Welcome to UpWithMeeple’s Insert Review Round Up! We’ll be taking an in depth look at inserts for some of your favorite games from these top manufacturers (listed alphabetically):
Before this project, I only had experience with an independently made insert for Eclipse. I got it for my friend Patrick off of Etsy a couple of years ago when we were playing the game with some regularity, but the setup and clean up was a real chore. The one I purchased came pre-assembled, and one play of Eclipse where I went completely bankrupt and was bounced from the game (FUN!), I spent a good while organizing the trays for Patrick. Although having lots of room, it lacked some direction of what to put where, but it got the job done and helped facilitate setup and clean up. I had previously been skeptical as to the value of buying an insert that can be nearly as much as a new game, but this opened my eyes to how inserts can improve your gaming.
This round up will feature larger photos than normal, for two reasons. 1) So you can better see the quality products while enjoying the crazy light variations of my basement fluorescent lighting and 2) The site wanted to align everything to the left and I couldn’t fix it.
The inserts will be judged in the following categories:
Assembly: How easy were the pieces prepared for assembly, how easy was the insert to assemble, how long did it take?
Assembly Instructions: How easy were the instructions to follow, were they correct, was key information missing?
Functionality: How easy is a game to set up with the new insert? Does anything interfere with setup? Will the insert now damage any components?
Quality: How nice were the materials, were there any embellishments, were component areas marked?
Value: Bang for your gaming buck.
Overall: Our final rating.
Now, onto UpWithMeeple’s Insert Review Round Up!
This Insert Review Roundup idea started with Meeple Realty when I stumbled across their Etsy shop and was surprised by the breadth of titles they support with their inserts. I sent them a message via Etsy’s site asking if they would want to participate in an insert round up, and they were quite interested in the idea. They promptly sent us inserts for Terra Mystica and Star Wars: Rebellion.
Both of these inserts greatly aid in a quick set up to setup intensive games. Pop the top of the box off and start pulling trays. Terra Mystica has two trays for the most commonly used bits, so that each end of a full table can have resources within close reach. Both inserts also leave room for expansion components.
Andy Says: I was in charge of assembling both of the Meeple Realty inserts, with the Terra Mystica insert being the first insert I’ve ever assembled. Unfortunately, this was not a great way to introduce Meeple Realty’s products to me, as I found the assembly experience to be quite complicated. A hobby knife and a hammer were both required (as well as significant elbow grease) given how snug the pieces fit together, and the need for these tools was a complete surprise, as this was not indicated on the exterior of the package.
However, the assembly experience produced what I felt were two of the best inserts in the Roundup. The Star Wars: Rebellion insert may have been a little ambitious in its design, and the leader standees will likely get scuffed up if you slot them in the way that’s intended, but thankfully there’s enough space in their compartments to place them in a way that won’t risk such damage. All in all, Meeple Realty inserts would be a great holiday gift for any gamer on your list. An even BETTER holiday gift would be a Meeple Realty insert that you’ve already assembled for them.
Assembly: Difficulty with both inserts, longest assembly time. Bronze Medal.
Assembly Instructions: The most complicated of the Round Up. Silver Medal.
Functionality: The Leaders in Star Wars Rebellion are going to get damaged after several uses. Otherwise, well designed. Gold Medal.
Quality: Good quality materials. Gold Medal.
Value: If you do not mind the assembly time, Silver. If you’ve no interest in assembly as it’s own hobby, Bronze.
The Broken Token – The Broken Token makes wooden inserts with quick set up features.
As I was getting the ball rolling for this roundup, I reached out to The Broken Token. I understand them to be the biggest player in the market, and we’re a pretty small website, but they hopped right on board and shot us out an insert for 7 Wonders. [Full disclosure: I was able to piggyback on the shipment with an order for their Imperial Settlers insert at a slight discount.]
I received my Broken Token shipment and set about constructing the Imperial Settlers insert, leaving the 7 Wonders tray for Andy as the game resides at his house. Just a few minutes in and I was feeling guilty about the 6 hours of work Andy put into the Meeple Realty Terra Mystica insert, as I popped this puppy together in under 30 minuets (no sanding / gluing). I was pretty surprised. I later un-popped it apart and glued it up properly, taking another 30 minutes or so. I then nestled all of the bits into their compartments.
