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Paring down

O Updated
(Photo by Mateusz Feliksik on Unsplash)
There Will Be Games

As someone who has a slightly addictive character, collecting pretty much anything comes quite easy to me. "You never know when you might need it again," is what I tend to say. The same is true for board games, of course. "We might play this again at some point," is how I justify not letting a board game go that I haven't played in months. So, in this article, I want to talk about how I overcome my own excuses to keep my board game collection to a manageable size.

For me, the biggest driving force behind getting rid of board games is space. I have intentionally limited myself to only a certain amount of shelf space. It's a physical limit to how much volume of board games I can store. It also means that I have quite a large collection of small box games, mint tin games, mini mint tin games and wallet games. So even though I have quite a lot of games, many of them are small.

Yet, there are also a good few games that come in bigger boxes. No, not Gloomhaven size, but what others would probably call standard size. Think Wingspan, Quacks of Quedlinburg or even Brass: Birmingham. To me, these boxes are still large and there is probably only room for about 15 of them on my games shelf.

So you'd think it would be easy to just sell a game when I run out of shelf space, but of course, I've got another trick up my sleeve so that I can keep more games. I also have some "overflow" storage: under the bed and at the bottom of the cupboard. It's not a huge amount of volume, but enough to store a few extra standard-sized boxes.

I even have put some games into the loft, but these are games that have a certain nostalgic value to me, even if I'm unlikely to play them again any time soon. For example, On the Underground London/Berlin is close to my heart and so is The Cost. These will stay in the loft nice and clean in a plastic box and may come out again on special occasions.

So, as you can see, I'm making it hard for myself to keep my collection at a manageable size. Even setting physical limits of how many games I can keep doesn't quite work.

Yet, I have given some of my games to friends, some to charity shops and others have been passed on to other people. I know, now you wonder how I managed to let go of these games. Well, if you've learned anything from this article at all, then you'll realize that these games weren't actually my games - they were review copies I was sent by a publisher.

Sometimes publishers tell you that you can keep the review copy they sent you. In those cases, I tend to give the game to a friend or to a charity shop, at least once I've played it often enough to write my review. There are occasions, where I do keep the review copies though, but only if I know for certain that they will get played.

When publishers don't want you to keep the game, which is usually when they are prototypes or there is a crowd-funding campaign involved, then I will send the review copy to the next person or back to the publisher. That's actually what I always offer to do anyway. I never expect to be able to keep the games publishers send me for review, but some of the bigger publishers are happy for you to keep the game.

Anyway, sending a game to the next reviewer or back to the publisher is, by far, the strongest reason for me to keep my collection at a manageable size. After all, I have no choice in the matter.

There is another motivator for me to sell games though and it's not so much space, even though that plays a part. I still buy a fair few games myself, so that I don't completely rely on review copies from publishers. I do have wonderful Patreon supporters and Ko-Fi contributors, but the money I receive that way only just about covers my hosting and other running costs. So by selling games from my collection, I can offset the cost of new ones, at least to some degree.

Even though it's tough to do, it does feel quite cathartic and satisfying when I do finally sell a game, box it up and post it off. I never sell games that we still actively play, of course, but as you probably know yourself, once your collection grows, you end up having several games that do something very similar. So you can just keep the game that works best for you and the people you play with and get rid of the others.

Also, some games rarely see the day of light, so I tend to earmark anything that hasn't made it to the board game table in a year. These are likely to be put up for sale, except those that have some sort of nostalgic value, of course, as mentioned above.

I try and buy deluxe editions of games, when I can afford to, because these often keep their value better than standard versions of games. That means, when I do finally decide to sell these games, I'm more likely to get my money back, or as close to as possible. That's not always possible, but something I try to do.

That's about it for me. As you can tell, I find it hard to keep my collection at a reasonable size, but I think I still have way fewer games than many in our hobby.

So how about you? How do you keep your board game collection in control? Do you do a regular spring clean and get rid of games? Do you maybe trade to ensure that you keep the number of games you own roughly the same? Please share your experiences and suggestions in the comments below. Maybe there are some tips I can learn from for myself.

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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mc's Avatar
mc replied the topic: #326359 08 Sep 2021 00:33
Space, space, always space, and don't give in to the extra spots, that's the thing that is most effective for me. I try to either trade OR sell to make room. The trouble for me is always family members who want to keep things that I wouldn't myself. It would be easy otherwise.

I think it's worth always reflecting on why you (I'm speaking generally here) want to get rid of stuff (as much as why you want the new stuff). Why do we (often after a few years collecting) feel that urge to get rid of stuff, especially if we DO have room? Partly I guess it's because the more games we have the less likely they are to get played. Partly, for me at least, it's kind of a reminder of mindless consumption. Like, I love games, but I feel uncomfortable thinking about just buying these things that sit there. People say "hey, there's no harm" - and there isn't, but I shouldn't need to buy all of these things to have fun, should I, especially if they don't get used, new box smell dopamine rush complete. Another part, again for me, is that I feel like there's a bit of an emperor's new clothes thing with games. Oh sure, they are all different in their own ways, and there are certainly ones that really grab you and you enjoy a lot more, when they combine their elements to really do something you like. But the majority are not that different from each other in any major meaningful way. No, I don't need Isle of Skye or whatever, I've got Carcassonne, you know?I don't care if it's "better" - the difference is actually marginal. And I feel we kind of kid ourselves about that a bit. Most people go through life with one or two games in the cupboard and a pack of cards, if that. All those things kind of combine to be - far out, I have too many games.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #326362 08 Sep 2021 09:57
Space is a consideration for me as well, since we have had a couple international moves, and are about to embark on another one. The thing I always have to remind myself is, "who am I going to play this with?" There used to be a time when big multiplayer games were way easier to play than anything for two people, but as I've gotten older and my older son has become more interested in games, the inverse has proven true. And anymore I only do roleplaying games with bigger groups. Those tend to not take up as much space, but they can absolutely be a huge money sink just like board games.

