Wood You Believe It? The Best Wooden Components in Gaming!

The NRB hotlines have barely stopped ringing with all you fabulous viewers asking the same, very pertinent question; when oh when will we make a list of your favourite wooden components in board games? My friends, the long wait is finally over!

For many of us, a lot of the joy of board games is the tactile nature of it all, holding cards, rolling dice, peering over the board to work out your next move. For me, I always love a game with wooden pieces. They’ve come a long way in recent years, from humble cubes to the first appearance of the “meeple” pieces to screen-printed individual characters.

I recently mentioned to some game-loving pals in the pub that I was working on this list, almost as a joke, but it became a heated discussion for easily two, maybe three pints worth of time. So! Let’s see if you would have agreed with me or joined the naysayers that fateful day as I present my top 5 wooden pieces in board games…

Spirit Island : The Dahan!

Spirit Island is a hugely popular co-operative deck building game with a killer theme, you are ancient spirits trying to save your island from ravaging western settlers. You can control volcanoes, the ocean, and even the dreams of the settlers in a race against time to bin off every one of these European fools and return peace to your humble island.

It’s a fantastic game with hugely evocative art and incredible best card names (who doesn’t want to play cards like “Wrap in Wings of Sunlight” or “Sap the Strength of Multitudes”?)

It also has a clever mix of both plastic and wooden pieces. It took me a while to realise but anything evil in the game, like the invaders, is made from plastic, whilst anything good, like the native inhabitants, is made from wood! A brilliantly simple idea that meant it had to make my list. (And no complaints in the pub over this one either.) If you’ve played Pandemic and are ready for a jump up in complexity with a brilliant theme and cute wooden huts, you’re gonna love “Spirit Island”.

Wingspan : Those eggs!

It just had to be, the beautiful, pastel coloured eggs from the tableau-building bird based hit, “Wingspan”.

If you don’t know Wingspan, it’s been a recent breakout hit from the world of “serious board gamers” to more casual ones. It can divide opinion a bit, too simple for the hardcore gamers, too complicated for the casual gamers. So what’s the truth?

Well, it is a bit longer than it looks, and the card combos take a few rounds to understand but after that, it’s a lovely time, with great art, putting birds into areas and seeing if a hawk can eat a sparrow, if that goose is going to get even fatter. A fun theme, fantastically presented, plus, how bout those eggs!

The little eggs you place down on your cards always draw the eye with their great colours. There was some debate in the pub here if, actually the chonky wooden dice in the game are the better component. Sure, they’re also nice. But, come on, how bout those eggs!

BEAST – The animals!

“Beast” comes in for a lot of love here at NRB, and rightly so – it’s a fantastically tight and exciting chase through swamps, forests and cities as a giant beast tries to defeat a plucky band of hunters. A one vs many hidden movement classic with some great looking art, but what of the playing pieces?

Well, the ones representing the main characters are perfectly fine (if a little underwhelming) cardboard standees (though plastic minis are on their way with the latest Kickstarter) but the boars, bears and sheep that graze upon the board at the start of the game are fantastic looking wooden pieces that really make the game pop. I’ve only ever killed one bear in my many plays of this game, but finally lifting that wooden colossus and adding it to my player board felt fantastic.

And if you’re reading this “beast” designers… how about some lovely wooden hunter meeples?

ROOT – The Armies!

This was about the point where the pub discussion got very heated, second pints were ordered and two very distinct factions argued their case. It was Team “Root” vs Team “Oath”, two great games by the same designer, publisher and even the same artist.

Now, “Oath” is one of my favourite games of all time and, for me, took the promise of “Root” and improved upon it in so many ways that I nearly always play the former over the latter. But, here I am, confident in saying that, yes, whilst the screen printed wooden pieces in “Oath” are fantastic, the colours, variety and design of the armies in “Root” matches the art so well that it elevates a good asymmetric war game to the status of modern classic. To me, if you had to draw what a dream board game looks like, it’d look something like “Root”.

The Mice are my standouts from the base game, the Otters my favourite from the expansions and, if it’s purely great wooden minis you are after, the recent “hirelings” box expansion will take some beating. I’ve even ended up using my “Root” armies in other games with terrible components. Sorry Team “Oath”, you fought well, but you were wrong, on pure wooden joy, Root takes the crown for sure!

ON MARS – The Rovers!

And finally, to space! “On Mars” is one of a series of lavishly produced, super heavy euro games all by the same designer. Though I find some of these games can be a little too complex for complexities sake, almost like you are watching it being played rather than driving it all, they are all stunning to look at thanks to Ian O’Toole’s artwork and some truly stunning components, plus one of them, “On Mars” has blended theme and complexity just right to create a truly luxurious feeling gaming experience of colonising Mars.

Flitting between a space station and the planet’s surface via wooden rockets, players will place wooden buildings, deploy wooden robots and, best of all, pilot little wooden Mars rovers around. It’s a brain burner of a game for sure, turns out, colonising isn’t as easy at it looks, but those rovers make it all worth while!

I’m sure we’ll have missed many of your favourites so reach out to us on on social media to tell us how wrong (or right…) we are!

Written by Tom Bell.

If you want to pick up any of these games, check if they’re in stock at Zatu. Buying them there supports No Rolls Barred via our affiliate partnership. Read more here.