How much would you pay for a boxed set game?

edited September 2011 in Story Games
I'm thinking of a board-game style presentation with everything you need to play, including dice, pencils, pad of character sheets, etc?

How much would you pay? $40? $50? $60? I'm trying to figure out if this is worthwhile to produce.



  • It really depends on the overall contents of the game. I mean, I've willingly shelled out $50-$100 for some of the FFG board games (Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness, Cadwallon, etc.), but they're putting a LOT of high quality stuff in those boxes, like minis, the boards, cards, counters, etc. And, of course, there was the Mouse Guard box set (*swoons over its greatness*)

    But like boxed games such as Dragon Age, the new Gamma World, or even the modern D&D Red Box, it seems unecessary. Most of the time they are using a box to hold multiple booklets that could've been printed as one book. Everything else seems unecessary.

    Almost better to sell the game by itself, and offer a download link for PDFs of character sheets and playaids.
    I would only consider the box if it needed to include specialized game boards or customized dice.
  • Dice, pencils, pad of character sheets I can manage on my own. I suppose it they were unique dice like fudge dice and the game used them that would be different. The things you are paying for in an FFG big box are lots of stuff you don't already have access to. I can imagine paying real money for a boxed version of Lady Blackbird with miniatures and deck plans. Though to be honest, one of the appeals of our side of the gaming spectrum is the lack of need for those things.
  • I paid, what, $75 for Freemarket? So if it's going to be as HQ as that RP game, I'm willing to pay that much. And if the components aren't quite as nice, I'd still be willing to pay in the $50-$60 range.
  • Depends on the game (for me at least) first, the contents/production second.

    This is a known issue in boardgaming, and different people bring different values to the table. I think Galaxy Truckers and its Big Box expansion is a good value at $120ish. I also think that designer's other major game, Through the Ages, is a bargain at $60ish even though it's "only a card game". But I think stuff like FFG's WoW: The Board Game is a huge waste of $75, even though it's probably got 3x the production cost tied up in it.

    That MG box feels to me like a $60ish value. The WFRP 3 box felt like a $50 value, although I think the retail on it was $75 or so.

    So...dunno! Indie games usually feel like rough drafts to me so I come to them expecting to pay less. The real standout work -- BW, BE, MG, AW -- in turn feels like a huge bargain. I'd have paid $50ish for an AW box with nice/reuseable color playbooks. But most of what I have feels more like they should be in the $10-15 range (as books not boxes, granted).

    Throw a price out there and see what the reaction is. Buyers tend to value expensive stuff more, too, so you're probably better off aiming high.

    Can you offer it as a non-boxed product as well, to gauge the public's general reaction to it? I guess I'm thinking about my WFRP experience -- the box drew me in but I had sold it at a pretty deep loss within 3 months. I would not have come in with such raised expectations had it been available as a plain old book-style RPG first.

  • I would pay up to $70 (with a few exceptions) if:

    - the box included everything I need to play (minus paper and writing implements)
    - it includes an array of ready to go scenarios and characters
    - it includes easy to use rule references for multiple players
    - I could start playing within 1-2 hours of opening the box
    - I can read the rules out loud at the table with everyone
    - it is a game my friends want to play
    - it is a game that has positive reviews
    - it is a game I will play at least 8 times
    - the components feel worth $70
    - I want to support the publisher's / designer's work
  • I keep thinking a box with front/back art, custom dice, and a pad of character sheets would be a great reward level for a kickstarer. That way, you could get just the book, the book and some extras, or the full boxed set. I don't know what the reward jump would be given the lack of economy of scale...
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: jenskotI would pay up to $70 (with a few exceptions) if:
    . . .
    - the components feel worth $70
    Yeah. Paper, pencils, and standard d6s will absolutely NOT achieve this. B&W character sheets that I could print from a PDF probably don't either.
  • I think my limit would be around $60, but that's partly because at that price or higher it becomes just plain cost-prohibitive in my current financial situation. And I will echo what others have said that I would want the box to have some pretty nifty stuff to justify the added cost. I already own the original Mouse Guard hardback and I don't have any plans to play it again any time soon, but I'm still tempted by the goodies in the boxed set version.
  • Some observations from helping to sell boxed sets for several years:

    1. It really depends on your audience. RPG gamers, in general, consistently overestimate their willingness to shell out for a boxed set. Board gamers are less reluctant.

