’m talking about the insert for the box. Something added to the box to make storing components easier or stop things rattling about so much. But as with most things, not all inserts are created equal. I have asked a few other gamers in various Discord channels and the Zatu bloggers for their thoughts and there are some strong opinions here.

The Worst Possible Option

Some games do away with an insert entirely, like Origins: First Builder, which just came to me as a bunch of punch sheets, a few baggies and a large enough box to fit everything into. To be honest, that’s not really a problem for me. It’s one less thing to worry about and print, so away it goes. One of my big pet hates in board games is when the insert provided within the box is not fit for purpose. The most common example is the trough. A folded sheet of cardboard set in dividing the box into one or two segments to split up components and make it easier to transport before it gets to you. In theory a good idea because you can put you board on top and everything is kept in snugly. In practise however, what often happens is the punched-out components don’t fit as sweetly as you’d hope. Cubitos is an example that comes to mind.

All of the components, aside from the cards, are stored inside cubes that were flat when it shipped to me but now have nowhere to reside in the box provided. To make it all fit, I slide these boxes underneath the insert, whereas I’m sure most will just throw it away. There is hope though for those who like to keep their games as provided…

Custom-er Satisfaction Guaranteed

A lot of game designers these days understand that players like to have a convenient way of storing their games that makes set up, take down and gameplay just that little bit easier. Search through a mountain of bags isn’t the most fun when you could be playing the game. Because of that, custom inserts are becoming more common. Dominion has a fairly simple one, just a tray of slots for all the cards to sit in and a cardboard strip that lets you know where each card should go, which works perfectly well for a deckbuilding game like that.

More recent games have started including inserts from a company call Game Trayz, who make custom inserts that are created specifically for your game and provided in the box. These inserts will give you places to store your components in an organised system and without the need for some extra plastic. Parks and Dog Park have some lovely inserts, shaped like a stick and dog bone respectively, and they give a nice touch of table presence when they hit the table.

Not every game has these though, so if you’re looking to make your own gaming life easier, there’s 3rd party options out there too.

Woodn’t You Like To Know More…

Some gamers swear by e-Raptor and other wooden inserts. These laser-cut inserts are usually very well designed, and made to fit the game you have, giving separation for the components and some convenient storage during the game. However, they can add quite a bit of weight to the game box which can make an already heavy hobby just a bit more awkward. I have seen a few out in the wild, usually at a convention or two, and they look impressive. Just not for me personally.

Folded Into One

As I get deeper into the hobby, I’m kind of moving away from new games and more towards exploring the games I love in greater depth. One of the ways to do that is by adding expansions but that has a similar issue to buying new games. It’s going to take up a whole lot of space unless you can fit it all in the same box. Some games have that, but a lot of the time, space is a premium. Even in a box like Tapestry, which is pretty huge, only has the space for the base game in it. UNLESS! You take a look at something like Folded Space inserts. Folded Space inserts are made of a grey foamcore which, admittedly, are not the most aesthetically pleasing, but they are very light and durable.

Like the e-Raptor inserts, FS gives you trays and ways to store the different components, along with a handy guide to help you pack the game away at the end. But the key selling point for me is that I could take some of my expansions and slide them right inside the base box. I’ve done it with Tapestry, hiding the Arts & Architecture Expansion right alongside the regular stuff.

What I also love is how easily a game can be set up with the different trays and how organised the chaos of a box can now be contained. Clans of Caledonia was one that really cemented this idea in my mind because this is how the game looked when it arrived:

Madness with baggies. But now, with a fresh new insert, here’s how it looks:


I’ve really gotten into the idea of inserts recently, especially after buying a trio of these FS inserts. They’ve given me a really calming experience of just focusing on what I’m punching out, dry assembling and then gluing the pieces. I get the same satisfaction from painting minis or building furniture – at the end, I’ve got something functional that I can use again and again.
As I come to the end of my thoughts here, I happened to check out Twitter and I spotted that Folded Space are now starting to produce colour inserts with art work specific to the game they’re designed for. Well, that’s something to keep an eye on, eh!