With everything in it’s place, there is still tons of room for the available expansions, plus probably a few more, making this insert rather future-proof.
Meanwhile, Andy began work on the 7 Wonders insert:
Andy Says: The 7 Wonders insert from The Broken Token is my favorite of all the inserts we’ve been able to review. It’s relatively easy to assemble, extremely well designed for the game, and looks nice. The material isn’t as fancy as some of the other inserts and it isn’t all natural wood, but this wasn’t a big deal for me. I also can’t say enough about the insert’s outer ‘frame’ which protects the game box from rubbing when the trays are removed or replaced.
We’ve gotten this game to the table twice with the insert, and it works slicker than a whistle. Plus, it’s helped me to save space, as I’ve been able to fit all the expansions in a single box with the base game, including sleeved cards (which don’t fit in the original plastic insert that comes with the 7 Wonders base game).
Assembly: Easiest of the assembly required inserts. Gold Medal.
Assembly Instructions: Good, no issues with wrong directions or over complication. Gold Medal.
Functionality: Great. Outer perimeter protects interior of box from damage of repeated use, gives box reinforcement from damage to exterior. Trays well organized and easy to remove for quick setup. Gold Medal.
Quality: A step down in material quality from other wooden inserts, but still good enough to protect your game elements. Gold Medal.
Value: Gold Medal.
Custom Game Bits – Custom Game Bits make wooden inserts with quick setup features. They also make various custom tokens and other gaming bits.
I came across Custom Game Bits website while browsing around the Board Games area of Reddit, in a thread about, you guessed it, inserts! I checked out their website and then shot them a message on Twitter, and they were immediately interested in our roundup.
After supplying a short list of games we could review an insert for, Steve from Custom Game Bits informed me that 5, yes 5, inserts would be headed my direction. I quickly replied that we didn’t need that many, not wanting a small company to waste important dollars in shipping or missed sales, but also because I didn’t want a new part time job assembling more inserts! Steve informed me that his inserts came pre-assembled!
Lo and behold, a giant box soon arrived on my doorstep. It was big enough to fit a wood paneled top loading VCR in it, but was light as air. It had also shipped from sunny, scenic Canada, where Custom Game Bits is located. Excited, I popped open the box to find a veritable cornucopia of board game inserts: Small World, Eclipse, Terra Mystica, Caverna, and Lords of Waterdeep. I hurriedly unwrapped an insert, which ended up being Caverna, and inspected it for damage post-shipping, as I was curious how the pre-assembled insert would fare in the postal service of not one, but two North American countries. The inserts were all in perfect working order with no damage to be found.
Custom Game Bits inserts are not glued together, they fit together using clip-in joints. If there is an actual name for this, let us know, but it looks like this:
Pretty neat! Must make assembly on their end a *ahem* snap, and getting it ready and into your board game box a breeze. But the coolest inclusion is the plexiglass tray covers! WHAT?! I know! What a fantastic inclusion in their design. The covers slide into a small groove.
Even better, especially for a game like Eclipse with tons of tiny cardboard chits, the small recesses are labeled and include space for game materials at least through expansion Rise of the Ancients. I must mention that if you’re trying to get the last tile or two out of a smaller bin, it’s pretty difficult, as everything is fit pretty snug into the tray. Also, the Hex bins can hold the mini-expansions of Pulsar, Nebula, Super Nova, and Black Hole, but it’s another tight fit.
The catch: as Custom Game Bits is located in Canada, shipping costs are steep. How steep? $32 for a single, $52 for 3 (shopping cart / checkout process estimations). I couldn’t get the Checkout to estimate shipping above 3 inserts, although there must be a way since they sent me 5. Now, this is important, $52 is about $17 each. Add that to the cost of an insert, and $40-ish dollars does seem like a lot for a game insert, however, these do not require assembly (hobby knife, wood glue, sandpaper, and hours of time are not free!), they come with the plexiglass lids which I find tremendously useful, and bit areas are even labeled. For the price, and the opportunity cost of not having to assemble them, I don’t think the shipping costs disqualifies Custom Game Bits from being ordered in the United States. In Canada, I have to think this is the best option to begin with.
BREAKING NEWS: Steve from Custom Game Bits chimed in on the comments section, and informs us that:
- Custom Game Bits prices were listed in Canadian dollars.
