Cheapass Games, a game publisher started by Game designer James Ernest, has a simple philosophy about games; they cost too much, and they are, at some level, pretty much the same.
Despite the clever shapes they come in, the cheap little plastic (or sometimes expensive metal) pawns are an interchangeable part of most board games. So are the dice, the money, the counters, the pencils, and just about every other random spare part. These generic bits and pieces account for a large amount of a game's production cost, and that cost gets handed to you.
Thus, Cheapass games are less expensive, but come only with the bare essentials: boards, cards, and rulebooks. If you need anything else, You'll have to provide it yourself, but it's probably something you can scrounge from a game you already own, or buy at a hobby store for less than you would be charged as part of a boxed game. And once you've assembled your collection of generic small parts, you can use them for every new Cheapass Game. They've standardized their designs so your gaming toolbox will last.
paraphrased from http://www.cheapass.com