    2. "Everything you need to play" is less of a selling point than you think. RPG gamers don't think in terms of buying something for a whole group the way board gamers do. They think about supplying their personal needs. A $70 boxed set that supplies everything needed to play for 5 players is an incredible value. It comes out to $14 per player. But many RPG gamers will balk at that price.

    3. My suspicion is that RPG gamers are more likely to buy individual components a la carte at a premium than pay less for a bundle that includes everything.

    4. The cost/mental stress of the production/assembly/packaging of a boxed set and its components is always greater than you think it will be.
  • Thor,

    Dude, that's some good stuff. People keep asking if I'll make a Mythender box set, and I think I'll direct them to your comments from now on when I say I'm not planning on it.

    - Ryan
  • Box Sold Separately. There's my business model. A small company that creates boxes for RPGs with licensed fronts and backs.
  • edited September 2011
    Thor's point number 3 is immensely important, I think.

    The particularly cultish nature of the Indie RPG scene makes it a much better bet to invest time and resurces producing premium content for prestige seekers than to try and produce a box set for a game that doesn't absolutely require it.

    It also makes reprinting a much bigger hassle, but I don't know if that's a worry for you or not.

    Finally, an obvious concern of me personally is that box sets tend to really ramp up production costs very steeply, which tends to make them direct sale ONLY items. I know that's not necessarily a concern for indie folks, but it does limit exposure and the potential popularity. Freemarket is the obvious example here; I'd love to push it in my store, (as would many other Indie-friendly retailers) and could probably sell a bunch even at the price point, but production costs mean the only sales Luke and Jared get are those they can generate themselves (which may be just fine, just wanted to make sure that consideration was on the table).
  • Thanks Ryan. All that said, if you can produce the boxed set in quantity (like in excess of 10,000 copies) and get it in the board games display at Barnes & Noble, you're golden.
  • Only if you are prepared to accept returns on unsold copies.
  • Well worth the risk if you can make the cut to be in that display. People actually buy from that display consistently, unlike the RPG ghetto.
  • Posted By: Thor O2. "Everything you need to play" is less of a selling point than you think. RPG gamers don't think in terms of buying something for a whole group the way board gamers do. They think about supplying their personal needs. A $70 boxed set that supplies everything needed to play for 5 players is an incredible value. It comes out to $14 per player. But many RPG gamers will balk at that price.
    Case in point: How people completely freaked out over Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition's $100 price tag. Also, people were really losing it over the possibility of losing components, to a degree that I don't think I've ever seen among people who play board games.

    Having dice in a box might be nice for people new to the hobby or if you have particularly weird dice, but I for one own WAY more dice than I actually need, and in a way I could do without a new game further bloating my collection of (for example) d6s.
  • Hey, Thor: Did you get Mouse Guard into that display? How?

  • So Ben, are you thinking of putting out a board game?

    I've thought for years that a lot of story games would do well as board games. The Mountain Witch struck me particularly that way.

    It is technically doable. I've been doing board game versions of my Engle Matrix Games for years. Now I'm doing them in small (3.75x5x2) boxes with color tiles, nice counters and rules. I did the larger boxes (11x8.5x2) with a fold out hard game board. It can be made to look good without tons of machines. 11x17 stickers, a 17" wide ink jet, a couple of kinds of varnish, and time. You can buy the boxes from Uline.

    As to what needs to be in the box. I've recognized that I like to play pretty games more than ugly games. I know it doesn't make sense but they prettyness of the Fiasco book cover makes the game more appealing. In a boxed game I want a nice board, I want cool counters or niggly bits, I want the rules to be real clean and I don't want to have to invent half of the game to be able to play it. If it's in a box I want it to deliver a board game experience. To me that means I'm able to play it within 20 minutes of opening the box - not 2 hours! I try to make my games playable in 5 minutes after opening. This is doable.

    Doing it DIY you can be in profit from the first game made. The only question is does the game maker want to do this with a particular product. It had better be good to warrent the extra effort it takes to do up a box and bits.

