Upgrade sets covered: Grand Austria Hotel, Taverns of Tiefenthal, Concordia, Wingspan, Viticulture, The Quacks of Quedlinburg, Everdell, Little Town
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a tabletop game in possession of some good cubes, must be in want of an upgrade.
A clichéd opening perhaps, but the fact remains: when we board gamers fall in love with a game, we want to make our experience with that game the best it can be. Begone common cubes, dull discs and other mundane markers of misery and in their place give us custom counters, pretty pieces and magnificent miniatures!
BoardGameSet is an EU based company creating board game accessories and upgrades, aiming to make unique and beautiful pieces to create the best board game experience.
BoardGameSet kindly provided the Meeple Mountain team with some examples of their work and Justin Bell, Bob Pazehoski, Jr. and Andrew Holmes were lucky enough to try them out. Find out our thoughts below!
Grand Austria Hotel Upgrade Pack (Justin)
I’m a BIG fan of Grand Austria Hotel, to the point where I bought the deluxe edition of the game at SPIEL 2022, right down to the totally unnecessary extra dice, the Let’s Waltz! expansion, and a couple of promotions.
Getting the BoardGameSet upgrade pack to the table was a snap, since I play lighter Euros with friends a couple times each month. I hijacked a recent night to get GAH to the table without the expansions but with the new bits.
The pieces, particularly for the friends who don’t have the deluxe edition that I have, will really add spice in terms of visual effects. For example, in the deluxe edition of the game, the white wooden pie pieces are cut to look like pie. They don’t create much in the way of confusion. But the pie pieces from BoardGameSet really bring the pie to life. The colors are great and it’s fun to rest those pieces on cards waiting for a complete round of ingredients to fulfill a guest card.
In a couple cases, the pieces did feel a bit substandard, though. One player bumped a coffee piece, and the “coffee” portion of the piece fell out. The same happened with a wine glass piece, where the “wine” fell out of a glass. In this way, the pieces don’t feel deluxe; they look pretty from across the table, but they are absolutely not sturdy in the way some upgraded pieces feel in other games.
The Emperor scoring tokens and the bell that denotes the current round? Those components are better, and the trash bin (for when a player tosses a die when they want to re-roll all remaining dice) is almost too good. In two of the rounds when we used the trash can and closed the lid, we forgot that we had dice in the can!
Taverns of Tiefenthal Upgrade – Tavern Pack (Justin Bell)
“These pieces are pretty, but none of these feel ‘deluxe’,” said my wife during a recent play of The Taverns of Tiefenthal.
She was handling the BoardGameSet components after a recent game. In our house, Taverns is a classic, so it’s a game that we get out maybe quarterly. We used our most recent play to get pictures of the new goodies from BoardGameSet.
The moon token is the best of the bunch. The moon token included in the original game (used to track the current round) does the job just fine, but the bright colors of this specific upgrade piece really shine. Also, there’s a beer mug used to denote first player for a round; the one included here has a nice, hefty feel to it.
But, those schnapps tokens!!
A few of my schnapps tokens had the “schnapps” fall out of the cup. A couple times, it was just loose; in one case, I knocked a piece to the floor and the schnapps fell out. I prefer these tokens over the cardboard schnapps in the original game, but the pieces don’t feel very sturdy at all.
Love that the beer mug doubles as a storage unit for the schnapps token, right down to the way the lid closes to ensure things don’t jostle in the box. Still, the schnapps look more upgraded than they feel in-hand.
The dice coasters…hmm. I like that each coaster has a color, an upgrade that I didn’t think I really needed but I’m glad to have. The coasters themselves feel like a cheap plastic ring. They fit perfectly, but I’m less comfortable using the word “upgrade” when describing the coasters.
The monk tokens are fantastic. Sadly, the monk track usually gets ignored in my experiences with Taverns (10+ plays), so despite the nice feel of the monk tokens, they are mostly used for show.
Concordia Upgrade – Minerva Upgrade Set (Bob Pazehoski, Jr)
After our first play of the original Concordia, we gobbled up the first copy of Concordia Venus that crossed our path. It is now among the favorites in the house. The Minerva upgrade set includes 3D printed figures and ships to represent the land and sea colonists, as well as houses to represent the various settlements. As a replacement for the base game’s wooden components, these plastic bits are a marginal improvement overall, primarily for their distinct contours, but there are troubles as well.
The land colonists are my favorite bits because the figures tower so nicely above the map. They are easy to spot and easy to move. As the pieces get smaller, however, they become less impressive. The ships are significantly shorter than the land pieces. I would rather they were equal in height to offer a visual confirmation that they are different facets of the same gameplay component. The settlements are nice, but by the time the pieces are that small they lack the heft of the original wooden pieces.
Owning Concordia Venus, the missing white set is an understandable disappointment. We don’t often play with six, but I heard stifled groans when in our playtest no one could be white. The Praefectus Magnus figure provides a grandiose touch to the experience and, oddly, it is the one piece that I know will come to the table every time. As it passes around the outside, it is a lovely marker of privilege. The rest of the bits, I fear, will be subject to the fancies of the moment. Because of the slight disconnect in plastic and wood pieces and the inherent color anomalies, they do not demand use 100% of the time, but they are a nice change of pace when they surface.
