We all have them – board games with boring first player tokens. We are going to highlight various boring first player tokens of different varieties from our board game collection and how we would like to see them upgraded as board game extras!
At the Gates of Loyang – Discs
For those not familiar with At the Gates of Loyang, it is an economic strategy game first published in 2009 and designed by Uwe Rosenberg. The game is set in China and involves selling vegetables from your shop to advance on the Path of Prosperity. You would think that the first player marker would be something like a huge vegetable or a large Chinese coin or a small Chinese dragon, but no – you get not one, but 2 flat brown discs (at least in the first edition of the game, which is the one we own.)
Now, we understand that production costs go up when you introduce a token or piece into the game that is unique. However, surely something other than a flat brown disc could be implemented without blowing the production budget or passing on a ridiculously higher cost to the board game buyer.
Here are some suggestions that we have to replace the boring brown discs:
- An enlarged vegetable – since the game focuses on selling vegetables, maybe use a larger version of one of them
- A Chinese coin – since the money in this game is represented by cardboard Chinese coin tokens, what about a larger version?
- A Chinese dragon – because, why not?
Artifacts, Inc. – A card
Artifacts, Inc. is a game in which players are trying to develop their own archaeology company. The game was published in 2014 by Red Raven Games and designed by Ryan Laukat. The first player token is a card. We have to say we are most disappointed by Mr Laukat in this regard. Ryan Laukat is a terrific board game artist, so why is the first player token only a card? Granted, the card in question does have the artwork from the game’s cover on it, but we feel that it could have been so much better.
Here are our suggestions for board game extras to replace the first player card:
- Scrolls/Fossils/Gems/Statues – since you are finding these relics in the various expeditions, this suggestion seems perfect to us
- Diving Helmet – diving is a large portion of the game as you are searching underwater for treasure. How cool would a diving helmet be for a first player marker?
- A Doubloon – some of the underwater treasure is in the form of a doubloon. What about a large version of one?
Terraforming Mars – A Token
Terraforming Mars is a scientific strategy game in which the players are attempting to terraform Mars by increasing the temperature, the oxygen content, the number of oceans, and the amount of plant life on the planet. The game was published in 2016 by Stronghold Games here in the United States and was designed by Jacob Fryxelius. Terraforming Mars is a terrific game, so why is its first player token so boring? It is literally a circle with Mars on it and a 1. A fascinating topic, but that is the best they could come up with as a first player token? Really?
Here is a suggestion list that we came up with for a new first player marker:
- Mars Rover – this is a bit of a cheat because we actually bought one from the Board Game Geek store to replace the cardboard first player token
- Mars – how about Mars itself as a first player token? Maybe a small sphere on a base?
- Oxygen Tank or Temperature Gauge – since oxygen content and the planet’s temperatures are two of the metrics that must be increased on the planet, why not have a token that reflects these game play necessities.
Ex Libris – A Marble?
Ex Libris is a family weight strategy game in which players are organizing their libraries. The game was published in 2017 by Renegade Game Studios and designed by Adam P. McIver. The first player token in this game is a flat marble. We are not sure what else to call the thing. It is just a flat white marble and we do not understand its relevance to the theme of the game at all.
Our suggestion for an upgraded first player token for Ex Libris include:
- A book – since the game is centered around libraries, this would seem to be a natural suggestion
- A bookmark – pretty much the same reason as given above
- A miniature checklist – this game comes with an Official Checklist on which the players record their scores. What about a miniature version as a first player token?
Board Game Extras – Are First Player Tokens Worth Replacing?
We have rather kiddingly suggested ideas for replacing the boring first player markers in games, but the question really comes down to is it worth the extra effort? For a board game company, it may not be. Production costs would certainly increase and those increased costs would be passed onto us, the consumers.
For the game players, the first player marker may not matter at all. Really all it does is mark your spot in line, right? For those game players to whom the token does matter, would you rather have a less boring first player token in the game? Would you rather have a token that you can replace on your own and thus individualize your game?
Personally, we would rather replace the first player markers on our own and make the game more “ours”. The thought of every game having a less boring first player marker as it comes in the box is a great one, but we think that the pros of the published game having potentially boring first player tokens outweigh the cons, especially the increased costs involved.
Do you have any thoughts on the matter? Please comment below!