Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.
With a background in Chemical Engineering, I just couldn’t pass up a game about creating chemical compounds in a lab. Compounded was successfully funded through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter just over a year ago by Dice Hate Me Games. I wasn’t a backer, but I am thankful all of the stretch goals were achieved so that there is quite a bit of stuff in the box.
The box itself is rather plain looking: wood grain finish (that is supposed to be a lab bench) with the name of the game with just a little thematic flair.
Just looking at all of the components you really get a sense that you are about to do some chemistry! It’s not a rulebook; it’s a “Chemistry Textbook”. The 5 player boards are each players lab bench with 4 testtubes where they keep track of their experiments. There are lab goggle, Bunsen burner, graduated cylinder and dropper chits. I think my favorite component is the scoreboard:
And as great as it is, it isn’t the ideal score track. The first dozen points scored in the game get a little tricky to score just due to the way the periodic table is set up. And the end game is also a bit of a challenge. The game end can be triggered when someone scores 50+ points – with the final scores ending up higher than that, often into the Transition elements (57-71). The designers chose theme over function, but I’m OK with that.
Each player has wooden pieces with stickers to keep track of various in-game information. These tokens along with the chits are on the small side but are quite functional and are easy enough to use. My biggest complaint with the tokens would be the Flame Tokens. They are tiny! They are easily the smallest component that I have in any game. They measure 9mm (0.375 inches) in diameter. I grabbed a couple of relatively small tokens for a comparison.
The middle bottom component is a relatively large(!?) coin token from Small World. In the middle top is the rather ‘small’ single gold token from Jambo and even that looks big. It’s roughly the same size as “big” components in Compounded. The small components were not due to lack of space on the cardboard sheet. Those bits on the left side of the image – the ones much larger than the flame tokens – are advertisements for the company’s other games. So this was a choice and a bad one. Supposedly a future expansion may fix this issue, but I just don’t understand how this was overlooked. Fortunately it doesn’t hurt gameplay.
The elements to make your compounds are different colored plastic ‘gems’. While these gems are found in many board games as ‘gems’ for some reason they just work as atoms of a compound. You draw these elements out of a high quality black draw string bag and you’ll be placing them on the compound cards.
These are all real compounds with their chemical structure. They also show the ionic charges of the different atoms and you can learn how these bond together. As far as gameplay goes, the cards have a few symbols on them and a score value once they are complete. The symbols are a bit ambiguous at first but after a game or two they are easy enough to remember.
Overall, I’m really impressed with what’s inside the Compounded box. All of the components are of a very good quality. Sure, the score board is a minor inconvenience and the flame tokens are just too small, but the theme of the game really comes to life with the components. I look forward to using this game as a fun teaching tool for when my kids are old enough to learn about chemistry.