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  • Essays
  • Collected Collections - Why People Buy Board Games

Collected Collections - Why People Buy Board Games

O Updated
(Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash)
There Will Be Games

Different people buy games for different reasons, and many of us will have amassed a little, or not so little, collection that we have at home that we are proud of. Yet, sometimes we're not sure how we got there or how we should continue going forward. So it's often good to re-evaluate the games we've got and think about why we have bought them. Then we can decide how we want to continue in the future, and in this article, I want to look at some of the reasons why people buy games and how they curate their collections.

I think for many people the decision as to what games they buy is down to budget. Very few people can afford to buy every game they want. However, cost alone isn't really the deciding factor. I don't think anybody just buys every game they can find below a certain value or based on a specific price-to-value ratio, even though the cost will ultimately decide if you can afford to buy a game or not.

One approach for some people is to buy always the latest releases that are most talked about, the so-called "hotness". Several thousand games are released each year, so nobody can buy them all, at least not realistically, but there are games that everyone talks about, and those rise to the top of the hotness chart - and then people buy them, or pre-order them in most cases.

In a similar vein are people who buy pretty much everything that's released via Kickstarter. Again, nobody will be able to buy every game published that way, but use the hotness chart to narrow down your choices and you could be all right.

In a sort of reverse way, some people always look for rare or out-of-print games, or editions of games. It is more akin to antique collectors, who want to have something that is very special and unique and not freely available.

The resulting collection, in all three cases, is going to be rather eclectic, with no particular theme or topic tying them all together. Many of the games will most likely be rather luxurious and chances are they don't get played, because the collector wants to keep them pristine and bought them more to show off. It's an interesting approach, but one that very few of us will probably be able to afford.

Another way of deciding what games to buy can be about completing a set. Some publishers number their games, such as EmperorS4, or they release games as a sort of series, which entices you to buy their games. Multiple expansions can also be a reason for completionists to decide which games, or in this case expansions, to buy. Sometimes it could be a certain theme, such as railroad games, or intellectual property, such as Marvel, that decides what games end up in your collection.

Similarly, people might want to buy all small box games, whatever "small" means in this context, or all games with a specific mechanism or component, such as dice games for example. Even buying all games from a particular designer, artist or publisher is a motivation for some people. I know at least one person whose mission it is to buy all games from Oink Games, and I must admit, once you find a publisher whose games you like, you are likely to buy other games from them as well.

Some people decide what games they buy based on who they're going to play them with. I, for example, always look for games that I know I will play with my wife or daughter, as well as games that I know will be something for my weekly games night group. It is then about finding games that will fit certain tastes, other than your own, and not necessarily about buying new games.

The resulting collection may seem quite mixed, but what ties them all together is the group of people you play the games with. There will be a certain thread of mechanisms found in the games or experiences that these games create, that may not be immediately clear, but that explains why they fit the tastes of your friends or family.

Another reason to buy a game, at least for me, is if it does something new or combines existing things in a new way. I bought Gloom for example, because it was the first game I came across that allowed you to layer cards on top of each other to modify them, something that Mystic Vale now does in a similar way or that the upcoming Canvas also uses.

Again, the resulting collection is rather mixed, but it's still nice to have a new player experience with these sort of games, and more often than not I tend to make sure that these games will also suit my family or friends.

In fact, for many people it's going to be some sort of mix of all of the above reasons. You might always buy new games, but only as long as they will fit the tastes of the people you usually play with - or you buy only Marvel games that are rare or out-of-print, which actually seems a very hard goal to achieve, given the recent surge of Marvel games.

So what are your reasons to buy games? Do you actively curate your collection or do you just buy whatever you please? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences, so please share them in the comments below.

There Will Be Games
Oliver Kinne
Oliver Kinne (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Oliver Kinne aims to publish two new articles every week on his blog, Tabletop Games Blog, and also release both in podcast form. He reviews board games and writes about tabletop games related topics.

Oliver is also the co-host of the Tabletop Inquisition podcast, which releases a new episode every three to four weeks and tackles different issues facing board games, the people who play them and maybe their industry.

