Game Design

The White Box Essays: A Recommended Buy

Jeremy Holcomb is a professor of game design any the DigiPen Institute of Technology. He has a wealth of experience with the full spectrum of idea-to-publish tabletop design. His insight is as paramount to the industry as the likes of the founders of “indie-giants” like Stonemaier and Leder Games. Enter The White Box Essays: a collection of pieces that shine a light on every aspect of game design.

You mean, “step 1” make game “step 2” play game?

It’s a little more complicated than that. From ideation to prototyping and playtesting cycles, to how you might go about settling on theme, complexity, mechanics, and most importantly: the emotional charge of the player interactions that you want to cultivate in your game—The White Box Essays has think pieces on most of the facets of critical thought on making your tabletop game strong.

Sounds like you forked over money for things that you could google

This book is also critical on some of the more controversial topics in board games, like inclusion and diversity. It invites designers to think about who they might be inadvertently excluding from their game.

  • Is the artwork diverse and inclusive of all peoples of the world?
  • Could the theme of your game potentially be offensive to some people?
  • How accessible is your game for people (e.g. the hard of seeing, hearing, or colorblind people who might want to play)?

These are questions that I weigh heavily as I develop my game. These are also all topics that most of the other big names in game design (some of whom I’ve mentioned above) are library volume levels of quiet on.

Taking no stance on encouraging more diversity in your community is, in my opinion, just as bad as opposing it.

Even doing simple things, like following people on twitter who are of a different race, sexual orientation, gender, and who are in a different geographical location than you are can help you understand a different voice. This makes your thematic storytelling more interesting at the least, at the most it helps welcome other intelligent people into a community that desperately needs it. (Can we not have another “middle eastern traveling merchant” themed market game?)

So you’re recommending that I buy a book, that’s the worst board game ever!

You also do get some generic assets which may come in handy when designing your game. I’d like this point, though:

Don’t buy The White Box for the assets, buy it for the White Box Essays it contains.

You can find almost all of these assets for a lot better price point and in greater bulk at your neighborhood board game store or on amazon.

Regardless, here’s what you get in the white box:

  • The White Box Essays, a book of 25 essays on game design and production
  • 3 counter sheets with 71 pre-printed and 49 blank counters (chits)
  • 150 small wooden cubes in six colors
  • 36 wooden meeples in six colors
  • 6 giant wooden cubes in six colors (this one’s actually a little harder to find)
  • 12 six-sided dice in six colors
  • 110 plastic disks in eight colors

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Jeremy Holcomb, Atlas Games, Gameplaywright, or any other company or individual responsible for creating The White Box or any associated product to it.

Link to purchase The White Box.

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