Going Cardboard: A Board Game Documentary DVD Review

So, for my second board game related DVD review, we have Going Cardboard: A Board Game Documentary (the first one was Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story).

The Feature

In Going Cardboard, you are taken into the world of designer board games. You are introduced to Essen, the largest board game convention in the world, and you get to hear information about many different facets of the industry. One of the interesting features is the explanation of the "Spiel des Jahres" award (German Game of the Year), and how it has helped shape this industry by creating an award worth winning (monetarily). Because the award was worth winning, designers and publishers will put more effort into trying to win the award - thus improving the overall quality of games.

(DVD's get pros and cons like board games right? Well, I'm going to give them to you, either way.) The first pro for Going Cardboard was the people interviewed. Some of the people contributing to the film include the founder of Rio Grande Games, the founder of Z-Man Games, and the designers of Dominion, Battlestar Galactica, Settlers of Catan, and Power Grid. They also included one of the co-founders of Days of Wonder, and the top people at both Funagain games and Game Salute. Oh, and Reiner Knizia. (Who is important enough to get his own sentence. In case you don't know who Reiner Knizia is, he seems to have designed about a quarter of the games that exist today. Some of the ones I've reviewed that he designed include Ra, Tigris and Euphrates, Through the Desert, and Lord of the Rings.) There are very few people that I can think of who I would have liked to seen interviewed that were not included. The only one that comes to mind is Christian T. Peterson, founder of Fantasy Flight Games.

Because of this list of guests, the next element of Going Cardboard that I liked is that I truly learned more about the industry. Honestly, I have been interested in the inner workings of the board game industry for long enough that I knew a decent amount of what was included. However, it was still fascinating to get to learn simple things like how Rio Grande Games acquired it's name, how many people attend Essen as compared to GenCon and Origins, and how Dominion was able to get signed by a publisher.

However, with all of the aspects of Going Cardboard that I found interesting, I think that the biggest con to me was that I found it hard to follow what the overall story of the documentary was (or if there even was one). At the beginning of the movie, they talk about the Spiel des Jahres, and then this transitions into various well known games such as Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride (along with people's feelings on Monopoly). Next, they discuss how various people started game clubs and smaller conventions. Among this they splice in the size of the game collections of some of the interviewees. Transition briefly into local game stores. Also mixed in is the story of Frost Forge Games and it's rough road to becoming a game publisher through Kickstarter (instead of having their debut title published by an established publisher). You eventually get to Essen and how fun and exciting that can be. These were all very interesting segments, but they didn't seem to flow well from one to the next.

The next con that I had for Going Cardboard was that the sound and video quality wasn't always top notch. Notably, in all of the segments when Tom Vasel (host of the Dice Tower, and probably the most well known game reviewer actively reviewing games) was interviewed, the sound always had an echoing quality. Some of the other interviews that were filmed at conventions also (not surprisingly) suffered from a large amount of background noise that made it more difficult to hear. Finally, many of the segments that were filmed in conventions had some challenging video quality. (The documentary actually starts off with footage of the opening of Essen when thousands of people are pouring into the convention hall. Unfortunately, this many people causes the ground to shake, and thus the camera (that I assume was on a tripod) was shaking along with it.) Small things like this, inconsistency about whether segments would have background music, and the fact that the DVD menu doesn't even have a chapters option for you to jump to a certain part of the film (and that one interviewee checks his phone during the interview!!) unfortunately allowed you to realize that the film was a small budget (Kickstarter) production.

As a final note that is my preference but isn't really a pro or con about the movie itself is that I would have preferred extended interview segments from the different participants. I realize that the producers were using artistic license as they transitioned from one interview to the next, thus keeping the segment more focused on a topic. However, with the people being interviewed, I would have loved to see an extended interview with many of these people. Not just a snipet of how Rio Grande Games was formed, but for Jay Tummelson to tell me the whole story of how the company came to exist. The same for Zev Shlasinger of Z-Man Games, and from many of the designers.


The DVD comes with a game! (Not surprisingly by Reiner Knizia.) Aside from this, the only special features are interviews and segments that didn't make it into the feature of the film for some reason. I found many of these to be interesting. There is one about how Battlestar Galactica was developed by Fantasy Flight; another was about the history of Funagain Games. One was about the founding of Days of Wonder, another was about self-publishing. There are around 20 of these segments, and I found many of them to be very interesting, and I'm glad that they were included.


So, I still don't have a decent scale to grade DVDs. I give Going Cardboard an 8.0/10. With it's problems, I still think it was an interesting DVD that I'm glad that I had the opportunity to watch. If you love board games and are curious to know more about the industry, I don't know how you can not want to watch this, especially since it is the only movie of it's kind. (And it had to get Kickstarted for it to even exist!)

If you are interested in Going Cardboard, then you probably play a lot of games - but have you played some of the fun but fairly unknown games like Jin Li, Mob Ties, and Wok Star?

I would like to thank T-Cat Productions for providing me with a review DVD of Going Cardboard via Game Salute


  1. Thanks for reviewing the film! I appreciate both the pros and the cons. As for the bonus clips, I would LOVE to have had extended interviews like you describe, but we literally could not fit any more of them on the DVD. I had to cut 3 I'd planned on adding. The good news is, with places like Vimeo and YouTube available, that material can still be put out there. Stay tuned. :) - Lorien

  2. I think the Tom Vasel echo might have been done on purpose because his video reviews are known for having an echo. It was probably meant to get a chuckle from the viewer.

  3. Man - I hope not! That makes sense, but to purposely sacrifice your quality for an inside joke....