    Chris Engle
  • Oh I forgot price.

    $25 for a small box
    $40 for a larger box

    For $60 I'm going to want some nice plastic figures rather than card board counters.
  • Posted By: Neko EwenCase in point: How people completely freaked out over Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition's $100 price tag. Also, people were really losing it over the possibility of losing components, to a degree that I don't think I've ever seen among people who play board games.
    Also consider hearing that from hybrid gamers. I have heard gamers say things about RPGs that would apply to board games, and not say those things about board games. Which is to say: don't bank on tapping into the hybrid gamer audience.

    - Ryan
  • I figured out a price scale and then tested it against my actual buying practice, finding that I actually am not very price-sensitive. It seems that there are actually only two price-levels in my personal purchase strategy: if it's a small game (short text without overbearing cultural merits, basically) then I'll grow suspicious of the pricing if it hits around 30 €, and if it's a large game I'll go up to 50 € without blinking an eye. Anything above that has to have actual material components that justify the price, but it seems to me that up to that anything the publisher chooses to invest in production values is dust in the wind for me in comparison to actual design quality: I'll buy your small game for 25 € if I'm convinced of its pedigree, and I'll buy your big game for 45 € if I'm convinced of its pedigree, and that's that - doesn't matter if it comes in a box or not. If you're asking 80 €, though, I'll start looking at why you're asking so much, which might be a problem if I decide that actually, I don't feel like subsidizing your desire to have plastic miniatures in what amounts to a hex-chit strategy game or a hand-made wooden box for what amounts to three rpg booklets and some dice. As long as you spend the money well, price is no object for me with a game.
  • Posted By: Ben LehmanHey, Thor: Did you get Mouse Guard into that display? How?

    That was our original intention when we agreed to do the box, but not as far as I know. That's Archaia's deal (which is why it took so freaking long to come out). I don't think Archaia printed enough in the end to make it viable.
  • I will actually buy board games for the components rather than the gameplay. I feel like a decent game with excellent components can help an excellent game with good components be that much better. RPGs are different in that I am buying them to read the books and likely play the games. Anything I own, component wise, can potentially be used with an RPG.
  • Unless you're providing custom components of some sort that are mega awesone, I don't feel a box is worth the while.

  • 30-50-70 depends on what you get. i would look to how munchkin or loony labs games are priced i have quoted board game production before let me know if you want specifics i'm sure there are others who would know more.

    The most important thing here is that the game is not some book with a bunch of bits packed in. make the bits the game it's self. the book should be nothing more then a manual to use the bits, and even then you should just include a link to a you tube video that teaches people how to play.

    The least helpful thing any company can produce is yet another box set that looks just enough like an actual game to trick people into thinking they will not need to read and digest a book to play.

    the reference card trend is fine but really everything about your game needs to be bits to justify selling bits to people, character and scenario generation, setting material, all of it.

    at least that's my opinion.
  • Just to give another data point:

    I have recently gone through my RPG books and rearranged the closet they're in. The game closet is full, even though I added lots of extra shelving. Dozens and dozens of old books, only about 2/3 of which I ever read. And we have board games stored under the couch in the living room.

    A few years ago I did an indie game splurge and bought Dogs and TSOY and PTA. Those were the last physical RPG books I bought. And I don't have plans to buy more anytime soon.

    I also have dozens and dozens of PDFs of game books. To be honest, many of them are ones I acquired online without appropriate monetary compensation. (Yeah, I know, I'm a big jerkface and I'm making you poor. I do sort of feel bad about that. But not bad enough to cough out cash for materials I'm only using for tangential reference.) Mostly I either read those on screen or print them out at work to read (usually in 4 page / sheet booklet form).

    So if I were going to buy a boxed set game, it would be because I knew for absolutely 100% positive that I was going to be able to play it. And I'd be surprised if that was going to happen anytime soon. Maybe, just maybe, when my son is a few years older (he's 9 right now and participating in his first tabletop campaign - he first larped at 7, I think it was) he'll be into it enough to try out some random short game sessions. At which time, a good one-shot complete boxed set game might be useful. We're going to a gaming convention this weekend, so that'll be his first exposure to playing one-off games in multiple systems. Hopefully he'll enjoy that.

