Ode to Punching

Duel of Ages cardboard

Yes, all of those cardboard sheets are for punching stuff out.

The board gaming hobby spends a lot of time wondering how we can draw new people into the hobby. There’s discussion about whether one should emphasize the social aspect, accessible game design, or even if this is a hobby where new people belong in the first place. Those are worth discussing, but it seems to me that we’ve overlooked the most obvious draw of the board game hobby: punching out the pieces.

I’m totally serious here. Punching out the pieces is one of the best things about board games. My wife bought me Merchant of Venus this last Christmas, and it’s a great game. But the best gift was the 500 cardboard pieces I got to pop out of those cardboard sprues. I didn’t have the proper storage right away, so I dumped all of those tokens in a gallon zip-lock back, which was about the right size. Later on I got the wonderful pleasure of sorting and organizing those tokens into Plano boxes, but that’s a slightly different joy.

This is honestly the biggest bummer about getting used games, either in purchase or in trade. It means I don’t get to punch out the pieces. The worst are the new games where break open the shrink wrap and see that the cardboard pieces are already punched out. The most recent game that pulled this crap for me was Mage Knight. That game has a fair bit of cardboard too, so I was all excited. But no, all of the cardboard was wrapped in plastic, punched for my “convenience”. This is by far the worst thing about games that are produced in China.

Another screwy one is Victory Point games, whose Gold Banner titles have laser-cut counters. They’re so thick, they almost feel like wood. The weird thing is that they have a little coat of ash along the edges of every piece, so you need to spend (seriously) an hour wiping that stuff off of every counter.

But none of that has dulled the joy of sitting down and popping every piece out of it’s frame. This is one reason I sometimes like to wait until The Big One isn’t around before I open a new game, because that selfish kid will try to punch something for me. I’m getting Duel of Ages II to review soon. I’m hoping it’ll get in today, so I can put the boys to bed, put on a movie, and spend a wild night with the cardboard. I’m not sharing either, so don’t bother asking.

Image courtesy of user “Ryuu” on Board Game Geek.

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