Articles by Oliver Kinne

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Jexik's Avatar
Jexik replied the topic: #311783 08 Jul 2020 13:23
I got back into board games in 2007 because of a gift- the Heroscape Master set.

So for the next few years, I bought almost exclusively expansions to that game. Through word of mouth of people that enjoyed Heroscape, which included those on Heroscapers.com and this site eventually, I picked up Descent and expansions, as well as Last Night on Earth, without any expansions. I think I had Settlers of Catan as well, and looked to the BGG top 10 or so to see what was all the rage.

At that time, it was Dominion, Race for the Galaxy, and Power Grid that I picked up after some research, and despite being pretty different than the rest of the collection, I didn't regret any of these purchases.

Because I've pretty much always been on a budget, I've looked to games that have some level of universally high appeal or critical response, and often look to try them out before I buy them. Root was a game that I picked up after it was on nearly everyone's best of lists. Tragedy Looper was a game I picked up just because it had decent reviews and everyone talked about how different it was. In both of these cases, I spent money on expansions that could have gone to other games, because I tend to dive deeper into something than see what's on the other side of the swimming pool.
Ah_Pook's Avatar
Ah_Pook replied the topic: #311791 08 Jul 2020 15:23
I buy things I want to play, and that I think I can get played enough to be worth buying. Not much of a system beyond that.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #311792 08 Jul 2020 16:20

Ah_Pook wrote: I buy things I want to play, and that I think I can get played enough to be worth buying. Not much of a system beyond that.


+1
oliverkinne's Avatar
oliverkinne replied the topic: #312068 15 Jul 2020 06:49
Thank you for everyone's comments. It's great to hear how you all decide what games to buy.

It sounds like all of you buy games that you know you will play, which is great.

However, @Ah_Pook and @southernman, is your budget limitless? Do you ever get rid of games or do you just keep buying more? Both of these are certainly considerations for me.
Rliyen's Avatar
Rliyen replied the topic: #312073 15 Jul 2020 10:25
I'm with Ah_Pook. I buy games that interest me. If they interest me, chances are they will go over well with my friends. I can't tell you how many times I've had a particular friend say, "Scott, where do you FIND these games?" And he means it in a good way.
n815e's Avatar
n815e replied the topic: #312080 15 Jul 2020 11:58
I try not to, but I buy games that interest me, that I want to check out the systems and how they work, that I want to tinker with - even if my friends are not going to want to play with them.
I try to avoid doing this, because those games don’t last in my collection, but I have always enjoyed “checking them out” so I give in on occasion.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #312093 15 Jul 2020 16:30

oliverkinne wrote: ....
However, @Ah_Pook and @southernman, is your budget limitless? Do you ever get rid of games or do you just keep buying more? Both of these are certainly considerations for me.


I doubt anyone has an unlimited budget, even the richest person will not spend all their money - we all have a discretionary budget for entertainment expenditure. I sell stuff regularly - mainly because I know not everything will get played but sometimes because I've played a game out and I know I won't want to play it again, and sometimes just because the game wasn't as good as I thought or I had grown out of it.
I do keep a large collection (just under three figures) as I have a lot of games I like playing, and I don't feel I have to sell all of them just because they won't get played this year - just like book, film and music fans have collections they like to read, watch or listen to later in their lives.
oliverkinne's Avatar
oliverkinne replied the topic: #312111 16 Jul 2020 03:34
Thank you @southernman.

No, I didn't expect anyone's budget to be truly limitless, but I know at least one person who doesn't seem to think about the cost of the games they buy at all. So I was wondering if you and others do think about that before they buy, or if cost is basically only a secondary consideration.

Many book, film or music collectors have certain criteria for what they buy. For example, only science-fiction books, or only music by certain artists or from a certain era - or maybe just every #1 hit from the charts. Do you curate your collection in a similar way? Do you have criteria?

Sorry, if this seems like some sort of interview. I just find it interesting to hear how people grow their collections and what considerations they have when they buy games.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #312112 16 Jul 2020 04:11

oliverkinne wrote: Thank you @southernman.

No, I didn't expect anyone's budget to be truly limitless, but I know at least one person who doesn't seem to think about the cost of the games they buy at all. So I was wondering if you and others do think about that before they buy, or if cost is basically only a secondary consideration.