- He has added a currency converter to the site to better aid non-Canadian shoppers.
- The shipping calculator seems to be working better.
We have gone through the ordering steps mimicking an order for the inserts we received. The total for the inserts was $150 CAD, which is $112.50 US, which for 5 inserts, is on par, or better, than the rest of the insert manufacturers. The shipping charge for these 5 inserts would be $40 CAD, or roughly $30 US. This is…a deal? Yes, yes it it. $30 is a great price for a large box (dimensional size, not weight, is usually the shipping killer) to be shipped internationally. $22~$25 for an insert is a great price, and in a shocking turn of events, Custom Game Bits is the best option for the budget conscious.
Our apologies to CustomGameBits for getting the math wrong on the pricing, but we hope we conveyed how impressed we were with their product even in spite of the mistake in price. We are updating our rating for CustomGameBits for an order in the United States to Gold.
[Note: the Custom Game Bits organizer received for Lords of Waterdeep was donated in the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund Auction on BoardGameGeek.com, raising $28 and UpWithMeeple shipped it free of charge to the winner.]
Assembly: Pre-assembled. Gold Medal.
Assembly Instructions: Not applicable. Gold Medal.
Functionality: The plexiglass tray covers are brilliant. Gold Medal.
Quality: Solid materials, but feels a step down from the assembly required wooden inserts. Silver Medal.
International Shipping is tough on the ol’ wallet, but features, quality of product, and ordering a few at a time ease the pain. Bronze Medal. Great option for the budget conscious. Gold Medal.
Daedalus Productions – Daedalus Productions makes wooden inserts with quick setup features.
With the Round Up taking shape, I contacted Daedalus Productions via Twitter. I tweeted at them, got a DM back, and before I knew it, 2 inserts were in my wood-glue covered hands. We received Castles of Mad King Ludwig and a re-worked Caverna insert.
Upon opening the box, I was immediately struck by the dark finish Daedalus uses. I quite like it, despite it sort of smelling like bacon burning. I think a cool option would be to offer buyers a choice of a natural, light, maybe cherry, and this dark stain at checkout for a small up charge.
I set about assembling the Castles of Mad King Ludwig insert first, as it looked a fair bit trickier than the Caverna insert. I found the instructions provided quite good, but I did see a couple of minor errors, but having previously snapped and glued the Broken Token insert together, I largely just followed the pattern of gluing recessed areas to the tab areas, and it worked just fine.
One of the neat touches for Castles is the ramparts and steeples, but the high walled storage areas make it so that the only way to really get the token you need out of the tray is if it is facing you, otherwise it’s an awkward reach or you need assistance. The entirety of the insert is also an oddly tight fit into the base box, removing the trays for play was a bit difficult and rubs against the walls of the box. Continued use might cause more obvious wear and tear.
There were a couple spots where the fit and finish was a bit lacking, but this could be due to humidity exposure during shipping, wood sample, etc.
For the Caverna insert, I mostly ignored the instructions except for figuring out what went where. I ended up laying the pieces in place and then using masking tape to tighten each tray before starting the gluing process. I would recommend this process vs. following the instructions to the letter.
Caverna went together quite easily, even the tricky bit with the tiny beams for the Shield tokens wasn’t too bad with the aid of some tweezers.
The rest of the insert is straight forward box shaped bins for boardy bits.
The bins were marked for each component, and they stack nicely back into the box. The one minor quibble is: there isn’t space for the score pad, so the lid doesn’t sit quite flush to the box.
Assembly: Straight forward assembly, easier than other manufacturers.
Assembly Instructions: The best of the assembly required crowd. Precise and detailed with layout and gluing specifications. Instructions are also downloaded from Daedalus’ website, saving paper and trees. Gold Medal.
Functionality: We wish these had the outer perimeter similar to The Broken Token, as some of the insert elements wedge into the box very tightly, causing rub and eventually damage. Some of the bit recesses are too high / deep to see what it is unless you’re facing the bit tray. Silver Medal.
Quality: The stained wood gives a nice look, and the materials seems the most solid of the assembly-required group. The Castles of Mad King Ludwig has some game-specific flourishes which are a nice touch. Gold Medal.
Value: Solid. Gold Medal.
