When I first heard of a box of games that can be used to generate lots of other games, I assumed this must be one of the experimental games put out by Friedemann Friese. He is a designer who had previously published 504 – a big box of game components that could be combined in “504” ways to create that number of different games. The fact that this is a “Green Box” seemed to confirm another Friese game: it is his trademark colour: his games are invariably packaged in green boxes. Imagine my surprise then to find that the Green Box of Games has quite a different pedigree: developed and designed in Norway by Jørgen Brunborg-Naess.
It says on the box, “This is not a game!” Tho’ it goes on to describe the contents as a “game system”, the “not a game” claim is unduly modest. The Green Box of Games comes with the components and rules for a whole host of games. It’s just that the concept is that you need to think of it not as a mere compendium but also as a toolkit which can be used to adapt and design your own games.
So what’s included? Open up the 6-inch square box and you’ll find a set of tiles, cunningly designed to enable them to create either a square or hexagonal grid. There is a deck of 54 cards made up of various numbers, colours and symbols. You are supplied with a pair of six-sided dice and a quantity of red, blue, green and yellow wooden cubes.
What is surprising is just how much you can do with these components. The rulebook offers a wide range of 1–10 player games covering an exhaustive range of mechanics. You’ll find familiar and traditional games like Halma, Othello/Reversi and Backgammon as well as race, combat, push your luck, pick up and deliver, and set collection games. There are games acknowledged to be inspired by Carcassonne, Cartagena and Incan Gold. As the Green Box of Games was developed through Kickstarter, it has built a community of supporters who have contributed additional games.
A key element in the rulebook is the way in which the rules go on to invite players to introduce subtle tweaks and variants. The aim here is to get your creative juices flowing so that you use the Green Box of Games to devise games of your own. Users are able to share their creativity on the Green Box of Games page on Boardgamegeek – which means there is a ready supply of games freely available at the click of a button.
Of necessity, the components are designed for multiple use and so are naturally generic. That means of course that any game you play or design will look abstract. If you demand strong theme in the games you play, this could be a problem for you. Nevertheless, even for theme junkies, the Green Box of Games could be useful designer toolkit: a first step to work through core mechanics before developing your own more thematically specific components.
In the UK, there is a popular radio programme, Desert Island Discs, that has been running for 75 years. In the programme, an interviewee has to imagine they are a castaway on a desert island and they choose the eight 'gramophone records' they would take with them. If I had to assemble my castaway list of board games, the Green Box would definitely be a contender: I'm sure I'd while away many a happy hour under the shade of a palm tree as I used the Green Box to devise an endless stream of games.