Rants & Raves
Ok, it's me. So it'll be more rants than raves.
The new games are in, unwrapped, opened, punched, bagged, etc. Let's take a look at what's cool and what's not about the boxes and components...
Amun-Re: Although a nice-looking game overall, it suffers from over-design. The publishers went out of their way to make everything too complicated. The plastic insert has shallow slots just deep and wide enough to hold the various tokens when they are carefully stacked together. A nice deep and rounded bin would have been much easier to use. The plastic used for the blocks and pyramids has white speckled imperfections all through it--similar to the stress marks you get when you bend it. I don't know if this was intentional, but it just looks like a mistake. The start player and temple markers should have been wood instead of cardboard stands. The player info cards are a nice touch.
Keythedral: A game with this many different part needs a better insert. The art on the tiles/tokens is very good, except the "house" side of the cottage tiles should not be so dark. A few of the octagonal tiles were put on the wrong side of the cardboard sheet causing them to have the rounded and flat edges on the wrong sides. This makes it easy to pick them out even when looking at the back. The "Keytown Mat" is only required because of a single Law Card! This is a ridiculous addition to the game. Just leave all the cubes in a single pile.
Liberté: Beautiful board. Nicely-colored thick wooden pieces and markers. My only problem with this game is that the insert allows the board to slide to one end and fall into the large compartment causing it to bend over time. I had to construct a cardboard retainer for the compartment where the cards should go to keep the board in place.
Magna Grecia: Choice of colors was poor (brown, red, orange yellow). Coloring tiles in the center rather than on the edge was a bad choice. Coloring the action tiles on the edge rather than just in the center was a bad choice. The box insert was designed with the unpunched sheets included, making a gap under one corner of the board that allows it to bend (another custom fix here). Like Amun-Re, the box insert also had over-designed places for the tiles. Bins people! Bins! Sorry, no good stuff here. I read the rules before I bought it, and knew I would like the game, but the physical designers seriously blew it with this one.
Die Neuen Entdecker: Average overall. The tiles are thinner than I expected. The box insert is over-designed. There are 3 tiny circular wells to pile the different-sized round tokens in. There are 4 shallow bins in a larger deeper bin for about 100 tiny pieces...and a cloth bag. Do the pieces go in the bag or the bins? If they go in the bins, they will be all over the place if you carry the box anywhere. If they go in the bag, why have the 4 separate bins?
Princes of Florence: Very good overall. Nice thick player mats and score board. Reasonably thick buildings and other tokens (could be a little better). The box insert is very good. Bins!
Ra: I've never seen the older Ra in person, so I had no specific expectations for this new version. Overall I am very happy with this one. Reasonably thick tiles, wooden suns, nice board. My only question: Why are the suns in a heavy ziplock bag and the scoring tokens in a non-resealable bag? Boggle.
San Juan: What can I say? It's a nice set of cards, PR-style roles and trade house tiles. Why the scoring pad and pencil? To fill out the empty space in the box? Does anyone use the scoring pad?
Through the Desert: Ok I saved the best for last. The best rant that is. I read the rules for this and decided I wasn't interested. After playing it online, I found I enjoyed it more than I expected, so I bought it. This game is a symbol of everything that is wrong with Fantasy Flight Games. Box insert: one huge bin for all the camels, riders, palm trees, oasis chips, and all the scoring chips. A complete mess. Riders: they barely rest on the camels. If someone breathes too hard, they will fall off. I had no idea this issue existed from the pictures. The oasis chips: they need to be shuffled and chosen randomly, yet the backs of them have a pattern on them that is not consistent. After one visual sweep of the back of the cardboard sheet, I could pick out all the numbers just by looking at the back of the chips. If anyone at FFG had bothered to play this game, they would have discovered all these problems. So either they did not playtest, didn't listen to the playtesters, or both. After my Runebound disaster, seeing the quality of Citadels, and reading reports on games like War of the Ring, I think it's both. I am inclined to never buy another FFG game ever.
People who design boxes, inserts, boards, pieces, counters, and tokens need to stop messing around and think for a change. A game is a single entity, not a mishmash of components designed by 12 people and jammed in a box. Talk to each other!