For those of you who haven’t heard of it yet, Board Game Bento is yet another monthly subscription service but this one is for Board Games. I was skeptical from the beginning because of previous experience with subscription box services. My general impression is that the stuff in these sort of boxes is decent but not necessarily something I want for myself. In the end, my impression is usually that I’d rather take what I’d spend on a monthly subscription box and use it as a budget to get things I actually want.
Board games can get pretty pricey and I was hopeful that this one would be such a good deal that I’d change my tune. After all, they promise an $80 value in each month’s box for just $50 a month! So did it live up to the hype?
The Phantom Society
This game is pretty simple and very family-friendly. The age rating is 8+ but I think it could be even younger than that, honestly. I heard someone aptly describe it as multi-player minesweeper. That said, we had fun with it anyway. Setup and gameplay are super fast. Basically, you set up your board and place the rooms:
There are four ghosts that correspond to the room colors. One player or team of players will act as the ghosts and hide their ghost tokens under a room of the corresponding color. Next the ghosts and ghost-hunters take turns turning over room tiles. When a ghost turns a room over, it’s destroyed and they get the points in the bottom right corner of the room tile. A ghost can only turn over a tile that is adjacent to it (diagonal counts as adjacent). Ghost-hunters then try to guess where the ghost is and turn over a tile; if they’re wrong, the room is destroyed and the ghosts get the points. If they’re right, no points are gained by the ghost team and that ghost is out of the game.
My biggest disappointment was that there’s not much actual flavor to the game. There are some really awesome looking steampunk ghost-hunters on the front of the box, but you don’t play as them or have any special abilities. The only time the characters are seen and named are with cards that are used for betting in the “advanced” rules.
Zombies!!! Roll Them Bones!
If you’ve every played the Zombies!!! board game, this is intended to be a simplified version of that. If you’ve ever played Zombie Dice, this is a more complicated version. You have trackers for each player to keep track of health and progress, dice, item and even tokens, cheat sheets for the tokens, and you can use the exclusive dice bag that came in the Bento Box for your dice if you wish.
On your turn, you start by rolling the black die, this is the number of zombies you need to kill to be successful. In our picture example below, I need to kill four zombies. Then you roll the white dice; each zombie pictured is a zombie you killed so in our example, I succeed. If you don’t kill enough zombies, you take one damage and your turn is done–you don’t do anything with the other dice. If you succeed, you look at the other white dice. Each runner is a block you clear, so you add that to your progress tracker. You might also have item or event symbols which lets you gain those tokens to use later.
Overall, we enjoyed this game. It’s very simple and quick. One thing I like about it over Zombie Dice is the fact that you have a tracker for your progress.
The concept behind this one is a bit odd: medieval knights battling in a junkyard by throwing trash at each other. It’s strange and silly and fun. We got a lot of laughs just from the artwork on the cards.
The goal is simple: protect your own walls while destroying the walls of the other knights. You attack by throwing trash cards at each other, each with different point values in the upper-right corner. You can use defense cards to prevent the trash from damaging your wall and you can burn trash that’s already on your wall. Each player gets three walls and each wall can take 4 points of damage. If a wall takes too much damage, it’s destroyed and you flip it over.
We had a lot of fun with this one. The biggest drawback I saw with the rules is that it doesn’t go in a standard turn order, which means you could end up going several rounds without getting to do anything. You pick a starting player but after that, play goes to whatever player was last attacked. This can sometimes result in two players going back and forth while the others just look on. After we realized this, we tried to be conscious of not letting a player be left out and it went smoother.
Okay, these are actually really cool. They’re basically giant rubber bands but they’re wide enough that they won’t dig into the box and damage it, and they have a t-shape to secure all sides.
So let’s break down the actual cost vs. value:
I went with the month-to-month option as a trial run. The only other subscription option is 6-month and the full subscription has to be paid up front which is hella expensive to only save $5/month. My biggest disappointment came with the shipping. That’s right, shipping isn’t included in the price of the box like many other services. I was unsure of how big/heavy the box might be so I went along with the $12 shipping, but after seeing it, I feel pretty certain they made profit on shipping.
This makes my total cost $62.
The box included:
- The Phantom Society – retail value $39.99, available on Amazon for $24.66 (with free Prime shipping).
- Trash War – retail value $14.99, previously listed on Amazon for $10 (Prime again) though it is currently unavailable.
- Zombies!!! Roll Them Bones! – retail value $14.99, available on Amazon for $9.50 (Prime again).
- Box Band-Its Variety Pack – on their site, The Broken Token only sells the Band-Its in 5-packs by size, however, I did the math on what each band would cost and it comes out to less than $3.
- Exclusive Zombie Dice Bag – this small canvas bag can go along with your Zombies!!! Roll Them Bones! game or used for other dice you have laying about; no retail value available because it’s an exclusive.
- Board Game Bento Notepad – looks like a notepad you’d get at a dollar store, but it has the Board Game Bento logo on it; no retail value available, but I can’t imagine it being more than $1.
- Total Value – retail values total to $70 (rounded up) for just the games, meaning the other 3 items are supposed to make up the $80 value promised; on Amazon, I could order all three games for under $50 with free shipping.
This makes the total value around $50-60 if you ordered items yourself.
Is this subscription worth it? I would have to say that if you’re an experienced/avid gamer, this isn’t worth it. You’re not really saving any money. You’re better off spending the $62 on a game you know you want.
That being said, if you’re new to tabletop gaming and you’re not really sure of what to buy, it might be worth it for you. In this case, you’re paying slightly more than the games are really worth to have someone else pick them out for you. Or you could just go to a local game shop and they’ll be happy to offer you suggestions–most will even have demo copies you could play before shelling out the money for the games.