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  • Essays
  • Dented Replacements - the Issue with Replacement Parts for Board Games

Dented Replacements - the Issue with Replacement Parts for Board Games

O Updated
Dented Replacements - the Issue with Replacement Parts for Board Games
There Will Be Games

Inspired by a Twitter post from Matt at Lost My Meeples, I wanted to talk about what I think a publisher's responsibilities are when it comes to replacing board game components. I think there are some things we will all agree on that a publisher should replace and others where we probably all agree that a publisher doesn't have to send replacements. There will also be plenty of things somewhere in between, that sit in a grey area somewhere and aren't so clear-cut.

In the post, Matt showed a picture of a slightly dented board game box and asked for a respectful discussion about whether or not people thought that the publisher should send a replacement box. Matt explains that "to send the box alone would cost $19" and adds that he intends to help the customer. He just wanted to see what people thought. The dent looks quite minimal. It also sounds like nothing else is missing or broken and the game is perfectly playable and enjoyable.

Rather than tell you what I think, let me leave this case with you for now. I will discuss this and similar edge cases later in the article. In the meantime, maybe you can think about how you would deal with the situation. Let the case of the dinged box percolate for a bit.

The Good

Instead, let's talk about situations that I think we all agree on - and when I say "all", I mean customers and publishers alike.

The most obvious and probably most common situation is missing components. I have not come across a single publisher who refused to send out replacements. That's based on my personal experience and what I have heard from others. As long as I could prove I owned the game, missing pieces have always been sent out free of charge.

In fact, I can name quite a few publishers who go above and beyond, if you ask nicely. For example, I've asked for replacement parts that I damaged myself. After explaining my mishap, I was still sent new components for free. I even asked some publishers if they could send me components to help me playtest or as a present for someone. Every time they were very happy to help me. Granted, we're talking about a handful of cards or some simple wooden components. Even so, the publisher didn't have any obligation to help me.

So, on the whole, I think publishers are very helpful and as long as it doesn't cost them too much to post whatever it is you're asking for. They will do what they can to make you happy. When it comes to missing components, they will always sort things out, free of charge and as quickly as they can.

Custom resources from Seize the BeanCustom resources from Seize the Bean

The Bad

It gets more complicated when we talk about damaged components. If something is damaged to such a degree that a game becomes unplayable, then I'm sure every publisher will be happy to send out replacements free of charge. For example, the cube tower in your game is damaged so that cubes don't fall through or no cubes are caught and kept inside. Then you would deserve a new one. Similarly, if a game comes with a cloth bag for secretly drawing tiles and it has a hole in it. Then the publisher should replace it for free - and I'm sure they would do so.

Next, let's talk about components that aren't damaged enough to affect gameplay. Maybe there are custom meeples in your game and some of them have lost bits. Let's say one or two deer meeples have lost an antler. They look ugly, but there is no detrimental effect on gameplay. You can still count how many deer there are and the antlers don't have a point value or anything. So the question now is, whether a publisher should send out replacements.

Most publishers will probably be happy to send out new deer meeples to replace the damaged ones. They'll even do it free of charge. That's great and I would be very pleased if my deer all had antlers, but it does start to take us into a grey area. After all, sending out replacements isn't free. Publishers don't keep drawers full of components to send out to customers. Most of the time, they will have to break into a complete, unopened game and pick out whatever is needed. It's basically one less game they can sell and is on top of the postage costs and the time it takes someone to sort out the replacement order.

The Ugly

So far we have talked about components inside a game box. Now it's time to look at the damage to a game box itself, like in Matt's post. Usually, when you buy any product, you don't pay for the box. If a box is damaged, but the item inside is absolutely fine, you can't really ask for a replacement. Packaging isn't covered under laws and regulations. In fact, if an item is damaged, you're not required to return it to the retailer in its original, undamaged box. You can get a refund or replacement, whether you've kept the box or not.

The thing is, when it comes to board games, the situation seems to change. After all, board game boxes have beautiful art on them. People like to display them on their shelves. Some people proudly frame them and hang them on their walls. It's as if the box is part of the game itself. If the box is damaged, it's like the game itself is damaged. Of course, that's not true and a game is still perfectly playable and enjoyable, even if the box doesn't look its best.

Yet, most of us want to receive our shiny new game in perfect condition, including the box. It's a reflection of board games as luxury items. You probably keep the box of an expensive watch and you keep it in perfect condition. The box is part of the item. It makes sense, because games are often not cheap and things that are expensive are things you want to look after.

A selection of cards from Love Letter laid out on the tableA selection of cards from Love Letter laid out on the table

The Conclusion

So it's no surprise that publishers are often happy to replace dinged boxes, even though it's not cheap to do so. In a market where profit margins aren't huge, every time replacements have to be sent out, it hurts the publisher a little.

