Adventures in Boardgame Creation


Adventures in Boardgame Creation

The members of team This Way! have always strived to be environmentally conscious — not just in our daily lives, but also in our business practices. Climate change is a really important issue that the world’s population should be taking very seriously — so when we created This Way!, we wanted to make sure that our company followed the same examples that we do as private citizens. 

But it hasn’t always been an easy process, and we can always do better…

We were very inspired by the 3-part blog posts put out by Jamey Stegmaier — a game designer/publisher we greatly respect — where he has discussed his wish to make all of Stonemaier Game’s titles environmentally sustainable in the future.

Wingspan’s components are now plastic free

We’re hoping to follow Jamey’s footsteps by working to make sure all of This Way’s games are also as eco-friendly as they can be going forward, starting with our next title: FOUNDERS

In the beginning, our main goal with This Way! was simply to get ICE made and successfully funded. While we were mostly mindful of which materials we were using for the game, we probably weren’t as purely environmentally-friendly as we could have been.

Look, let’s face facts: The only truly 100% eco-friendly boardgame is a non-existent one. ANY game, no matter how sustainable the components might be, will have some impact on the environment. But there’s always a choice of just how much of an impact it can make — which can be anywhere from just a little bit, to an excessive amount.

FOUNDERS will be as eco-friendly as we can make it!

For ICE, we chose to use recyclable cardboard and wood components for the majority of the game. The Deluxe version will also have metal coins, which are maybe not as eco-friendly as wood, but certainly way better than plastic. 

For transparency, here are the places where plastic will still show up in the game of ICE:

  • There will be plastic shrink-wrap on the cards and outer box. (Honestly there hasn’t been many satisfying alternatives to shrink-wrap created yet, but we’re told that they’re coming!)
  • The main source of plastic will be the vac-form insert for the Deluxe game.
  • We also added a small guitar-pick to our Deluxe pledges (white, with a simplified version of our logo) to be used as a “pick” to more easily remove tiles when doing the excavating action in the game. In all of our own plays, we’ve never felt the need for such a tool — but we knew backers would appreciate this free gift. However, it was an unnecessary addition that we still wonder if we should have included. We are thankful it is at least small!

We intend to do even better for our future titles — and we’re excited to learn that our manufacturer, Panda Games, is now offering “all FSC-certified materials” if a publisher chooses to use them. That’s amazing news! (FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests).

But while we have the best intentions for our own products, we recently had an internal struggle regarding our purchase of other games.  

CMON Games recently launched their Dune: War For Arrakis game on Kickstarter. As massive fans of anything related to the Dune IP, we were VERY excited for this project, and it was an insta-back for us — our first-ever CMON game! We were even possibly considering using it for one of our “Campaign We Love” posts for Instagram. However, CMON is also known for their very miniature-heavy games. Absolutely beautiful sculpts, for sure — but this game will come with at least 129 pieces of… plastic. So are we being hypocritical by supporting such a project, when we plan to do everything we can to be environmentally-friendly with our own games?

We’re absolutely not trying to plastic-shame CMON here — a very popular and successful company with a proven track record of great games. We’d be very happy to have even a fraction of their great success as a company. Nor are we trying to shame gamers who buy and appreciate miniature games. We’ve just told you all that we’re backing CMON’s Dune game ourselves. We also bought the upgrade pack for Dune: Imperium (more plastic). And our Head of Communications, Anton, backed another CMON game — Marvel United: X-Men — because of his huge love for that IP. (Normally he tries to avoid minis too, but couldn’t resist a game involving his favorite mutants).

This game looks so cool! But oh… so much plastic! 🙈

So would our game ICE have been more successful had we offered sculpted minis instead of meeples? Possibly. We’re aware of the huge popularity of minis, and the correlation they have to hugely funded Kickstarter campaigns. We completely understand new companies who want to emulate the success of publishers like CMON, Awaken Realms, and the like. We totally get it.

But at the end of the day, we (This Way!) need to consider the impact that our products have on the planet, even if it means we’re possibly losing out on a big segment of gamers that collect minis (especially the wonderfully artistic gamers who love to paint them — we’re always so impressed with what they can do!). 

We agree there are some games that might benefit from minis, but we personally have a preference for the irresistible charm of wooden meeples. (And we know there’s an ever-growing segment of gamers who prefer them too). Even companies like Awaken Realms have offered meeple versions of some games (their Great Wall game had almost a 1/3 of backers opting for wooden meeples over plastic minis). It’s wonderful to see this trend continue, and we’re hopeful to see it grow even more. (Minis will not go away, though we sincerely hope a more sustainable solution can be found for producing them one day).

An inspiring new game… and way to manufacture…

In the meantime, we are thrilled to see a lot of campaigns in the past year that have promoted their sustainability. Recently, the Daybreak campaign has launched on Backerkit (co-created by Pandemic designer Matt Leacock), which not only uses environmentally-friendly materials, but the theme is even about fighting climate change! 

We’d love to know from our fans their opinion on eco-friendly boardgames, and whether sustainability is important to you as a consumer or not. Please partake in our poll below, or let us know what you think on our social media channels!

— The This Way! team

OPTION A: It’s VERY important to me. I refuse to buy a game that has any plastic! 

OPTION B: It’s somewhat important, and I like to support games that are sustainable when I can, but it doesn’t stop me from buying non-eco-friendly games too.

OPTION C: I’m indifferent. A game’s sustainability is neither a selling point nor a deal-breaker. 

OPTION D: I love miniatures way too much and will always buy them! Sorry!