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Bus Theory: Buying more games does not mean you will have more fun.

Mike Hulsebus
United States
Ann Arbor
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After a spending a good deal of time around here, I see a lot of people that can’t seem to stop buying games. While I am not prefect in this regard, I’ve come up a few points about buying games that I've learned along the way. My theory is as follows (since everyone gets named theories, let’s call this Bus Theory).

1) Just because you had fun doesn’t mean you need to keep paying for that fun.

Let’s say that you have friends over and you introduce them to Cosmic Encounter. They love it. You have a great time and everyone says that you have to play it again sometime soon.

I don’t know about you, but following that experience, my gut reaction would be to start looking at buying the expansions. Yes, your copy of the game came with 50 alien races. Yes, you could use these races for game after game after game and see how their different combinations come together. BUT THERE ARE NEW ALIENS YOU DON’T HAVE! And playing Comic Encounter was so fun!

Don’t be like me. Don’t own Small World and 3 expansions while only having played the game 3 times since you bought it in 2010. Just because you had a fun experience with a game does not mean that you need to spend more money on a game. It means you need to resolve to play that game more often.

If you love having your friends over to watch football, buying a bigger TV won’t make it more fun (or at least won’t make it so much more fun that it justifies the cost). You don’t need to build a shrine to the fun you’re having. You’ll have the same fun next time if you watch it on your same regular TV.

2) The opportunity cost of buying a new game to play is not playing your old games

I agree with Ryan Sturm: we should seek to play better games, more often.
How many times over the course of the year are you going to have opportunities to play games? 52 times? Wouldn’t you rather spend that time playing your absolute favorite games?

I hear a lot of podcasters and see a lot of BGG posters who talk about “I really need to get this game to the table” or they lament that they haven’t played a certain game in a long time. Why haven’t you played that game recently? You have spent too much of your time playing games that are not your favorites.

Think of your game collection and the plays you log like a Dominion deck. Would you rather draw from a 60 card deck full of 30 copper and 30 gold, or a 40 card deck with 10 copper and 30 gold?

3) Just because a game is a good game or a fun game does not mean that you need to own it.

Your criteria for buying a new game should not be “would I have fun playing this game?” It is a game. You like games. Chances are, you are going to have fun playing the game. If you’ve ever listened to the Myriad Games Presentation podcast, you know that they can have fun playing just about any game, even if they don’t much care for the game.

Somewhat better criteria is “Is this game going to absolutely blow me away?”
You can probably have fun with your friends playing a lot of different games: even bad games that you don’t really like. But remember, if you’re looking to buy a game, you want to fill your Dominion deck with gold, not copper.

And still, even if every game that came out in 2012 was a perfect 10 on the BGG scale, that would not mean that you needed to own them all. You would not have that kind of time. There is no sense buying 20 perfect games if you only have time to play 10 of them. And remember (rule 2), if you buy and play those 10 games, there are 10 games that you already own that you aren’t playing.

Eager for podcasts to listen to when most podcasts were on break for Christmas, I went back and listened to some old episodes of the Dice Tower including the best of 2007 podcast. It’s interesting to hear people’s thoughts on games of the day (big news: a game called Agricola is starting to generate buzz), but my biggest takeaway was how many of the discussed games I have never even heard of. People talk about the games from 2007 being a lot of fun of with a lot of replay value. And yet now, here in 2012, I have never heard of those games: they came onto the scene and then vanished.

I imagine that some of those here-then-gone games are still played, but I also wonder how many copies of Trading in the Mediterranean 2007 are collecting dust while their owner preorders the new hotness, Trading in the Baltic Sea 2012.

You could forever live in any year in recent gaming history and be happy. Game factories could all agree to only print reprints of already-in-print games from here on out and we would be perfectly fine and still have fun when we meet up to play board games. You would not run out of games to play and you would not run out of fun to be had.

You do not need to buy more games in order to have more fun.

If you're interested in buying fewer games, you might consider checking out this Simple Dollar post where he suggests keeping an "already have" list of games to remind yourself you have plenty of games you have been waiting to play before you buy new ones
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