Maybe it's time for all of us to be a little bit less precious about our games. I mean, yes, we can sleeve all of our cards and make sure nobody has greasy fingers while playing a board game. We can mollycoddle our games and complain about every slight ding or dent. We can cry when our custom wooden meeple hasn't made it through the production process unscathed. Or we could relax a little and enjoy our games. I mean, if you look at my copy of Love Letter, you'll see how much it has been loved. If you're a card shark, you can probably tell what card someone has in their hand. However, we enjoy it every time we play it.

I know it's not as cut-and-dry as all that and some people want to keep their games in tip-top condition so they can resell them. There are lots of things to consider and I hope this article has given you some food for thought.

What About You?

So, what about you then? How do you feel about dinged boxes? Have you had bad experiences with publishers? Have you not been sent replacements for missing or damaged components? Please share it all in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you.

There Will Be Games
Oliver Kinne
Oliver Kinne (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Oliver Kinne aims to publish two new articles every week on his blog, Tabletop Games Blog, and also release both in podcast form. He reviews board games and writes about tabletop games related topics.

Oliver is also the co-host of the Tabletop Inquisition podcast, which releases a new episode every three to four weeks and tackles different issues facing board games, the people who play them and maybe their industry.

Articles by Oliver Kinne

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southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #339492 30 May 2023 15:08
Dinged boxes - slightly on the fence here. I agree that it is just a box and for a ding or two I wouldn't expect a replacement in any case. But for severe damage (I received my Tainted Grail pledge that had one of the two boxes badly crushed on one edge, no component damage but i still asked for a replacement) I would ask for a replacement, especially if the box quality was part of the game package (as many kickstarters do).
And low/limited print runs on kickstarters, P500s, or just 'anniversary' editions where there will not be a manufacturer with spares in five years times means getting replacements quickly and/or protecting the components now is a new part of this niche hobby.
Msample's Avatar
Msample replied the topic: #339494 30 May 2023 15:36
As long as the game is playable, I can live with damage. Awhile back I came home from a con and discovered in my haste to pack stuff back in my car I had pretty badly mangled the corner of my STAR TREK ASCENDANCY box. Still structurally sound, I let it pass w/o trying to get a new one - plus it was my fault.

I totally get the expense for shipping replacement boxes from the publishers standpoint - an empty one takes just as much labor and costs only slightly less than a full game. I think I am more lenient than some customers from what I've seen online - some def think that games should be pristine when they are unpacked. Some companies do a better job than others at packing - I've seen everything from custom foam packing inserts to boxes shipped "naked" inside a USPS priority mail box.

Finally for years the gold standard in replacement parts was of course FFG pre Asmodee acquisistion. The customer rep who ran it ( Thaad IIRC ? ) was legendary for being responsive . To FFG's credit, they seemingly maintained a decent supply of parts which while garner considerable customer goodwill probably looked poor on a P&L statement.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #339495 30 May 2023 15:47
Thaadd at FFG was great. We had several friends in common, so I invited her to my board game events for a few years until she moved to Wisconsin. I think the first game we played together was Arkham Horror 2nd, just after the Kingsport expansion was published. Once, when I had a couple of gamer friends visiting from Indy, she gave us a tour of the original FFG Event Center (the small one on the edge of a cliff). She had her own workspace there, which was a small but very tall room with shelf after shelf of replacement parts.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #339496 30 May 2023 15:54
Yep, that was Thaad. She was great.

I haven't had any real issues with any company that I've talked to. I've had two really great experiences: The first was with Leder when a friend spilled beer on one of the cards for Oath. I wrote them and told them I'd be willing to pay for it and got an email notice the next day that I had a shipment on the way. They sent the whole sealed pack that contained the specific card. Another real highlight was with Gamelyn, as I had traded for a complete set of Heroes of Land, Air and Sea that came with multiple copies of a spell card ("Sleep") that was OP and had been replaced by a different one ("Petrify.") I explained that I'd traded for it, so I would've been glad to pay for the new cards, but they sent them right away. The "worst" may have been Grey Fox. One of the point markers arrived broken and the round counter went missing, so I wrote and offered to pay for them, even though I wasn't responsible for the point marker. Their S&R person took some time to get to it (he wrote an email apologizing because he was so overwhelmed) but did eventually send the point marker, but I never got the round marker. I wrote back to him a couple more times and never got a response. I managed to trade it without that part, anyway (it's just a cardboard rune token that can be replaced by anything.)

