Howdy Gamers! Have you ever been playing a board game and thought to yourself, "Wow, this would be so much better with a miniature instead of this boring pawn!" ? Me too! Well, sometimes. Playing pieces are an obviously huge part of so many games and can really affect how you feel when playing as well as the game as a whole. I've been thinking about that a lot, and I want to take a look at some of the biggest gaming factors (in my opinion, of course) influenced by playing pieces! Let's Gooooo!
Types of Pieces
There are a bunch of different types of pieces, and my pictures probably don't even touch on all of them.
Pawns are likely the most common, the kind of round based, sticks almost? (Not sure how else you can describe them I guess...). They're typical of older or simpler games like Sorry!, or Tiki Topple.
Meeple originated in Carcassone, but the term is now frequently used to describe any little wooden pieces that resemble people in games (usually used to take actions in worker placement games, but often used other ways as well). Some in the image here include those from Dicenstein and Deep Sea Adventure.
I'm not sure if there's a word for the pieces that aren't shaped like people, so I just call them figures. Be it an elephant, or a robot, or a dragon, these pieces are fun because they're often more thematic to the game.
Standees are like that in the top picture from Dead of Winter. Usually just people or characters pictured on cardboard and popped into a, well, standee.
I'm sure the points have been made pretty clear. Games can use anything from cubes to dice to coins to represent player pieces. Like I said, I couldn't touch on all of them, but surely if you really wanted to you could write an entire book about all the different kinds! BUT there are other matters to attend to here! Let's continue.
Sometimes what we as gamers may want for pieces doesn't necessarily line up with what a company can afford to put out. For instance, if a game comes with 100 pieces for players, it would cost much more to make those detailed minis than wooden cubes. Sure, maybe it makes the game a little plainer, but it does help to keep cost down for the publisher as well as for the customer.
There are probably a good number of people able and willing to pay more for the best and more detailed pieces in games, but it's just not possible for everyone. So, for plenty of games, cheaper options can be a perfectly great option! And, it allows those who love more extravagant pieces to upgrade games to their particular liking! (For instance, I picked up Villainous on sale at Target and hated the plastic power chip container it came with. So, I picked up a ceramic cauldron at a craft store for only $3! and instantly had an upgraded game!)
Like I mentioned, when a game has thematic pieces, like little pirate figures for a sea exploration game, it really helps to immerse you in the experience of the game much more. A meeple could be used to represent anything, sure, but I wouldn't feel nearly as adventurous in Arcadia Quest if not for the detailed miniatures with their swords, bows, shields, spears, and whatnot!
Again, the more detailed, thematic, and fabulous the pieces are, more often than not the pricier the game too. But, that engaging experience is usually well worth the price!
Not every game needs those thematic pieces, but they definitely can add a lot to the ones that utilize them!
One last thing I want to touch on is sizing. Sure, big detailed dragon minis can be super nice, there's no denying that. But, they simply don't fit on every size board! And you don't want to be picking pieces up and putting them down constantly just to see the board around them. On the other hand, sometimes a bigger piece is exactly what you need! In World of Yo-Ho, the gigantic table-hogging board is the perfect size for using your phone as your player piece (yet another variety to add to the list). You move the phone around the board and the map behind it populates on the screen. It's very cool and unique and again adds a lot to that immersive experience.
Overall, in my mind player pieces are starting point that helps to build a game up. They can be anything at all, but depending on the game a little can go a long way, or a lot can be the best way to go. A game can start with simpler pieces and be upgraded by different players, which is also a cool option, or we can earn tons of extravagant upgraded pieces through KickStarter goals, for example. There are so many options available!
What are your favorite playing pieces? :)