Wingspan Upgrade – Birdhouses (Bob Pazehoski, Jr)
Wingspan is a mainstay in our collection. Simply stated, the birdhouse upgrades are a lovely addition to the box. We have had our eye on a replacement for the cubes since we cracked the shrink on the box, but we’ve yet to find one that made sense. Birdhouses are lovely choice–they mimic the size and shape of the cubes rather nicely while giving the board a more vivid touch. This is especially apparent when placing them along the top row, indicating the placement of a new bird. There just isn’t much room up there, but the footprint of the birdhouse is ideal.
With so many of the components offering such a variety of tactile experiences–wooden dice, linen cards, candy eggs, cardboard food tokens (for which there are myriad choices to upgrade), the insertion of a plastic component does not feel out of place. In a way, it completes the circle. Apart from a use for metal, there aren’t too many choices remaining.
The golden eagle representing the first player suffered universal rejection. It doesn’t match the aesthetic of the game at all, and it drew more than one comment referencing the mark of a certain undesirable geopolitical sect prominent in the less desirable moments of the 20th century. We already have our base game box packed to the gills with the Europe and Oceania expansions–I just don’t see us making room for the eagle.
Viticulture Upgrade – El Capitan Upgrade Pack (Bob Pazehoski, Jr)
Without fail, the Viticulture upgrades elicit warm and fuzzy Awww’s from the crowd. Two wine crates stuffed with the cutest little bottles of wine to mark residual payments and victory points. Visually, they are a gem.
Perhaps a charge could be leveled that they are a little narrow to remain standing without fail, especially if you have a large dog and a sketchy table. If this is your situation, these bottles will roll. But for the most part, these are an easy win for the folks at BoardGameSet.
The Quacks of Quedlinburg Upgrade – Book Holders (Andrew Holmes)
The ingredient book holders for The Quacks of Quedlinburg are pretty cute. Fronted by wee conical flasks containing coloured potions, they hold the ingredient books nicely. They’re slightly angled to make reading the books easy and with slots wide enough that the cardboard isn’t damaged whilst putting them in and taking them out. Though they are lightweight, I’ve not encountered any problems with them being easy to knock over or easily broken.
These book holders absolutely achieve what they set out to do, and they do so with a touch of (ever so slightly plasticy) pizzazz.
The trouble is, and this was only something that became apparent as I used them, I’m not too sure I want my ingredient books being held most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I like the look of it. But to make all of the ingredient books visible you have to give them space, particularly if they’re all in one area of the table. They block the view of the area immediately behind them. Quacks can already take up a surprising amount of table space (and that’s without the The Alchemists expansion) and on a table which is smaller or configured awkwardly the book holders actually make the space issue worse rather than better and can cause issues for anyone not facing them.
Still, if you have enough space or a good place for them where everyone around the table can see them then these are excellent.
Everdell Upgrade – Basket Resource Holders (Andrew Holmes)
BoardGameSet are onto a winner with these Everdell baskets. Four baskets to hold the berries, twigs, resin and pebbles. They look fantastic and feel solid, like there’s actually some substance to them.
What’s more, they do the job well without getting in the way or obstructing the view of players. And they fit in the insert of the base game box without any problems. Just a lovely bit of design that fits perfectly with the aesthetic of Everdell itself.
If you’ve looked at the official Everdell resource holders and then balked at the price, these will do the job nicely instead. And whisper it I think they look better than the official ones!
Little Town Resource Upgrade (Andrew Holmes)
Who wants plain old cubes? They’re so last decade. Deluxe resource tokens are where it’s at these days and the Little Town resource upgrade set is another opportunity to boot those pesky cubes out of our lives for good.
In place of the coloured cubes, the upgrade set includes custom stone, wheat, fish and wood. And they’re okay. Plasticy, a little small (the fish and wheat are particularly fiddly to pick up) and some of the finer details are missing from a couple of pieces but they’re way more interesting than the cubes. You’re gathering from the world around you; from the lake you pull a fish as opposed to a blue cube. It’s nice.
That smallness though… The thing is, Little Town’s entire vibe is small but chunky. Generic fantasy races provide a nice comparison: Little Town is more stocky dwarf whereas these upgraded resources are more skinny halfling. It means they don’t feel all that deluxe, like there isn’t much substance to them. They’re much better than the cubes but personally I’d have preferred them to have been larger.
So there we have it. A whistlestop tour of a small sub-section of the many products created by BoardGameSet. Broadly we’re positive, with a few quibbles here and there. When BoardGameSet get it right, though, boy do they get it right!
Whilst we’ve only covered the eight upgrade sets sent to us, BoardGameSet produce a whole range of upgrades for all sorts of games, with more being added all the time. To find out more about BoardGameSet and view their products, visit: https://boardgameset.com