As someone that sometimes gets distracted from playing games by trying to organise cards and components, I appreciate a well designed player board. Give me cool storage solutions, organisation tips, and a clear reference guide and I’ll be your friend for life.
We’ve been designing a few games recently and have needed to spend time producing easy to use player boards and references. Here are just a few of our notes on some of the better examples out there. We hope that if you’re designing anything then these notes can help you come up with something cool and super usable.
What makes a good player board?
Feel free to skip this part if you’d rather just get to talking about games 🙂
There are some boxes that need to be ticked to be on the list of great player boards. Not all of the examples in this post tick all the boxes, but there are things we loved about each of them.
Keep text to a minimum
Want your game to be more universal? Keep the text on your board to a minimum. If you rely more on icons and common conventions then you can avoid issues with speakers of other languages or players that aren’t as fluent in English.
Keep with the theme
No matter what type of game you have, be it abstract or thematic, make sure your board is in-line with the style of the rest of the game. Keep it consistent and you’ll have a big head start.
Help make things simple
If spending some extra time designing your player board means your players’ lives can be easier, do it. Look at King of Tokyo’s board. Sure, the same could be achieved through health and experience tokens, but their solution is much simpler for younger players to manage.
Some of my favourite boards either give an indication on how cards should be laid out (Fallout) or outright tell you (Zombicide). For co-op games in particular it can be a big help for everyone to be organising their gear in the same way.
We all know things get bumped and knocked around the gaming table. If your board is designed to keep things organised, make sure it’s sturdy enough that everything won’t go flying from a little tap.
With slots for various attributes and gameplay instructions, the Contagion boards are well designed dashboards to play the game through. The petri dish in the centre holds all of your unused disease cubes, which suits the virus theme really well. The only thing missing is tweezers to move the cubes from your board to the game cards 🙂
Fits the virus theme
Keeps all your pieces neat and contained
Easy to use for tracking your levels
The inset cube holes and petri dish makes it difficult to knock pieces off
Soooo much text (but the game kind requires it)
The amount of text and the level markers makes the game look more complex
If you want an example of how to design a player board with minimal text that is still super easy to understand, look no further than Photosynthesis. The graphics are beautiful (as is the rest of the game), and the guide for players at the bottom of the board is easy to understand and refer back to. You can easily see that it takes 1 point to grow from a seed to a small tree, 2 to go from a small to a medium tree, etc. For a game that comes with a full English and French instructions, having zero text on the board is perfect.
Easy to understand once playing
Contains everything from reference guides to point tracking and a marketplace
The board bends a little over time
Looks rather complicated at first
Zombicide’s player boards are a bit of a mixed bag. The skull tracker used to track experience is a nice touch, though a little too easy to forget to update every time you make a kill. There is a place for everything, which I appreciate as I try to keep my inventory tidy, however most of the components sit loosely on top of the board. More than once I have accidentally nudged this board and found myself struggling to remember where everything was.
Includes everything a player needs
Experience tracker is easy to use
Gets messy once your inventory fills up
Easy to knock and have to reassemble
The Fallout player board is the epitome of “a place for everything and everything in its place”. The has built in spots for the perk tracking and effects that made the video game so fun, and the method for tracking health and radiation is great. The health is red, radiation green. If the two ever meet the player dies and respawns, meaning they lose their gear and go back to the start.
The only downside of this board is that it is essentially a punchboard, and inserting and removing the green and red pegs so often eventually starts to wear the board.
Potential for wear and tear
King of Tokyo
I’ve included the King of Tokyo boards for one main reason, the dials used for tracking health and victory points are so dang cool! Whereas other games would introduce extra tokens and pieces to track such things (which often gets messy) here we have those metrics designed straight into the board. They are also built in seamlessly enough that they take up minimal space on the board, leaving plenty of space for the great artwork.
Plenty of space for graphics
Dials sometime slip if not careful
Could benefit from a short player reference (there’s defo room)
Fog of Love
Fog of Love is a bit more unique. Being a two player game, a lot of the players’ components are actually integrated into the board. This makes each side of the board almost like opposing dashboards. This does make it a bit easier in that you have a clearly labelled space for all of these cards.
Integrated into the board
Little fear of being knocked
Clearly laid out and labelled
Not everything fits on the board (XP and traits are stored off-board)
If there are any other cool player boards that you’ve found in your travels let us know, we’d love to see other cool ones.