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Most misleading game box covers
(ɹnʎʞ)
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"Don't judge a book by its cover."

Cover illustrations are important, as they often give us the very first impression of something sitting on a shelf.

Even in the BoardGameGeek databank, it's the cover that comes up first when looking up a game's entry, as it is the game's unique grapical representation.

This list is not about which covers look great or awful, but which covers are the most misleading ones, meaning: the cover provides a very different impression from what's actually inside the box.

What covers are the most misleading ones ?
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1. Board Game: 1775: Rebellion [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:268]
(ɹnʎʞ)
Germany
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1775: Rebellion is the first game which comes to my mind here.

While the cover shows a nice-looking oil-painted historical scene, it also pretty much shouts:

• Wargame
• Complicated
• Boring/Dry
• Lengthy


I have to admit that I was also absolutely misled by this impression for quite some time, but the game is actually the exact opposite of all this:

• Wargame ? There is of course a wargame aspect to this game, but it's actually more of a "hybrid" game, as it also feels very Euro-y.

• Complicated ? The rules are actually 5 pages long, the rest of the 11-page rulebook are scenarios and additional historical information. It has been described as a gateway game, and for good reason (recommended age: 10+).

• Boring/Dry ? The game's dice-based combat system is very streamlined, clever and tactical, exciting and just fun. The way the game ends is also clever and adds tension.

Another thing: it's a beautiful-looking game. The map is big (48 × 95 cm) and nice to look at and while the wooden cubes are giving the game a minimalistic look, they are also easier to handle and their minimalistic shape enhances the overview. It's also a very colourful game:








• Lengthy ? An average game takes about ~90 minutes, but I also played games which were a bit shorter (60 minutes) or longer (up to 120 minutes). The rulebook also features a shorter scenario.
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2. Board Game: Abyss [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:331]
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Abyss is an interesting anomaly:

• The front side of the box does not show the game's name (but the sides)

• It just shows a closeup of a character's face (instead of the usual approach of showing the game's enviroment/landscape in the background ect.)

• There are 5 different covers to choose from:


The first impression most people have when they see the cover (and the game's components) for the first time is: this looks like a highly thematic/Ameritrash-y game -- but it's actually not.

The game has overall really great illustrations and I like the publisher's bold approach to release a game in such a designed box, even with variety to choose from. Still, it also gives one of the most misleading impressions in recent years.
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3. Board Game: Drum Roll [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1184]
Josh Bodah
United States
Cambridge
MA
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To me, Drum Roll's cover (and really all the art in the game) makes the game look whimsical and full of life and theme. However when you play the game it is very dry and (I felt) rather boring and uninspired. The theme doesn't really come out at all and I can't see this captivating many new gamers which the fluffy theme might suggest.
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4. Board Game: Hawaii [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:577]
Josh Bodah
United States
Cambridge
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Another very colorful box cover and art palette with a surprisingly dry game inside. Unlike Drum Roll I do actually like Hawaii and find it to be a great game, but the theme is virtually non-existent which I find very surprising given how beautiful the game is and how original the chosen theme is (island tourism)
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5. Board Game: Vikings [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:333]
Josh Bodah
United States
Cambridge
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I haven't played the game myself, but I know Vikings is a poster-child for misleading box covers. This game has nothing to do with vikings and is yet-another themeless wonder. Mechanically it seems pretty solid however the game is an auction game, not a game about sailing around conquering and pillaging. It's about recruiting vikings and placing tiles in lines. A very strange and misleading theme to paste on the game in my opinion
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6. Board Game: Loopin' Louie [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:729]
Nick Hawkins
United Kingdom
Willingham
Cambridgeshire
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This game looks like it's the archetypal 15-minute novelty, instead it's a fun family/social game for kids of all ages (I've tested it with 15 to 75 year olds).
I recommend keeping a copy in the cupboard cool
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7. Board Game: Clash of Cultures [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:222]
Rex Wick
United States
Everett
Washington
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Where's my freakin' elephant?!!?
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8. Board Game: Spyrium [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:520]
Mark Morrise
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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The cover has a Nicholas Cage look alike in a steam-punk world that does not do justice to the game's excellent mechanic.


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9. Board Game: Lords of Waterdeep [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:52]
Jordan S.
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Plano
Texas
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Impression: "Woah! Is there an epic fantasy adventure in there?"

Reality: "Wait...what are all these cubes for?"
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10. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:74] [Average Rating:7.65 Unranked]
Jordan S.
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Plano
Texas
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Impression: "I bet this will be a game about building and defending your kingdom! Count me in!"

Reality: "Why am I buying all these cards? So that I can buy other cards? Is that the whole game?"
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11. Board Game: Colosseum [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:367]
David Tinney
United States
Hamilton
New Jersey
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Me: Cool a Roman gladiator game!

Friend: Well yes there are gladiators in it.

Me: Sweet looking dice. We must be using these during the combat!

Friend: No those dice move the senators, consuls, and the emperor.

Me: Hmm... Ok diceless combat! Even better!

Friend: Yeah, there is no combat, but you do get your own colosseum!

Me: Ok, so we're not fighting, but are we at least managing gladiator battles?

