Wood vs Plastic: The Facts About Custom Tokens

13 July 2020 | 57 Comments

A set of plastic player tokens in Pendulum.

After I recently showed that Pendulum features 250+ plastic tokens, I heard a variety of opinions about my choice to use plastic instead of wood. Pendulum is already manufactured and will soon be available for preorder and fulfillment, but I value this type of feedback, and I wanted to explore the pros and cons of using plastic vs wood.

My primary reason for choosing plastic for Pendulum is that a few years ago, I heard some stories about games exported from China being turned away at port in Australia because the wood wasn’t fumigated. As you’ll see below, this is no longer a concern.

The greatest concern–and, ultimately, the greatest misconception–is about the environmental impact of plastic pieces. The fact is that manufacturing anything at scale in a factory has an impact on the environment. Wood, plastic, etc–you have machines and people creating waste. We have control over what we input into those factories, though, and Panda Game Manufacturing uses recycled plastic (repurposed wood is sometimes used, but it’s less common than the use of recycled plastic).

I understand that plastic is widely viewed as being worse for the environment than wood. Both have an impact based on their source (oil/coal for plastic, trees for wood), and both have a similar manufacturing output. However, wood biodegrades, while plastic does not. So our focus has been on reducing the amount of disposable plastic in our games, most notably shrink wrap.

Today I thought I’d do a side-by-side comparison of creating custom wooden and plastic tokens. I’m always trying to learn more about how to better serve our customers and the environment, so please note any information you’d like to add in the comments.

Wood

  • Price: comparable in price to plastic
  • Setup: minimal setup time/costs
  • Speed: normal manufacturing speed
  • Consistency: Even at scale, wooden tokens often have small variances in size, shape, and color, some of which is the result of the thickness of the paint on the tokens. This rarely matters, but it’s something to consider if you need the tokens to fit into specific slots (e.g., dual-layered player mats).
  • Customization: At a significant added expense, wood tokens can be deluxified by adding silkscreen printing. Due to undercut constraints, wooden tokens can’t be as intricate as plastic tokens.
  • Environment: Standard manufacturing impact on the environment–any factory has a carbon footprint. Panda uses pine and cherry wood for Viticulture, Scythe, and Wingspan; repurposed wood is sometimes used.
  • Perception: It seems that gamers prefer wooden meeples and custom resources over plastic, but they generally don’t care about the composition of other shapes (cubes).
  • Fumigation: Panda doesn’t fumigate their wood, as typical tokens are too small to contain bugs. Panda hasn’t had problems exporting games containing wood from China into Australia, and they can help with any required documents for import.
Custom wooden meeples in Viticulture.

Plastic

  • Price: comparable in price to wood
  • Setup: slightly longer setup time (due to mould making)
  • Speed: normal manufacturing speed
  • Consistency: Plastic offers high level of consistency in size and color, and it doesn’t break like wood can. However, plastic has thickness constraints–if you make it too thick, it can bend in the middle. So thicker plastic tokens are often multiple pieces glued together, and sometimes the mould lines are visible.
  • Customization: Plastic tokens can be silkscreen printed, as well as pad printed and heat transferred. Shapes can be more intricate than laser cut wood, and the variety of different plastics offer weight and density options (at higher costs).
  • Environment: standard manufacturing impact on the environment–but any factory has a carbon footprint. Panda reuses recycled plastic for their plastic components. A good point was made in the comments that because plastic doesn’t biodegrade, even though plastic tokens in games will hopefully remain in those games on shelves for many years, there will likely come a point in the distant future when most games end up in landfills. When that happens, plastic will have a worse impact on the environment than wood.
  • Perception: It seems that gamers prefer plastic for detailed miniatures, but otherwise their either ambivalent or prefer wood (for custom meeples/resources). There are some exceptions to this, though–consider the texture and shape of the custom plastic eggs in Wingspan or the fancy shell tokens James Hudson recently showed from Tidal Blades Deluxe:
Fancy plastic tokens from Tidal Blades Deluxe (Druid City Games).

***

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if wood or plastic is a better fit for the tokens in your game. Hopefully these facts about the differences between the two materials are helpful for you, and as I mentioned above, if you have any facts to add, please do so in the comments.

Also read: A Few Manufacturing Secrets

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57 Comments on “Wood vs Plastic: The Facts About Custom Tokens

  1. I think it’s a generational issue. Us older folks grew up accepting plastic as a technological innovation. The younger generation has a different relationship with plastic. They compare it to a frog that’s slowly coming to a boil but doesn’t realize it’s in danger. Games that use plastic pieces will not be a health and environmental issue today. But the aggregate exposure to plastics of all kinds over your lifetime definitely is. Hormone disruptors, neurotoxins and others don’t kill you and the whales right away. But in aggregate, it’s an insidious problem with no easy answer.