But usually my experiences are pretty routine. My most recent was with Restoration, as I had an extra of one copy of a card for Sherlock Holmes in Cobble and Fog and was missing a copy of another. I wrote to them and they sent it out, along with the base card for the character, both of them with gold highlights on the faces, which was kinda cool of them.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #339497 30 May 2023 15:55
Yep, FFG pre-Asmodee and Thaadd were gold standard. When the first BSG expansion came out we had played the base game so much that the (frequently used) skill cards had darker edges (pre-sleeving days .. well, for me) and when I combined them with the expansion cards they stood out so obviously in the deck, but after a polite email to FFG a replacement set arrived in the mail a couple of weeks later. And we still were playing the hell out of it as more expansions arrived, so eventually another email was sent to FFG saying that my board was showing heavy wear and would they be able to help a dedicated fan ... a couple of weeks later a replacement board arrived.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #339503 30 May 2023 21:16
I’m of the mind that you should pay for replacements. I mis-stickered C&C Ancients and asked for more blocks, and offered to pay the cost. GMT sent them at no charge. I felt badly. My mistake, should be my cost.

And games wear out. That’s ok. Virtually every part can be proxied, or can be used damaged or worn. Stop looking at games as museum pieces. Look at them as things that tell stories in their use, that grow over time, that have more narrative in their lifetime than they do in a single play. Write high scores in the box lid and note the person who got it. Name the meeple with the missing leg. Drop a scrap of paper in the box describing a world event that occurred on the day that you played. The next owner will get more out of that than having a pristine box.
Virabhadra's Avatar
Virabhadra replied the topic: #339513 31 May 2023 11:35
When a publisher discounts a game because the box is dented, is it because the game box is intrinsically valuable or due the risk of damaged components? Wouldn't it make more sense to shrink out the ding & dent copy and use it for replacement parts?

I barely have room to store my collection, much less "display" it, so I need game boxes to do two things: facilitate easy identification and protect the game components. Case in point, my copy of Shadows over Hammerhal looks like they drop-kicked it into the truck from the loading dock:

Miraculously, nary a spike nor spear tip were harmed. But it never even occurred to me to ask about a replacement for the box. Between the natural wear of shelving and unshelving and the fact that games of a certain vintage simply can't be found in pristine boxes, it isn't a high priority for me.

I sleeve everything up top to avoid the replacing components if at all possible, though.
jason10mm's Avatar
jason10mm replied the topic: #339516 31 May 2023 13:10
The comparison to watch boxes got to me. That was NEVER really a thing until recently when "box and papers" became a commodity to sell along with the hunk of steel (sometimes gold) and gears that was the actual watch. Watch boxes were solely for the purposes of getting that watch home and wrapped as a present, but now they can be even more elaborate than the watch itself, I have some the size of small suitcases.

Just like some games. Those old Avalon Hill boxes were pretty much ad space to sell you the game off the shelf and them the sole purpose was to store components and it was a guarantee that some corners would need to be taped in a year or so. But now game boxes are thick brutes you could use to build a house with, components are nestled within elaborate divider inserts, I often wonder how much cost those vacuformed molds add to the game versus how much curb appeal to justify the higher price point. Surely those empty spaces designed for expansions NEVER triggered anyones OCD to fill them :P

Given the often long train of overseas manufacturing from various plants, shipping, final assembly of what can be a bewildering combination of base game, ready made expansions, stretch goals, premium components, etc, it's no wonder that companies need, or should need at least, a robust correction/replacement service because mistakes do happen.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #339517 31 May 2023 13:14
I'm assuming the discount is because otherwise said box simply won't move. People will avoid a damaged package on a game the same way they will at a grocery store. But I'm with you: the box is simply the shell that keeps everything in one spot and can be known on the shelf. I have multiple boxes that either look worn (Abyss, Chaos in the Old World) or ARE worn in some fashion (I've taped my Cosmic Encounter box twice, since it couldn't take the weight of all of the cards I stuffed into it and split down two different corners (one vertical, one horizontal.)) They're all fully functional and do what I want them to do.
birdman37's Avatar
birdman37 replied the topic: #339522 31 May 2023 19:43
I got 40% off the retail price of a copy of TI4, just because the box had a ripped corner. I double-checked when I got it home, and everything inside was pristine. Couldn't be happier, and thick cellophane tape works wonders.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #339534 01 Jun 2023 15:06
So who here washes, waxes, polishes their car regularly ? And who gets scratches, dings, dents in their cars repaired/repainted ?
And in those who do, or don't, is there a price point of the car that determines if they do keep up the aesthetic look of it ?

Most of the cars I have owned the body has just been a shell to keep its important parts (mechanical and organic) protected and dry.