The shoddiest product

Probably the worst unboxing experience I have ever had

During Hurricane Sandy, a friend a from work was staying with me for a night, since he had lost power in his apartment. He brought along a board game, Risk, which he had received from a middle eastern friend. I have fond memories of summers spent playing Risk with neighborhood friends, and was looking forward to playing again. However, it wasn’t quite what I expected — this was quite possibly the most disappointing knock-off ever, fit only for gag gifts.

Let’s explore…

This being a foreign product, it’s not surprising that there are some linguistic gaffes. After all, English is routinely butchered across Asia in the form of Chinglish, and there’s even a restaurant called “Translate server error”, so the misspelling of the word “original” and the nonsensical phrase “The Control On The World” are excusable.

In spite of this, the box boldly proclaims its compatibility with both English and Arabic players:

Apparently, the “English” is restricted to the box cover, since every other instruction and text in the game is quite thoroughly in the French language:

The disappointment only increases when you open the box. A hastily folded instruction sheet covers the rest of the game’s contents, which seem to be wrapped in a large red cover.

However, the red cardboard turns out to just be filler material. In a surreal twist, bear, bunny, and duck cardboard strips are arranged inside to prop up the box and give it volume. This game could be sold in an envelope if it weren’t for this.

On to the actual playing board, an interesting example of a novel geographic projection. It doesn’t match any known projection, even among less common projections, and is most likely some third-graders geography project that received a bad grade:

There’s a great feeling of adventure, particularly with a clip-art beached whale in the Atlantic ocean, and a sailing ship pointed into the ocean off of Madagascar. Politically, it’s quite progressive: anticipating the European Union and the Schengen zone, Europe has no borders, with the exception of southern Europe which for some reason has seceded from the rest of the continent.

Next up, the playing pieces, including what are possibly the most useless dice ever made. While the lack of labeled sides can be somewhat remedied with the conveniently included stickers (which only go up to 3), the dice are uneven and not exactly cubic in form.

You’re probably wondering to yourself, “How many of those flower-shaped pieces are there?” Predictably, there’s no logic to how many pieces there are of each color and shape, as if someone haphazardly grabbed some from a large bucket of pieces when packing the box:

I guess the cards were pretty decent-looking, even though there were only 42 of the expected 72 cards.

The absolutely abysmal nature of this product got me thinking: Who would buy such a thing? Who produces such a generally poorly-constructed product? Like most counterfeit goods, It’s clear that it’s made very cheaply, with emphasis on perceived value (eg. stuffing the box to make it look big) rather than actual value (eg. packing the right number of playing pieces). My guess is that whoever makes this supplies it to cheap “gifts” stores, where it’s purchased mostly by less-discerning older people for their children and grandchildren. Recipients of this gift likely just leave it sitting on the shelf as another “bad gift”. Considering the low cost of production, this deception can make the producers enough money to continue churning out this junk.

With some effort and improvisation, the game is playable — perhaps in other parts of the world people are more forgiving of lower-quality products that don’t just work out-of-the-box.

It’s bewildering to think of all the people involved in this: for each utterly shitty junk product out there, someone had to design it, make the graphics, come up with packaging, manufacture it, distribute it, place it in stores — and then later someone will also have to bring it back to the landfill. Somewhere in that process there is just enough profit to keep the whole thing turning.