GameTrayz – GameTrayz makes injection molded plastic inserts for a select few board games including Euphoria, Eclipse, and Terra Mystica. They offer some customization options for plastic color.
Around a year ago, I purchased the GameTrayz for Terra Mystica. I opted for the clear plastic version, and when I received my trays, I kind of thought, “That’s it?” Although described and depicted correctly on the GameTrayz website, I felt there wasn’t much to this product and was scratching my head as to how these would greatly aid in organization and set up. I found my option for all-clear plastic to look fairly “cheap” as well.
I organized the bits in the appropriate trays, and then tried putting them with the rest of the components into the game box. The box did not close flush. I could be wrong, but I’ve always been under the impression that gamers strongly dislike it when their boxes don’t close flush. I contacted customer support (who replied quickly and politely) that my game organizer wasn’t doing such a great job. They corrected me in that the products true intention is as a speed setup solution, not necessarily as an insert / organizer like what I had in mind. They said users have found a fix by placing some of the trays into the box upside down, and then filling the recesses with other component elements. I’ve done this, and it’s better, but not quite flush.
In organizing this Insert Review Round Up, I contacted GameTrayz to inquire if they’d like to participate, and mentioned that I had a previous purchase that was a bit of a dud for me. They responded very enthusiastically that they’d like to be included, and sent us the Brew Crafters GameTrayz insert.
The Brew Crafters insert arrived on my front step about 10 days from first contact. The trays have black bottoms / bases that the clear tops cover, and I find this to be a much more substantial look over the all-clear trays I opted for with Terra Mystica.
Andy and I broke out Brew Crafters, arranged the bits in the GameTrayz, and played. Andy crushed me. But less surprising than that, the GameTray did an awesome job of helping set the game up quickly, and keeping resources within reach. The one knock on the GameTray is the inclusion of the tray that holds the different brewery additions. Since each player can only use each brewery addition once, we think we’ll be returning to giving each player a Starting Bits Bag that includes their meeples and buldings in lieu of using this tray. When this tray is in use, we could not get the box to close flush despite a YouTube video demonstrating how to organize the trays in the box.
I think GameTrayz could stop offering / producing this part of the package and it wouldn’t be missed, and might bring the price down on both ends of the ordering equation. This is how we store Brew Crafters with the tray included:
Assembly: Not applicable. Gold Medal.
Assembly Instructions: Not applicable. Gold Medal.
Functionality: One tray seems unnecessary, and when in use, the box does not close flush. Silver Medal.
Quality: The plastic appears to be quite durable. Gold Medal.
Value: Despite unnecessary Building Tray, solid. Gold Medal.
Conclusion: UpWithMeeple is humbled, honored, and lucky to have received such incredible support for this project and our site from these great companies. Each company was excited to participate and had great point people that were a pleasure to work with.
Besides organizing, protecting, and aiding in a fast set up to playing, inserts have the magical power of making you play the game they are intended for! Upon the receipt of a few of these inserts, we dusted off our copy and got back to playing some of our old favorites for the first time in awhile. When reaching for a game now, “Does it have an insert” is actually part of the discussion as the set up and clean up are big time savers. Over the course of a long day of gaming, the time difference could potentially mean playing one more game. Sure, some of them can be expensive, approaching the cost of a new, standard big box game, but think of your inserts as an efficiency engine building exercise towards more fun!
Each manufacturer has their own strengths; The Broken Token employs box-reinforcing outer walls and clear iconography for organizing the game pieces, Custom Game Bits come pre-assembled and feature slide-in lids, Daedalus Productions uses the highest quality materials and has cool flourishes, GameTrayz requires no assembly and are very affordable, and Meeple Realty has the most radical designs and engineering. No one manufacturer makes the perfect insert, or an inset for every game. Although we’ll be naming an Editor’s Choice below, we strongly feel that you really cannot go wrong with any of the offerings from these companies, in the end your purchasing consideration will come down to price, features, and who makes the insert for that special game in your library deserving of one.
With that, UpWithMeeple is proud to present our Editor’s Choice Winner of the Insert Review Round-Up to:
The Broken Token
The Broken Token’s combination of title selection, affordability, easy assembly, clear iconography, and protective outer insert wall makes them our all-around favorite. Congratulations!