May 19, 2024

#UnboxingDay – The only dragons in this White Box are the ones you create – The White Box by Atlas Games

RockyMountainNavy, 21 October 2021 ~ #UnboxingDay

Bad boy me was finally catching up on older Mentioned in Dispatches podcasts when I listened to Season 2 Episode 7 “Teaching Game Design” with Rex Brynen, Sebastian Bae, and Jeff Tidball. Along the way the discussion turned to aids for game design. The White Box: A Game Design Workshop-in-a-Box got a big mention…enough that I ordered it. What I found was a tabletop game design kit that might be useful for wargame designers, but the components may be more suitable to wargame play aids than an original wargame design.

The White Box by Jeffrey Holcomb and published by Atlas Games and Gameplaywright bills itself as a, “learning, planning, and prototyping tool for tabletop game designers.” It ships in an unassuming white (well, off-white) 8″x10″x2.5″ box. The idea behind The White Box is to give aspiring game designers a toolkit to design games.

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The White Box…back (click images to enlarge)

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Upon opening The White Box the first items found are three countersheets.

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Very boardgame-y

The three counter sheets in The White Box give you 71 pre-printed counters and 49 blanks.

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No NATO symbols? But HEXES!


The White Book Essays is really the heart of The White Box. There are 25 essays in this 208 page booklet that cover many topics related to designing your own boardgame. Be forewarned…these essays focus on the business-side of boardgame design. There is very little in The White Box Essays about game mechanisms.

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Reading material


Finally, we get to the bits of The White Box. Here you find 36 wooden meeples in assorted colors, 110 plastic disks in eight colors, 12 d6 in six colors, 150 small wooden cubes in six colors, and six large wood cubes in six colors.

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Box bits


There was discussion in the podcast about what The White Box does NOT include. Things like playing cards or poker chips or even polyhedral dice. The comment was made that it is usually cheaper for wannabe designers to find these items locally. If you are like me, you probably already have a nice dice collection, as The Dragoons discussed in Season 2 Episode 3 – DICE! I also have hex paper laying around from years ago.

As a wargamer, The White Box may not seem totally useful. Can you imagine Jim “@TheGascon” Owczarski doing his Quatre Bras Saturday Night Fights on Tabletop Simulator with meeples instead of Napoleonic infantry? (ed note: not really, but it might be hilarious)  Hardcore Grognards who swear by hexes and counters may find The White Box challenging, but for those of us who enjoy “hybrid” waro-games (wargame-Euro) there maybe is enough here to get the creative juices flowing. Want a good example? Go look at Supply Lines of the American Revolution from Hollandspiele with its little cubes.

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The best logistics wargame available. Supply Lines of the American Revolution – The Northern Theater, 1775-1777 (photo courtesy Hollandspiele)


Am I going to design a wargame with The White Box? Hmm…good question… At first glance, I don’t see the inspiration for a full wargame in The White Box. What I do see is items that could lead to play aids for wargames. How many times do little “bling” items like Litko flame markers or even simple translucent bingo chips to mark VP hexes make playing a wargame so much easier? There is a bit of a market for, uh, aftermarket play aids as the Downtown Aircraft cards for GMT Games’ Downtown available from The GameCrafter shows us.

[I hope many of you got the dragon reference in the title. For those of you who did not the original 1975 Dungeons & Dragons is called The White Box. Wayne’s Books has a great photo essay on the product.]

Thanks for joining us for #UnboxingDay this month with the Armchair Dragoons and we hope you got your rocks off ogling our new toys.
You can always leave us your feedback in our #UnboxingDay thread, or in the comment area on this article, below.
The regiment also occasionally musters on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and occasionally at a convention near you, like Origins.

One thought on “#UnboxingDay – The only dragons in this White Box are the ones you create – The White Box by Atlas Games

  1. I don’t know what you paid for this, but I imagine you could order the same stuff in a box from Gamecrafter.
    I’ve built up a large collection of these bits myself from thrifted and partial games!
    Except for the essays, which are maybe blog posts originally?
    A good basic book for people to look at is TABLETOP by Greg Costikyan and many others; PDF version is free.
    The look of the project reminded me of “504”, which was another bold DIY idea whose purpose seems to have escaped people’s ken.

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