    So, to sum up. How much would I pay right now for a boxed set RPG game? Right now - nothing. If it sounded neat, I might be interested in the pdf to read through once. Though, to be honest, I would attempt to acquire it in dodgy ways. I know that's not what you want to hear, but I'm giving you an honest answer, which I figure is more useful than a comfortable fib.
  • Would it be at all viable to sell the game as a regular book and then sell the other components as an add-on pack? Put all the tokens and widgets in a box (with enough space in it for the rulebook and maybe a supplement) and sell the component pack to people who already bought the corebook. This lets people choose the level of price/involvement that they want (I'll spend $20 dollars on the game, but why would I spend more for tokens that I won't use anyway"). And you could sell the book through retailers, but only offer the components directly (if the profit margins work out that it's not viable after the distributor cut).

    You could always offer a bundle of both the book and component pack at a reduced price (which would be what the boxed set would sell for anyway).
  • edited September 2011
    An interesting question might be, what current games have been popular enough to support/justify a bling'd out boxed set?

    Also, would the Mouse Guard boxed set be as popular if it hadn't been out of print for a while?
  • Hey, Rob. All of my games (save one) are available in PDF for any price you like, including zero. If you choose to acquire it through demonoid and not the forge bookshelf that's no skin off my back.
  • I got the Warhammer box as a gift, and having used it, it would totally have been worth spending $100 on it (which is the list price) instead of trying to do it all with PDFs. I also consider Dreams of the First Age to be worth the $60 I spent on it. Both had some really cool stuff, both in game terms and in fiddly-bits terms. Wrath of the Immortals had the before-after maps, and that was pretty cool.

    Actually, I don't remember ever being disappointed buying a boxed set.
  • So it seems like folks think the boxed sets generally aren't worth the price, at least when they mostly contain books. Is that a fair sense of the gestalt?

  • Posted By: Ben LehmanSo it seems like folks think the boxed sets generally aren't worth the price, at least when they mostly contain books. Is that a fair sense of the gestalt?
    Yeah, for the most part.
  • Posted By: Ben LehmanSo it seems like folks think the boxed sets generally aren't worth the price, at least when they mostly contain books. Is that a fair sense of the gestalt?

    Folks in this case being existing, committed hobbyists.
  • Non-gamers see a boxed set and think: oh, it's a game! It will entertain me and my friends.
    Non-gamers see a book and think: WTF is this?

    Gamers see a boxed set and think: it's too much money for me to spend on something I won't ever play.
    Gamers see a book and think: I'll download it off a torrent and read it but never play.

  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: Jared A. SorensenGamers see a book and think: I'll download it off a torrent and read it but never play.

    This is so unfortunately true. Most of the official downloads aren't even that expensive, either. I've spent a little over $50 this last couple of weeks buying various game PDFs, including Carry, Hellcats & Hockeysticks, Cosmic Patrol, and Solar System, among others (seriously, I think altogether I've purchased about fifteen PDFs for that $50), and while yeah, I may not end up playing ANY of them, they were still worth my investment. It's not like five bucks is gonna kill somebody's budget (unless, of course, their budget is such that they survive off instant noodles 24-7).

    Still, with boxed sets, you're looking at spending $50 to get a single game. If there aren't any significant bells and whistles that go along with that, why even bother with making the set, even from the perspective of the publisher? Especially since boxed sets usually require ordering specific quantities in order to hit affordable price-points.
  • The only time I would really be excited about a boxed set, per se, is if the box itself was significant. Like the way the Vornheim book is apparently printed with playing aids on the back cover. And the way some of the dungeon tile sets come in boxes where the box itself is gridded and represents a raised area in the dungeon (and purposely has extra space to store more than just the tiles that come with it). Make the box itself a THING, and I'd be more excited about the boxed set.

    But if it's just a container for holding a bundle of books and maybe some folded maps and such, then I'd rather have it be shrinkwrapped so I have a better sense of what I'm getting, even if I'm only seeing the spines and 1 back cover.