  2. I’m curious: Having heard feedback from both sides on this issue, and now knowing more about the fumigation laws, would you have made the same choice?

    For me, the environment is more important than piece feel or design.

      1. Thanks for sharing your honest reflections jaimey. Can I ask how you end up at this point though? I would have thought that your concerns would have been raised with panda during the development process and by the sounds of it they would have put those concerns to bed?

        Additionally, have stonemaier ever struggled with this specific problem, having been putting wooden components in games for years?

        I received pendulum this morning and as I’m on leave today by chance I will be looking to immediately try the automa mode 😊

  3. Ben, I think it all comes down to the form the plastic is molded into. I think plastic only looks cheap when it is in a simpler form that could have been done with wood, like a meeple or cube. In those kinds of shape, plastic can’t compete with wood and ends up looking cheap. However, plastic is capable of far more complexity than wood and really shines in miniature form like seen in Tapestry.

    I don’t own it, but Scythe looks like it plays to the strengths of both wood and plastic and uses them appropriately. I like the choices made there in the core game pics I looked at.

  4. One thing I’m seeing in this discussion is how plastic feels cheap in some games but not others. I think for me (and perhaps, either consciously or subconsciously, for others) that feeling comes down to an issue of what fits best, both functionally and thematically. For example, in a world like Dunya, one of dragons and royal councils and legendary achievements, plastic meeples and resources feel out of place to me (and therefore perhaps cheap, as it isn’t what’s best for thematic immersion) because no one in that world is using plastic. But I don’t feel that way about the timers, because timers in games are always plastic, and that’s the most functional choice (although I bet someone could make some awesome wood and glass ones that would feel even better if cost was no issue!)

    On the other hand, in a world like Tapestry the plastic felt totally natural to me. Of course the minis and such wouldn’t have been possible any other way, but more than that it’s just that the game spans the whole of human innovation, so of course plastic is part of it! In fact it’s specifically something that you can develop in the game if I recall correctly. So that worked for me. Oh and I also loved the just slightly rounded corners on the cubes that plastic makes possible!

    In the end, none of this would stop me from buying Pendulum. Jamey, your track record of excellence speaks for itself, and people who want to miss out on it because of a little plastic can do what they want. But maybe the thematic element is something to consider, for someone who cares as much about theme and world building as you do :)

  5. I couldn’t have found this discussion sooner as I’m in a bit of a quandry about this myself. I’ve swung wildly from side to side with the creator & gamer in me favouring wooden for tactility, familiarity and – as ScytheNoir says – there is a lingering feel that plastic was “cheap”.

    I think that your note on perception sums it up though, simple meeple-shapes do feel to me like they lend themselves better to wood but anything more dynamic or needing character requires a plastic model.

    On a whim, I tried two playtest runs for a game where one used meeples and the other used stand-in plastic models from a KS I’d backed long ago. It didn’t seem to make either group have more or less fun but the table with miniatures had more attention and more questions if they were the real miniatures.

    Take that subjective bit of data for what it’s worth :)

    David

  6. Perception is a big part of the issue. Often mass market games, especially those from the 80s, were made with plastic components. Later, higher quality games, were made with wooden tokens. So there is this perception that plastic = cheap, lower quality.

    I think plastic is fine to use for highly detailed pieces, such as miniatures, or those seashells shown. In that case, they make a lot of sense. However, when it comes to very basic shapes, such as those shown in Pendulum, and the type we are used to seeing with many games, they come off as lower quality because of the moulding seems.

    Again, it’s perception, and personal preferences. I bet if the pieces of Pendulum were of higher detail, there wouldn’t be any complaints about the pieces being plastic rather than wood, as wood wouldn’t have been able to do the level of detail.

  7. The reason I didn’t back Dinosaur Island were its plastic meeples. The same will probably happen with Pendulum.

    1. Biodegradable plastics aren’t as degradable as you may think. Any pieces that would be durable enough to last in a game need certain conditions to do so, mainly high heat and lots of water. And if the pieces are easily degradable, then how would feel if you opened a game you bought 5 years ago and found all the pieces falling apart.