Friend: You can If you buy the right event program, or you could put on a naval battle, or a comedy, tradjedy, or...

Me: So it's a game about managing a playhouse?

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12. Board Game: Helvetia [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:1034]
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A game about mountain climbing?
No.

So something in Switzerland...
Yeah, could be anywhere, actually...

Ah yes, I see now ... it says something about villages and couples


I love this game, but the cover ?

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13. Board Game: Dominant Species [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:49]
Chris
United Kingdom
Birmingham
England
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Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars, where you will be forced to drift aimlessly farther into the vast, empty abyss of space until a lack of food, water and oxygen causes you to succumb to Death's cold embrace.
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WAHHH!!! DINOSAURS!!! I wanna be T-Rex! You can be a Diplodocus and I'll rip your... what... really...? Insects?? So I'm just a bunch of beetle and earwigs? I'm... the *concept* of insects...?? in cube form..?! Oh man.
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14. Board Game: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:110] [Average Rating:7.63 Unranked]
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Super generic and boring cover, while the game is actually great and the card illustrations are absolutely fantastic.




The cover's artwork does look great (at least the small part we are allowed to see...), but as I said: it's generic. Why not show a party of different characters travelling together through a dangerous enviroment ? It's a cooperative game ! And the super broad borders take up way too much space.

This game has gorgeous artworks and it offers a tough cooperative challenge -- and the cover should reflect that.

Something like Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game's cover would have been great:

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15. Board Game: Hyperborea [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:555]
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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Looks like a dramatic risk type game.
Actually a bag building euro.
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16. Board Game: Sheriff of Nottingham [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:260]
There are Some Who Call Me... Tim
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Oh, cool! A Robin Hood themed game! Just look at that evil Sheriff of Nottingham with his sanction from King John! And all the other characters behind him! So... do we play as Robin and his allies (I'm assuming that's the characters in the background!) trying to defeat the evil Sheriff? Does one person get to actually be the Sheriff?

Wait... EVERYONE gets to be the Sheriff? And... take turns being the Sheriff? And it has nothing to do with the legends of Robin Hood? Instead it's about... trying to deceive the Sheriff player while trading and selling goods?

We can't even have an archery contest?
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17. Board Game: Automania [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:766]
Jake Blomquist
United States
Vestal
New York
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This looks to me like a children's game. It's not; it's on the lighter side of things, but it's a solid light-medium euro. It's still maybe a bit lighter than I look for in games, but it's probably heavier than any game they'd nominate for the SdJ they way they do it these days.
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18. Board Game: Koi-Koi [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:4241]
Josh Malbon
United States
Santa Cruz
California
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Napoleon is on the box.

It's a wargame to take over the world!

Uhhh...no. You try to match seasonal flowers and banners. If you do really well, you can match suns from different months.

Napoleon doesn't take over the world?

No he matches animals on little cards.


(One of my favorite games.)

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19. Board Game: Small World [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:193] [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked]
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It did not occur to me at first, but after spending some time in BGG's ►Recommendations Forum (meaning: seeing various people ask if this is a game they should get for their kids) and playing Small World myself, I realised that this game tends to give some people the wrong impression that this is a lighthearted game for children. Granted, the box tells us that it's a game for ages 8+ and the BGG community agrees by poll, but I disagree on this.

I like Small World and love the funny/whimsical art style for a fantasy-themed game, telling us that the game has self-aware humour and is playing on clichés and inside jokes.

Still, Small World is a surprisingly deep strategy game -- and an unforgiving one at that:

• There are 14 different race tokens and 20 unique power tokens which can be combined together, so players better start memorising these 34 aspects quickly if they really want to get a foothold in this game. Knowing which races, powers and combinations of both are better than others is essential -- and also dependent on the current state of the board.

• The amount of luck in this game is by design kept to a minimum, which means that decisions have real weight and should be taken carefully. There is a die in this game, but it's only rolled in specific situations (which are most of the time even optional).

• Developing a sense for correct timing is crucial in this game. Don't get too attached to your race. It's essential to know when you want to put your current race in "decline", allowing you to buy a new one with varying prices.

• Speaking of prices: victory points are also the game's currency, adding more strategic depth. Should I buy the really expensive race/ability combination or save my victory points and get a maybe less powerful race instead ? Of course this calculation is again influenced by other factors like which races/power combinations are actually available, the board's state, the other players' races, their amount of victory points and when the game will eventually end, with the round track being open information.

• While this is a game of open information, the amount of victory points the other players have is hidden. Keeping track of who might be in the lead is again crucial for deciding whom you want to attack.

• Kind of summing up my previous points: it's one of these games in which a new player will have absolutely no idea about what is going on and will be completely stomped into the ground while climbing the learning curve. A player who played this game 3 times already has a major advantage over any newbie, as he/she by know has learnt all about the different races, abilities, developed a sense for timing to send a race into decline and also developed an eye for what is actually going on with all the different players and their unique combinations of races/abilities.

Great game, great art, but definitely not a game for young children, even if the cover might tell some people otherwise. Notice what is actually really going on with the characters on the cover (people desperately climbing to the top, people getting pushed off the cliff) and you know what you are in for.
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