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Today I am reviewing not a game, but a box containing all the bits and pieces and knowledge to get you started on creating a game ...

The White Box: A Game Design Workshop in a Box The White Box: A Game Design Workshop in a Box

The White Box: A Game Design Workshop in a Box

The White Box: A Game Design Workshop in a Box

Today I am reviewing not a game, but a box containing all the bits and pieces and knowledge to get you started on creating a game of your very own. As many of our readers probably know, board gaming is going through a new golden age. Literally thousands of new games are being created by hundreds of developers all over the world every year. Many of these developers are regular people with regular jobs, who tinker with ideas in their spare time. It's not a stretch to think that some of you reading this have had an idea for a cool game at some point and thought about making it yourself. But where to begin with such a project? 

The White Box wants to be the answer. It contains a treasure trove of various pieces that you can use to create a prototype of your vision without needing to raid other game boxes or go out to a hobby store to buy odds and ends. I'll cover all of those in detail later.  Besides the physical components, you also get The White Box Essays, a 200 page collection of essays covering just about every angle of board game development that you could think of, and probably several that you haven't. Let's take a closer look at it first.

The White Box Essays consists of 25 chapters, each covering a specific topic like theme vs mechanics, playtesting, pitching your game to publishers, randomness, writing rules, marketing, and so on. There is a lot of ground covered here, especially on the business side of things. It should be noted, this book is not presenting as a step by step guide for how to create a board game. In fact, many of the chapters are presented out of order from how one might expect to read them. It really is a collection of essays, and not so much an instruction book. 

While the book does cover a lot of different topics, most are presented only on a basic level. Enough to make you aware of the concept, but not much more. For example, the chapter on probability and randomness, a topic which could fill an entire textbook, is only five pages long. I was a bit disappointed to find most of the chapters on actual game design to be very light. You will want to seek out another book on this topic if you serious about developing a game and want some guidance on the theory and process of game design. While I'm not aware of any specifically for board games, there are plenty about video game prototyping and the process is essentially the same on a conceptual level.

That said, this book does have a ton of useful information about everything else you will need to know to actually put a board game on the shelf. Topics like coming up with a sales pitch for your game, what to think about when designing the box, how to get started marketing your game, how to handle distribution, or how to demo your game at a convention are all touched upon. These are the sort of things that a budding game designer might not consider at all when starting out, and it's better to learn from someone who has already run the gauntlet than learning these lessons the hard way yourself. This is where the book really shines and shows its value.

Now, let's take a look at the bits!

The inside of The White Box contains a nice variety of stuff to get you started with prototyping. While it's all things that you could get at a craft store (except maybe the meeples), it's nice to have a little starter kit that someone more experienced put a lot of time and thought into creating. There are also a bunch of plastic baggies included for your sorting needs once you get going with your game design. 

Like any good board game, The White Box includes some cardboard pieces to be punched out. As you can see, these are generic by design, but provide you with a lot of starting points for designing your own components and basic mechanisms. There are pieces with different colors, shapes, numbers, and symbols that could represent any number of things. There is also an entire sheet of blank pieces which you can use to create your own customized components.

Here you can see a closer look at the bits and pieces included. There are plastic disks, meeples, small wooden cubes, dice of various color (all d6's), and a large cube of each color. While these pieces are nothing too exciting, they are exactly the sort of thing you need to create a prototype of your game design. Once you have the mechanics working on an abstract level, you can replace the cubes with barbarian warriors or spaceships or, well, maybe leave them as cubes if you're making a Euro. 

Again, while you could go out and buy all this stuff individually and probably spend a bit less, it is a nice starter kit that has everything you need in one box.

You may be thinking that there is one very common component of many games that is missing here: cards. The Box does address that with the inclusion of a voucher good for $5 worth of custom printed cards from and another $5 voucher for which can be used for custom cards or many other components. There was a note I remember reading on the Kickstarter page which detailed why they didn't include blank cards in the box, it would simply add to the cost with something that could be easily replaced with a deck of playing cards, some card sleeves, and regular paper. I think this makes sense and the box is not lesser for not including them. A regular deck of playing cards, which I imagine any gamer should already own, can be very versatile and fill in the gap here. 

While the White Box doesn't contain every single thing you might need to design, develop and publish a board game, it does make for an excellent jumping off point. The Essays will give you plenty to think about, especially if you have not done much research on your own already. The bits and pieces are perfect for your initial prototype and tinkering with ideas until you figure out something that works. I think this is a good buy for anyone curious about taking on the endeavor of designing their own board game. It would also make a great gift if you have someone like that in your life.  

You can find The White Box here:

- Joe Beard

There is only one truly important component which you won't find in the box, but must provide yourself: Imagination!