      Personally, I like the idea of using recycled plastic, the issues the world has with plastic is the high use of single use plastics that are not disposed of properly. If recycled plastics are used in a game then we are locking up plastic for a long term use, and hopefully when the time comes that no wants the game anymore, they will recycle properly.

      1. Recycled and recyclable. One of the biggest issue with package labelling at the moment is conflation or confusion between these two aspects. Most labelling in this area is about getting people to buy rather than giving them detailed information, and obviously local issues means what is or can be recycled varies wildly,

  8. I can see both sides of the coin on this one. (Full disclosure – I’m in the business of designing 3rd party upgrade tokens for games like Pendulum and Scythe etc. )

    but as far as I can see the Tokens included in the game do exactly whats required and are fit for purpose although they do have a visible seam.

    But this just creates opportunity for playes who wish for something different to the norm or more detailed or more thematic to take that game that they love to play and upgrade components that they personally are not happy with. and I think this is the key thing – its personal choice. As with most things there’s often a trade off between Cost, Quality and Time and when you create a game that sells in the tens or hundreds of thousands then I think it’s inevitable that you won’t please everyone.

    I expect a number of compainies (mine included) will be offering a wide variety of options for those who want to spend a bit more cash to make the visual style of some components improved from that available out of the box.

    1. While I very much appreciate the companies that make upgraded components, the price to upgrade tokens is often more expensive than the game itself. This boggles my mind, but I admit I’ve paid this exorbitant price to upgrade some of my most favorite games like Viticulture/Tuscany and I’m happy with them. However, the component quality of Viticulture/Tuscany was fine to begin with (unlike Pendulum unfortunately)

      As it stands now, I’ll have to pass on this first printing of Pendulum, because component quality really matters to me and those plastic pieces look too cheap (mostly stylistically because the plastic pieces are trying to mimic the style of wooden meeples and fails). Personally, I find it a failing of mine that I “judge by looks”, and I know I’ve missed out on many cool games because of it, but I like what I like and there are already a lot of great looking games out there that I’ve yet to buy. It’s how I filter things.

      If Pendulum comes to Board Game Arena and I absolutely love it so much that I feel like I have to buy the physical game, then I would only do so if I could get upgraded tokens through a third party or Stonemaier themselves. The fact that this would likely cost over $100 doesn’t thrill me.

      However, if this can get corrected in the second printing, I’m all over it.

  9. I think that the shells shown are not an exception, as gamers would prefer plastic for any highly-detailed piece. I think wood has a texture/feel which is pleasant to most people which is why it’s preferred for chunky or non-detailed pieces.

    One thing I think could be mentioned in the environmental piece of the comparison is that wood has the whole logging industry which plays into the environmental impact, whereas plastic does not. It would be interesting to know the numbers on the total impact of both from creation to disposal.

    1. It is debatable which of the oil-industry (plastic) or logging industry (wood) is worse. At least the logging industry can be become environmentally sound. I doubt if the oil industry can do the same

    2. Your mileage may vary. My wife is an environmentalist that works for the US Dept of Agriculture and she often works with foresters. Timber harvest if combined with good forest management practices is sustainable and can actually have a beneficial impact on the environment. Carefully selecting which trees remain with certain wildlife in mind is a big part of what she does: golden wing and cerulean warbler habitat management are programs I hear her talk about often.

      With that said, unlike sourcing foods, whenever I’ve seen wood at a store I don’t think I usually see some kind of sticker letting me know whether it was sustainably harvested as part of a forest management program or if it was clear-cut from the rainforests.

      Nonetheless I say this to point out that wood has the potential to be more sustainable than its alternatives. Loggers (like any harvesting industry) can still take too much for today without leaving anything for tomorrow, and that’s where we need people like the foresters and the agencies like the one my wife works for.

      1. This is an excellent comment. Precisely the level of environmental impact that should be considered. Final manufacture of game parts is only part of the process; the comparison should include the entire life cycle of the materials, and look at the net impact of the product industries as a whole.

      2. Thanks, Jev! These are the kinds of “green” stats that aren’t often considered or reported (I still wonder about electric cars over their entire life cycle). I don’t doubt that the lumber industry does way more study of impact than the oil industry. It’s good to know that it can even be positive impact! And I’m glad there are companies like your wife’s that are considering the wildlife as well!

  10. This is a very interesting comparison and I would like to add in a additional comparisons. Hopefully these examples will help add to the discussion.

