Cubes get a bad rap in the boardgame community. They are often seen as unthematic, boring, and unoriginal. “Cube-pusher” is a derogatory term used to describe resource-heavy games that might be too fiddly or abstract. Even designers working on prototypes can be reluctant to use cubes, as they struggle to try to convey the theme of their game without finished art. With so many newer games featuring cool custom bits, one might wonder, are the days of cubes behind us? Why did we ever use cubes in the first place?

You should not be afraid to use cubes in your game designs. Cubes are cheap, easy to manipulate, space-efficient, sturdy, easily countable, clearly identifiable, and are a tradition in board gaming. Today, I defend cubes.


Cubes are cheap

Prototyping can be costly. Publishing is costly. Anywhere you can save upfront costs will be a good thing. Sometimes you need a lot of resources. That can add up to a lot of money when you increase the cost of each tiny component. Using cubes will save you money and let you keep the cost down for your finished product.

Cubes are easy to manipulate

Grabbing cubes is easy because of their corners, edges and right angles. Some of the cool, fancy, substitutes for cubes (like those fancy gold bars) can be tricky to pick up and move around with ease.

Cubes are space-efficient

Cubes can be arranged in rows, grids, stacks leaving no spaces whatsoever, and require small dimensions to be fully functional. Other (non-cube) shapes must be made larger in order to communicate their purpose and in some cases to hold their shape without breaking.

Cubes are sturdy

Wooden or plastic cubes are virtually indestructible compared to meeples, miniatures, and oddly shaped wooden or plastic resources. Do you ever hear people complaining about all the broken cubes they have?


Cubes are easy to count

Putting cubes in a row allows counting at just a glance. In games where many transactions occur, cubes can greatly speed up all the resource exchanges.

Cubes say “resource” like no other shape

Cubes are most often used as resources – but using them as claim markers and markers for tracks is perfectly acceptable as well. If they match player colors, they’re usually used as player-specific markers of some kind. When you have several different colors of cubes, that are not in the player colors, they’re usually resources. It can be very useful in a complex game to have the resources be all the same shape. You can glance around the board – everywhere you see a cube, its a resource. Every time you see a cube (or square) icon on a game component, you know immediately that it is referring to a resource to be spent or gained.


Cubes are a tradition

Did you by chance play with LEGOs in the early days, when they had only a handful of colors, and most of shapes were just different blocks? You used your imagination to create all kinds of wonderful things? Those LEGOs are very different from today. Now, nearly every piece has a more specific shape, and with it comes a more specific and limited purpose. Cubes are like those old lego bricks. They can be anything your imagination allows them to be!


What are your thoughts on cubes? Do you like them? Would you rather see custom bits in every game? Leave a comment below!

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Luke Laurie

Game Designer at Luke Laurie Games

Designer of Stones of Fate and The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire
Game designer by night, and middle school science and pre-engineering teacher by day. He lives in Santa Maria California with his amazing wife and two unrealistically well-behaved children.

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  1. Adubs on January 20, 2016

    I love cubes. I only just introduced them into the 9th iteration of my game and they’re working great.

  2. Norv Brooks on January 20, 2016

    “Cubes are most often used as resources – but using them as claim markers and markers for tracks is perfectly acceptable as well.” For this reason alone, I think “cubes” have a lasting place in prototypes and in many cases work for published versions as well. Good article, Luke!

  3. Royce Banuelos on January 20, 2016

    I’m so-so on cubes, they certainly aren’t exciting. They are very functional and accessible so to that point I’m never disappointed with cubes. As far as “cube pusher” goes that has more to do with describing a “type” of game and not so much with the component itself. Ultimately cubes just aren’t exciting and the field of entertainment excitement sells.

  4. Brad Brooks on January 20, 2016

    If you make a Minecraft board game you can use cubes AND be thematic!

  5. Randy on January 21, 2016

    Nice post! Two things I would add against cubes:

    * Cubes of multiple colors are harder to distinguish for colorblind players or low-light situations. Having different shapes can help that.
    * Wood cubes are actually more expensive than you would think for mass production. (For publishers out there, don’t be afraid to get a quote for custom shapes; the difference might not be as much as you fear. 🙂

    I thought a lot about whether or not to use cubes in *World’s Fair 1893*. We stuck with them for many of the reasons you’ve listed here: they are space-efficient and easy to count. Also, you can’t tip a cube over because it has nine planes of symmetry. (Confession: I just now had to look up how to describes a cube’s symmetry.) @Royce may be right that cubes aren’t exciting and that excitement sells, but there are other ways to get excitement. We made the “exciting component” for the game the artwork; I don’t think the cubes will detract from that.

  6. Aaron Holland on January 22, 2016

    I love using cubes in my prototypes because of the minimal space they take up and how easy to grab they are.

  7. Shao-Ying Chen on January 27, 2016

    Great article! I’m a boardgame gamer and designer in Taiwan, and I’d like to translate this article into Chinese to facilitate the understanding of boardgame designing principles for boardgame designers in Taiwan. Of course, the original author and the location of this article will be subscribed in the beginning of the translation article. May I have the pleasure to translate this article and publish on the Facebook fan page about boardgame designing and testing? Thanks!

    • Luke Laurie Author on January 27, 2016

      Thank you Shao! Email response sent. We do allow translations of our articles on a case by case basis, and we’re glad to see our articles reaching readers of other languages!

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