They probably are in a higher income/wealth bracket than you and me so the cost of board games, as opposed to art or classic cars, is well within what they consider their entertainment budget. I have friends on a much lower income than me and thus buy much fewer games than me. In the same vein of my neighbour and his friends who I have social afternoon/evening beers with quite often, one of them has a lower income and more kids than others and therefore limits himself to cheaper beer brands

Many book, film or music collectors have certain criteria for what they buy. For example, only science-fiction books, or only music by certain artists or from a certain era - or maybe just every #1 hit from the charts. Do you curate your collection in a similar way? Do you have criteria?


I buy games I like to play that provide fun to me, just like those other collectors buy items they like to read/listen/watch, in my case these are thematic games rather than euro games. Same for music where I buy what I like to listen to and that may not be all from one genre (my favourite albums include those from Nirvana and The Clash but I also have Beck and Alanis Morissette in my collection.
oliverkinne's Avatar
oliverkinne replied the topic: #312113 16 Jul 2020 05:20
Thank you again for your reply. It's so good to hear your experiences and thoughts.
Sevej's Avatar
Sevej replied the topic: #312116 16 Jul 2020 06:21
I buy games that fascinates me, although sometimes it's for theme also. Battlelore was my first game, and it's really fresh take for a pc gamer like me. The modular set up means it's providing a lot of variability, and I love the streamlined unit types. And then there's Band of Brothers, which totally changes the way I look at man to man combat games with its suppression system. Descent 2nd ed I pick because it's a quite expansive game with 20+ quests, 8 characters & classes for a classic genre I love.

Also, my main interest with board game lies with its limitation. How it does a lot of things with physical component limitation. Therefore modularity and creative use of components are pretty high priority for me. During my first years I had been interested in finding board games of my favorite pc game genres, but stopped since I realized... those are best played on pc. Board game is its own thing. The limitation and physical presence is what makes it interesting.

Of course, they're all have to be playable and finish-able. I mean, I've finished Descent 2nd ed base game campaign 2-3 times. Can't say the same for the folks I know who're playing Gloomhaven. I'm sure it's the superior game in some aspect, but I'd never be able to complete it. Running a campaign is great, but actually completing one is priceless.
Road Judge's Avatar
Road Judge replied the topic: #312319 22 Jul 2020 08:03
I buy games for two audiences. One audience is for my now 20 yr old son and I to play like WoTR, Imperial Assault, Conflict of Heroes series, 1775, Star Wars Rebellion...games that are fun with two people generally.

The second audience is for my gaming group which leans more towards games like Lancaster, Yedo, Great Western Trail, euro games, roll and writes.

I tend to buy more games for my son and I to play then the meetup but that may change once he moves out. (He had better live close by!)
Space Ghost's Avatar
Space Ghost replied the topic: #312362 22 Jul 2020 22:32
Games have always been a part of my life to some degree -- my Mom had gotten the Enchanted World series from Time Life and at some point Wizard's Quest came along with it (probably through an advert thrown in with the books), and I was hooked. That was probably when I was 7, so about 1985. I loved (and still love) how the orcs frenzy and can just wreak havoc (as well as Peacekeeper foiling many a plan).

For a long time, in the 80s, I was enjoying most fantasy board games. Today, I generally buy games that I think have a unique setting or theme. I generally tend to like games that are off the beaten path as well. The game I am anticipating the most this year is Cosmic Frog -- the kind of weird that is right down my alley.
fightcitymayor's Avatar
fightcitymayor replied the topic: #312387 23 Jul 2020 13:34
My approach to gaming is best described as "Mercenary Vampire."

I buy games that:
A) I like
B) ... that also have decent re-sale value

Because with thousands of games being released every other minute, I could probably have fun with plenty of different games. So I concentrate on stuff that tickles my fancy, so I may play them, fondle them, analyze them, marinate in them, and then once all of the gaming marrow has been sucked out of them... I sell them along to the next interested fresh fellow, in order to fund future gaming escapades.

(The exception being a particular series in which I buy e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g for without question & without mercenary tendencies. For me, that game is Mantic's Walking Dead All Out War. Feels like we all have that one uncritical area of concentration that we just say Yes to every time.)