    Or, like others said, bundle the doodads as an optional separate pack. Cheapass games used to do that - sell the core bits for each game, then sell a single set of tokens and such that allowed you to play them all (Not that I bought it. My mom went through our old game closet once and was ready to throw out bunches of board games. I rescued the useful bits for my "cheapass games box". Got all I needed. And I have these neat weird pawns made of wood with metal spheres at the top from some obscure game I never played - but the pawns were gorgeous.)
  • I think a box set is cool as a GM, but the player's book and other stuff only players need should be available separately. I'm excited about the Mouse Guard set because I want to see if I can use it to draw in my kids and more casual players to RPGing, and I think the box will disguise the type of game it is. But, even if they like it, they won't buy their own copies of it.

    The Mouse Guard box seems like a good deal for the price. I'm struggling a bit with the price of the Lamentations of the Ice Princess box set... but I will probably bite on that soon. Not for my kids to play, though. :-)
  • Depends on the game? I like boxes, but I can always make my own.
  • I love boxed sets, and Ben, if I dug the setting and absolutely everything I needed to play the game on an ongoing basis was in the box, I'd pay $60-$100 for it. You're a good game designer and your stuff has a real neat look to it.

    Now, if someone else did one? Well that's a whole new ball of wax.
  • I'd only pay for a boxed set if the components don't contain texts. As a french who plays whith frenchies, I have to translate every game aid, so if there is a hundred cards with unique ability texts written on it, it would be a hassle to make it work in french, and I'd feel I paid something I don't use. The last one was Misery Bubblegum, and although it's a great game, the french players always find it difficult to make their mind swapping between their hand of cards and the translation paper I've made. So no more. I'll wait for the french Mouse Guard boxed set, for example, because the cards contain lots of text.

    If this condition is passed, I can go for $50, $60 or even $70, depending on the originality of the components.
  • I think boxes are wonderful. I would pay $40 for a game I was excited about (Apocalypse World) and probably $30 for one that looked nice. As you can tell, I am on the cheap end of the spectrum.

    Last Dragonmeet, I put a Cthulhu scenario in a box: little booklets and two dice. They sold out, despite being priced much higher than most Cthulhu scenarios (£10 or about $15). Boxes do sell things. (I am happy to talk about how I put things in a box and where to get cheap boxes from.)
  • Hey, Ben…

    Is this a box which will make it easier for me to carry the game components around (to conventions, a friend's place, etc.), or one which will make it harder?

    Is each of those components somehow unique to your game, or you're just "padding" the box with perfectly ordinary items I could get anywhere else at a lower price, just to rise your game's price-point?

    I know posing such questions makes me look like a miser, but you know the truth is just that I'm quite poor.
  • I'd pay $40-$50 for a box assuming it contained: the main game rules and some other stuff, preferably cards, tokens, and maybe a map or GM screen.

    But honestly, I'd rather buy the rules and then buy a box containing just the non-rules supplement stuff later, even if the combined price was somewhat higher. That way, I know if I like the game before I commit to buying all sorts of accessories.
  • I would pay up to the price of a big board game, depending on the production quality of the game. I'd pay up to $50 for a small press, euro-game style presentation. I'd pay up to $80 for a glossy, lots of special bits, style presentation.

    I'd only pay more if it was something really special.
  • Something else to keep in mind: When it comes to direct sales, depending on the dimensions of your box, shipping can become a real bugbear if it doesn't fit in a flat rate box.
  • If it were a game I wanted, it weren't available or playable any other way -- or at least it made the play experience much better, and it didn't feel like a rip-off, I could pay over $100. I buy things I don't need for that kind of cash sometimes. I bought Freemarket for whatever that ran and I haven't even gotten around to playing it yet. I bought Everway for whatever ($30-40?). But I wouldn't buy just any old thing.
  • Given that I'm big fan of Skype gaming and PFDs in the free to $10 range (including kickstarters), it would take something awesome to break me out of that buying pattern. Not impossible, but it would have to be something that I know that I'd get some play value out of before I'd drop that kind of coin.
  • I've produced two boxed sets in the last two years. I'm happy to chat about the ins and outs of that process, but I'm not writing an essay here. Ben, you know how to get in touch.

    I can say that I'll continue to make books for gamers, but I'm making boxed games for the rest of the world from now on.
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