    I’ve always seen plastic tokens as an upgrade to cardboard, not wood. For example, in Unmatched, your assistants are tokens that could have easily been cardboard because of the printing needed. They choose to “upgrade” it to plastic, and people love it! Look at the Geekbit Upgrades from BGG. They dont tend to upgrade the wood pieces

    Wood v. Plastic has happened before. The first editions of Pandemic used wooden cubes. When they changed it to the second edition, they used translucent cubes to add to the style. I feel that this added to the value of the game because the plastic did something that the wood couldn’t.

    You bring up a great point about consistency in materials. I certainly know that I have has plenty of headless wooden meeples in my games. Wood in games is great, but I feel wood has a constraint of being 2d shapes cut to a thickness. For example, the meeples in Viticulture look great and are perfect for reference. But I’m sure making the eggs in wingspan would be a pain to make out of wood because they are 3d.

    This might also be the source of some people’s concern. There’s a stigma that makes people think, if you have to use plastic, that’s fine. It’s not a problem. But why make it do something that wood pieces can do just as easily? Being an elementary school teacher, if you search online for “math manipulatives” you see countless examples of counting cubes and shape blocks that are similar.

    The colors are great! As I’ve pointed out before, my friend as and I are both colorblind, and Jamey does a fantastic job making his games accessible for us. Never once had a problem, so thank you for that.

    I suppose my only question is, since I don’t know much about the gameplay, why did you choose shapes for the square and hexagonal pieces? What do they represent? And why not use plastic pawns instead?

    Thanks again Jamey for the insightful post!

    1. Thanks Daniel! The cubes represent resources. In full transparency, I chose cubes in this instance because we needed a lot of them in the game, and making them custom shapes would have increased the cost of the game to the point that the MSRP would have gone up by $10, and I had a target MSRP I didn’t want to exceed.

      1. That makes sense. I’m sure the custom molds for any plastic piece would bring up the cost quite a bit. Andy Loony said that when he was first making the Pyramids for his original Pyramid games, it was somewhere in the realm of $15k for one mold. That was in the 90s so I certainly hope it went down from there!

  11. It’s interesting to learn that the prices are comparable. I think people have the impression that plastic is cheaper, so the assumption is that when a company uses plastic over wood that price was a factor. Either consciously or unconsciously, people may associate plastic pieces with “skimping” and wooden pieces with “splurging” and adjust their opinion of a game and the company accordingly.

  12. Taking a look at only those 2 pictures from Viticulture and Pendulum, i know exactly which one i prefer. Wood is less shiny and has no mold lines. And i havent even touched or “heard” the usage of those tiles, which would most propably also push my opinion towards wood. This is no comparison to me.

    Anyway, i will get the game with whatever components it comes, since gameplay is always much more important than components. And if the game is successful and the components cant stand up to the gameplay quality, someone will offer upgrade packs with custom stuff (TFM comes to my mind, those tableaus…..)

    I also like component upgrade packs. I love my Meeple Source Birds and Food tokens for Wingspan (pure luxury) and i am always proud when i can show them. On the other hand, i have as much fun with my Gloomhaven upgrade pack (which consists of lots of 3d printed miniatures for the environment), i need the Terraforming Mars Big Box plastic miniatures and i love those “bakelit”-like Premium tokens for games from the BGG-Store, out of which i also have so many…

    I am a sucker for “upgraded”, premium components. For “Basic” components, i prefer wood over plastic as it seems.

  13. When I play a game I always think “is this the *right* material for this shape?”: for meeple, cube and simple form, it is always strange to me to see plastic when I don’t question plastic for more complex miniature, poker chips…

    And for me : metal/wood > cardboard > plastic

    1. Totally agree with you here. Plastic feels cheaper, it might not be but it feels like it, and for someone who cares so much about UI and player experience I’m really surprised Jamey is going in this direction.

  14. One of the things affecting how I look at game pieces is how they feel. The income buildings in Tapestry have this wonderful rubbery feel and the rugged finish on the cardboard makes them feel luxurious even while they’re kind of thin. Slick plastic feels like… nothing, I guess. How would giving the plastic pieces a bit of texture affect the costs? Is it just a matter of making the molds slightly more complex or would it require a more complex process?

  15. A couple of thoughts…

    I think before getting too focused on whether consumers prefer wood or plastic, it might be worth stepping back and asking yourself why this is an issue in the first place. With Scythe, Wingspan, and Tapestry most of us could look at the board / cards and have some intuitive understanding of what they were looking at. This allowed us to be drawn into how the game might play.

    Then Pendulum board, on the other hand, well… I’m not sure what to make of it. This means I’m going to be far more focused on what the components are made of and less interested in what I might do with them. Basically, I’m not excited by the potential I’ve seen so far which leaves me wondering if the components are enough to get me to buy.

