At conventions and FLGS the first impression we get of a board game is its box. A couple of days ago, I discussed the trend of supplying games in boxes larger than they need to be. Today I'm thinking about the boxes in general.
Euro-game boxes are a very conservative (small 'c') design school. They almost all have a large illustration on the front (cartoony if it's a humourous game) with the game name, designer name and the publisher's logo on the front. The sides usually feature the game name, publisher's logo and those icons that quickly show the number and age of players and the game time. The back tends to have a description, maybe a photo or a illustration of the game in action and the icons again.
What surprises me is how badly they're done. Really, some of them are awful. These are companies with large turnovers, producing in some cases millions of copies of a game. Yet they come up with terrible artwork. Now I'm not saying I could do better (at either the artwork or the design), but they really should.
Here are some examples of bad game boxes:
This illustration is bad.
The guy in this picture is round the corner! Only his hat is left on the front. Nice framing.
It's not all bad though. Here are some good examples:
Beautiful, nicely evoking the period.
Whoever decided to get an internationally-reknown Tolkien artist to illustrate the box (and in fact the game too) of the Lord Of The Rings board game was a genius - it's fantastic.
Simple and yet perfect - it just oozes theme.
When designing the box for Border Reivers I intentionally aped the mainstream board games - right down to construction method. I wanted people's first impression to be 'this looks like a professionally-produced game'. I know that some of the game components are sub-par, and that the artwork I've done also looks weak in a lot of places, but I'm hoping the effort and the money I've put into production quality will carry some weight - especially for the first impression. Some advice I got from the Managing Director of a chain of FLGS was: 'have a nice box - because that is what will sell games in a store.' Did I succeed?
I think I've done a creditable job, with Dad's illustration taking the bulk of the credit. Certainly the feedback I've got so far has been very positive. If you're thinking of self-publishing a game, and you wish to sell it in shops, I can definitely recommend spending a lot of time on the box - it'll repay you in kind.