As a child and younger adult I had a strong collector instinct. It started with baseball cards, but by the time I hit my teens I was collecting various Collectible Card Games (CCGs) and role playing games, and I would get things just because they might be useful some day or found something about them to be particularly appealing. Even when I first started into Collectible Miniature Games (CMGs) this habit continued, and by the time I reached the end of my exploration of CMGs I had thousands of the little suckers. I still have a gigantic number of them in my apartment in bins and boxes, mostly due to my laziness in going through the trouble of organizing them by set and then selling them. So based on this history it is pretty natural to assume that I would end up following a similar tack with board games, with a collection in the hundreds. However, with a collection that hovers between 50 and 60 games, and has for years, I have avoided this particular tendency. So the real question is why I have done this and why I would want to do this.
I have never been a real game dabbler. For years, I really only played D&D, with a foray into CCGs in the mid-nineties and a more involved romance with CMGs in the 2000s. However, all of these lifestyle games enabled you to collect within the game. There were always new minis or cards to try with your older ones and new books to provide additional monsters to battle or characters to play. Buying these additions might make you use your older purchases less, but you were able to use as much or as little of the new content as you thought was valuable. I particularly enjoyed the depth of exploration that playing the CMGs allowed. There was a pretty vast game space available there to explore and my enjoyment of this exploration has not diminished (thus my enjoyment of heavier, meatier games).
Board games are mostly different. There are a few lifestyle board games, but most board games are intended to offer discrete experiences that are intended to be explored on their own rather than in conjunction with previous purchases. So while new board games may be able to allow you to enjoy the experience of board gaming as a whole, they do not provide for additional depth to a previous play experience. This of course has its advantages, as you usually do not need to make quite the same investment in time or money to get involved in a board game as you would in a typical lifestyle game, making it easier to involve more casual players or for people who prefer the more varied experience that playing a wide range of board games provide.
Of course there is a downside to this in that the plethora of available games and the constant influx of new games encourage people to just try out a new game rather than continue exploring a particular one, especially if one player in the group is less than satisfied with other players’ favorites. Involvement in any of the prominent board game hobby sites only encourages this further, as the inevitable focus is on discussing new games. People want to know what to buy, what will provide them the greatest new thrill and serve as an excellent addition to their ever growing collections. So it becomes unusual for any particular game to be explored in depth, even if the game deserves this exploration.
I am not immune to this particular affliction, and it has become even worse now that I have entered the world of board gaming criticism, but I have come to discover that keeping a smaller collection allows me to more effectively explore games both in breadth and in depth. By constantly cycling out games in my collection that no longer meet either my particular standards and desires or those of my group I can ensure that even while exploring some fun new games I can also keep both myself and others in my group focused on playing a smaller set of games a lot rather than it being a more scattershot affair. Sometimes this results in me getting rid of games I actually like; I sold my copy of Labyrinth simply because of lack of two player gaming opportunities and I suspect that I will ultimately get rid of Bios Megafauna, Rex: Final Days of the Empire, and Upon A Salty Ocean because of the fact that group interest in these titles is low.
Of course, based on my previous tendencies it is likely that I would have never come to this conclusion if outside forces had not forced me to experiment with how a smaller collection might be good and ways to effectively manage said collection. The first of these pressures is simply based on space. I share an apartment with my long-term partner and while I like board games I do not like the idea of them taking over our available living space. I do have room in some of my cabinets for more games, but I have noticed games that are not in my central bookcase are less likely to come into play and if it is relegated to the cabinets, it probably is one I probably should try to get rid of anyway. The second is the afore-mentioned partner who tends to start teasing me whenever she thinks my collection has become too large. There is some level of seriousness behind the teasing of course, our comfort zones for the quantity of board games in the house is almost certainly very different, but it helped me to keep my collection small earlier in my days as a board gamer when I was more inclined to just let it grow.
Now, of course, my tendencies are so ingrained that we do not even really talk about it anymore. While I am constantly buying new games, every few months I reach the point where I am getting uncomfortable with the size of the collection and I purge any games that are on the borderline between owning and not owning. Originally I handled this mostly through trades, particularly math trades, but I eventually reached the conclusion that the trades were not actually worth it. Since my local game store is also an on-line retailer, and when I do order from others it is usually enough games to get free shipping, the fact that I had to pay for shipping my own game greatly decreased the value of the transaction. Selling, where the shipping is paid for by the buyer simply makes more financial sense for me, and what is what I focus on to this day. Brand new games tend to be much easier to get rid of then older games, so being an early adopter has additional advantages beyond those involved in being part of the initial discussion of a game.
It also helps that my tastes are defined enough that it is usually not that difficult to figure out which games are going to work for at least 30 plays (my requirement for longer games) or 100 plays (my requirement for shorter games). Even if I do not think that I have explored the extend of a game, if I can see a point in the near future where I will reach that extent it is very easy for me to get rid of a game. Of course, sometimes I am wrong and end up keeping a game that does not quite make it to my goal, but that is something I am willing to live with. The only game that I sold or traded and felt any regret afterwards is Puerto Rico, and now I am trying to get rid of my new copy again, so it seems that the reacquisition was the mistake rather than the initial rejection.
The result of this is that the games in my collection have a pretty high total number of plays. Even the less frequently played games in my collection, that are not on their way out, are sitting at 4-5 plays rather than 1 or zero, and almost half of my games have been played twenty or more times. It also has allowed me to dive deeply into new releases that are my favorites; as of today I have played Mage Knight 30 times with other people and have 20 non-solo plays of Ora et Labora.
I am pretty happy with this set-up. It allows me to participate pretty extensively in conversations about the new games I care most about, find great new games for my collection, while still keeping my overall costs fairly low and my plays of the games I like high. I can understand why other people like to have large collections, but it is not for me. A small collection allows me to focus on the style of gaming that I care about most.
Wherein I Discuss Those Games Described As Gamer's Games
- [+] Dice rolls