Board Gamers Anonymous

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John at the Crossroads (Part 4 of Sitting on 3000 Games)

Drew Davidson
United States
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Microbadge: Platinum Board Game CollectorMicrobadge: Copper RPG CollectorMicrobadge: Extra Life participantMicrobadge: Games MagazineMicrobadge: Gaming since 1962
[Part 4 is just over 800 words. Much shorter than Part 3. I'll never put you through that again! )

Part One: The Story of John and Robin
Part Two: John & Robin's Mentor, Sid Sackson
Part Three: The Sad Story of Sid's Estate

When Sid Sackson died (see Part 3), his family was overwhelmed, both by his medical bills, and by Sid’s estate of 18,000 games. They had to liquidate Sid’s collection, and quickly. You can’t blame the family for acting out of necessity, as Sid never made plans for his future.

What happened to Sid Sackson’s collection could have easily happened to John and Robin. They just kept piling up their games without organizing them or making plans for their future. With Robin’s passing, John wanted no part of the collection they had built together (see part 1). Learning from Sid’s mistake, John has been looking for ways to quickly and easily divest himself of the oppressive weight.

BTW, contrary to the title of this series, it’s looking like John’s collection will fall short of 3000 items. He had earlier given me a rough description of his holdings, but he had never taken a count or kept inventory.

John’s original estimate was based on the number of times he worked on the Games 100 (I assumed he kept all 100 of the top games from that year. Throughout the years he and Robin were together, they also added quite a number of abstract games – their favorite – to their shared collection.

Every year, after the annual Games 100 issue was ‘put to bed’, he and Robin would box up all the games they received in the previous year and truck them over to their storage unit in Queens, NY. The closest thing to record-keeping was a list of games written John would write on the outside of each box.

But John didn’t keep all the games that he had. No, I wouldn’t say John was a Hoarder. In fact, it was Robin who was the hoarder of the family, if anyone. But “Hoarder” has been turned into a harsh word nowadays. I think of her more as a ‘keeper’, as in keepsake.

Among the things Robin collected was every single issue of Games, right from Vol 1, #1. There were also hundreds of copies of NOST-algia magazines (from the chess club Robin & John met through), as well as dozens of Scientific Americans , which Robin kept for the Martin Gardner columns on “Mathematical Games.”

On the other hand, John was the more practical one. A world traveler in his pre-Robin days, he had learned to keep his pack trimmed to the essentials. When he met and fell in love with Robin, he traded in his rover’s life for one of domestication. But it was a life he settled comfortably into.

Because of his work as a reviewer, John collected games; but he wasn’t a “Collector.” He pretty much kept just those on the Games 100, minus the games he had no further use for. A fan of Euro games, like Sid Sackson was, John also collected a number of German-language games, many of which still haven’t been published in the U.S. (For some reason, he had no love for Agricola and its endless expansions, though he liked Caverna well enough.)

In contrast, he had little interest in keeping “Ameritrash” games, many of which he donated to charity. In addition, John contributed some 40 games (unwrapped & unpunched) to the Extra Life fundraisers that Board Gamers Anonymous has run for the past 2 years.

For the past few months, in preparation for his final move back to Ireland, John’s been going through the Flushing co-op he shared with Robin. Layer by layer, like an archeologist going through the past, John’s been carting out the detritus of his past life. It’s painful work, like picking at a wound.

As disheartening and slow-going as it is, his old playmates have been supporting him and are assisting him with a home makeover prior to placing it on the market.

What’s left are photos. They’re found everywhere throughout the home, photos of John and Robin and friends in happier times. He may be jettisoning everything else out of his life, but as long as he never gets rid of those photos, I think he’ll be all right.

The games are long gone from his home, now housed in a tight 9’x9’ storage unit in Staten Island. John wants to divest himself of the collection all at once, as quickly and simply as possible. It’s just too much trouble to dispose of them otherwise. For example, it would’ve cost $1200 to ship them all to an interested party in the Midwest. And it would be a lot of trouble to list 2500+ items on EBay. A group of gamers in Maryland considered it, but it would take time to gather up money, and the games would still need to be transported.

Once everything is picked up, thrown out, packed up or stored, the question still remains, What will happen to John and Robin’s game collection, when John turns his back on it forever...?

[Part 5 will discuss how I became part of John's inner circle, and how I'm working with him to find a good home for his and Robin's collection.]

Part 5: Joining John's Salon
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