    Comparing the plastic cubes in Tapestry to what has been seen for Pendulum isn’t exactly an apples to apples comparison. In Tapestry the plastic cubes are the last thing to get noticed. It’s only after seeing the eye catching board, the impressive buildings (landmark and income), the custom dice, and conquer tokens that you eventually notice the tiny plastic cubes. The same can be said for Scythe and Wingspan.

    In Pendulum you have the custom timers (which don’t do much for me), then all of the shiny plastic pieces with seams (which makes them look cheap). From what I’ve seen so far, this game just doesn’t meet my expectations for a Stonemaier game.

    One other thing I want to bring up…. If you’ve played the first print run of Splendor then you’ve played the game with the weighted “poker” chips. Subsequent print runs switched to cheaper plastic chips. The game looks the same. The game plays the same. However, those of us that have played both versions would always prefer to play with the weighted chips. It’s an “it” factor that I haven’t seen or had the chance to feel in Pendulum.

    Lastly, I don’t know much about Stonemaier Games Design Day. I’m guessing those that play games there know they are playing with prototypes and they focus on the game play instead of the components. Those of us looking to buy the game are looking at this the exact opposite way. Right now the only thing we can focus on would be the components. Hopefully the game play is much more exciting.

  16. I think one issue of perception is that there is a huge variety of plastic. The Tapestry smaller buildings have a nice feel to them, and even the small tokens do. Compare that to the ultra light Ticket to Rode trains that clang around and ots a huge difference! Bit eoth wood, pretty much eveiyone can understand what that will feel like. I also wonder of, even on frosted mats, does plastic slide around easier?

    All that being said, despite games being on people’s shelves for years, plastoc eventually will end up in landfill and won’t biodegrade. Also, in terms of environmental impact, can pieces be made from fast-growing wood like bamboo?

      1. Thanks – glad that you have asked about that. While I applaud your minimizing of immediately disposed plastic in your games, being able to change to bamboo would be really great. 12000 copies of 250 plastic pieces adds up. And while all manufacturing has a base environmental impact, small changes like a shift to bamboo add up as well!

        And, I wonder since so much of this is tied up in perception, would people feel that bamboo pieces seems “different” and new – and perhaps add a new wow-factor?

  17. High Quantity plastic boots are five with me and sometimes better looking . The problem is when companies use cheap materials or processes. Take Terraforming Mars currency cubes as an example of why people hate plastic.

  18. Wood is classic. Plastic is not. I get it that plastic offers options for miniatures that wood can’t compare to, but a wooden meeple can’t be beat by a plastic one. To me, plastic feels cheap. Plastic feels like a toy.

    1. I think that largely has to do with the quality of plastic. I thought the plastic pieces in Tapestry, for example, were very nice and didn’t feel cheap at all. In fact, if they had been wood instead of plastic, I don’t think it would have felt as nice to me.

  19. Jamey,

    Thanks for the quality post! As a customer and consumer, I appreciate the transparency on decisions like this.

    SM games have contributed to more family fun than any other brand of games. Will be buying games regardless of token composition!

  20. While I generally like the feel of wood over plastic, neither is a ‘game breaker’ (pun intended) for me. I don’t play for the feel of the bits, but rather for the fun (or feel) of the game!
    I don’t care for mold lines either, but that has little to do with why I buy or enjoy a game. And, who knows; if it’s popular enough, someone may offer wooden or resin bits (at a price)!

  21. Thanks for the nice post. I agree with you that both materials wood and plastic have an environmental impact, but I disagree that there is a misconception thinking that wood is better than plastic. The main problem with plastic is not only that it takes so long to degrade, is that when it does, it creates micro and nano particles, that are polluting everything. Right now this micro-plastics are everywhere, including protected areas (still disputed how they got there), the oceans, and our bodies. We don’t know the impact that this might have in our biology.
    Whatever process that uses plastic will generate these micro-plastics on the long term. Wood will not. Despite not being still environmental friendly, wood is in general terms better choice than plastic.
    Also take into account that there are ways to offset carbon footprints. There is no way to offset micro-plastics.

  22. I tend to find that the designs of wooden tokens tend toward simpler or more geometric outlines. When the board they’re lying upon is very highly detailed, those simple shapes are more visually distinct. Most wooden tokens, since they to be a prism of some base shape, can stand up on end. They are easy to count and to lay in a row.

    Plastic figures could do all this too but tend not to. All that additional detail used in modeling them can make them blend in, more-or-less, with a highly detailed board. This isn’t an issue when the plastic figures are large and their counts are low (as with the figurines in scythe), but small high-detail tokens intended for transactions and counting just get lost in the mix. This is one of the reason I find the wooden resource tokens of Scythe to be superior to the fancy kickstarter versions. All that gorgeous detail ends up making them (perversely) easier to miscount or mistake for one another.

    Now, if the board is loaded with abstract shapes, then using high-detail figures might work *better* than wooden shape-cut pieces, as the contrast then works in the opposite direction.

  23. I personally don’t have an issue with plastic pieces. They don’t affect the gamelgame play and for me, that is most important. I am glad that Stonemaier games is making an effort to be as environmentally conscious as possible in their manufacturing. My feeling is that some of what game players are reaction to is tradition. I’ve been playing board games for a long time and while plastic game pieces have been replacing wooden pieces since the dawn of plastic (look up vintage copies of family classics such as Monopoly and Sorry with wooden pieces), the shift into the more complex board game industry has been slower. I suspect that if it had and plastic
    was what most people were used to, then wooden pieces would be falling under the same scrutiny and be seen as outdated or cheap. I say use the material that makes most sense for the desired outcome and then enjoy playing.

  24. From an environmental perspective, it is worth noting the while using recycled plastic to make the bits is good, adding any more plastic to the marketplace isn’t great. There’s a fallacy that much/most plastic can be – and will be – recycled. Unfortunately that isn’t true… the vast majority of plastic will eventually end up in dumps, being burnt or in the ocean. For those curious, this Frontline documentary gives some great insight into what happens to plastic after it enters the marketplace (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/plastic-wars/).

      1. Haha… of course. Only pointing out to people that if environmental impacts are a really important factor, this is on area where there’s a general misunderstanding of what happens to plastic after they enter the marketplace – one can’t assume those materials will be recycled. But it’s actually a good point you make more broadly in your reply… ie. that the board game category is not really a disposable one. So one hopes most games stay intact as games for many, many years. =)

  25. Thanks for the side-by-side comparison. I looked into plastic for Harry’s Place for the Sasquatch server meeples but ultimately decided to go with wood as it felt more thematically consistent with the rest of the game.

  26. the biggest production issue i’ve seen with this game isnt’ really the plastic bits, it’s that timer track, the location the gray piece would be very helpful to have the timer track slotted into recessed area so that it won’t get bumped around.

  27. One thing I do want to bring up is that the slight ‘grip’ on wood tokens vs perfectly smooth plastic can help make your game more accessible people who may have problems with manual dexterity.

    Also I just strongly prefer wood when it’s just tokens and abstract bits.

  28. My two cents opinion: While plastic looks great for certain things, standard opaque plastic cubes/meeples look really “cheap” compared to wood.

    Things like translucent plastic, plastic with heat transfer, detailed plastic pieces, etc can definitely upgrade the experience, both tactile and visual, in many situations. However, I wouldn’t have made this choice for the application you’re showing here, as it looks much less high quality than wooden counterparts.

    1. Hmmm… I think it varies. The cubes in Tapestry don’t feel cheap yet they’re opaque, and those in other games too. Loads of games have seemingly identical wooden cubes yet in some games they feel much nicer to play with than others, which may be to do with size. Some plastic cubes just do feel cheap though (ahem Terraforming Mars) but I think the truth is that you can make high quality and low quality components out of any material

      1. I feel the opposite way regarding the cubes Terraforming Mars and the Tapestry ones. For what it’s worth, the copies I’ve played with for the former haven’t had any chipping or fading of the paint like what I’ve seen from people online, so mileages vary.

        I think for Tapestry, it’s the combination of texture, simplicity of shape and the pastel colors that make the choice of plastic really feel off. I’m not sure anything else would work better however, since wood would feel out of place when everything else is plastic. They are however the most offputting component in that game. The resource trackers aren’t nearly as bad, which for me I think is due to their different shapes. Another game with the same plastic vs wood dilemma is Gaia Project, which also opted for 2d shapes for the resource trackers, also to good effect. I think the fact that each player only has one of each improves the situation a bit. If they were resources for which you took a token every time you got income it would be a lot more jarring, and I would greatly prefer wood.

        For Terraforming Mars, the look and feel of the resource cubes is what initially got me excited about the game, along with the clever way they are used as a stand-in for any type of resource. The fact that you have some variability in terms of color and size is important because it breaks up the soulless uniformity I associate with plastic a fair bit.

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