The truth is that left to my own devices I am inclined to be rather prodigal with my funds. I do better now than I did when I was young, and I've managed to rein it in quite a bit. (It helps to have a thrifty spouse.)

One thing I've had to accept is that sometimes it's okay for a game to have sentimental value for you, even if the chances of getting it played are pretty remote. The two examples I always have are Duel of Ages II and Dune, neither of which get played nearly as often as I'd like and both of which have kind of big boxes. But I love both games dearly, and they aren't going anywhere. It's okay to have a couple games that are there just because they mean a lot to you. New games with incremental improvements are nice sometimes, because some games really do have irritating issues that are just waiting to be addressed by later games. But otherwise I'm fine playing the same stuff I played back in, say, 2015.

I love TWBG, but there has been in the past an undercurrent of trying to see who can get the most minimalist collection. It's been driven by a couple of prominent users, including myself. While I think it's admirable to only keep stuff you actually play, the truth is that not everyone has the same priorities, and not everyone moves as often as I do. (It's looking like January will bring our fifth "transition" since 2014.) I don't understand the appeal of lots of unplayed games, but I don't need to.
dysjunct's Avatar
dysjunct replied the topic: #326366 08 Sep 2021 11:21

san il defanso wrote: I love TWBG, but there has been in the past an undercurrent of trying to see who can get the most minimalist collection.

This is a feature for me, not a bug. There aren't many hobby spaces (for any hobby, not just boardgaming) where this is actually a core value of a significant chunk of the userbase. Mostly it's about cult of the new, "ironically" complaining about the size of one's Steam library, chasing the next Kickstarter, etc.

I sometimes struggle to resist that mentality myself -- I have a distressingly normal primate brain that likes new shiny stuff just fine -- so having a regular, low-level drumbeat to help counteract that is really helpful to me.
the_jake_1973's Avatar
the_jake_1973 replied the topic: #326372 08 Sep 2021 16:47
My wife and I are angling for a move abroad after her post-mastectomy reconstruction is complete, target being Costa Rica. With that in the back of my mind, I have a few collections to pare down, plastic models, miniatures, and games. It promises to be both sad and liberating at the same time I think. All this while staring down the barrel at multiple KS games coming in. Yikes.
n815e's Avatar
n815e replied the topic: #326373 08 Sep 2021 17:06
How have those of you who have moved to non-English speaking countries fared in finding people to play with?
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #326375 08 Sep 2021 18:21
This definitely applies to me. I was in the Philippines for three years, and since they speak a lot of English there I was able to find some locals to game with semi-regularly. It took a little effort, and driving across Manila to play was no joke, but it was pretty fun. They spoke a LOT of Tagalog around me, but there was plenty of English too.

We would play games with a number of seminary students near us from a variety of places, like Korea and Japan. Usually they spoke decent English, but I tended to stick to simpler games that were more social. That usually went really well.

But if I'm honest the vast majority of my gaming time overseas was with other expats, mainly through my kids' school. How easy that is depends a lot on what country you live in, since some places have way more expats from various countries, depending on wherever you're from. I kind of lucked out with the Philippines, since there are a lot of Americans there. We'll see what the future holds though.
Jexik's Avatar
Jexik replied the topic: #326376 08 Sep 2021 21:31
Been a crazy couple years for me. Divorce, my father’s death, two moves. Then of course the pandemic making it harder to play multiplayer games. After emptying my parents’ basement of countless magazines and a fair number of books, it really made me look at the way we and those around us connect with our things. I have kind of in the back of my mind a sort of ‘Death Test’ for my games now. If I were to die, would my friends and family want to keep any of this stuff? Would they know its value? Is it valuable? How much of a chore would it be to clean and sell or donate?

That said, Carcassonne was 50% at Meijer (local grocery chain) and I totally picked it up this week, because “it’s a classic.” I hardly even like it and I’m pretty bad at it, but I feel it’s accessible and interesting enough.
mtagge's Avatar
mtagge replied the topic: #326385 09 Sep 2021 18:21

n815e wrote: How have those of you who have moved to non-English speaking countries fared in finding people to play with?

Moscow was okay if I just wanted to play Magic the Gathering. Ouagadougou it was just the people at the Embassy. Frankfurt was good. Malta (despite being English speaking) was a dead zone, Guangzhou theoretically possible but too much effort and unsustainable.
n815e's Avatar
n815e replied the topic: #326389 09 Sep 2021 18:56
I’ve never heard of Ouagadougou or Burkina Faso before.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #326394 09 Sep 2021 23:08

mtagge wrote: Moscow was okay if I just wanted to play Magic the Gathering.

Ha. One of my favorite MTG stories was from back in the 90s. We used to play on an app (we called it a "program", then) called Apprentice. You'd find someone in the various rooms on ICQ and link up on Apprentice and play a few rounds. One night, I got a few games in with someone and he asked where I was and I told him and I asked him the same and he said "Bucharest." I was like: "Oh. I guess I didn't even think of how Magic might have spread to Romania since Ceaucescu was overthrown."

He responded: "????"
I was all: "What?"
He said: "You know Romania?"
I said: "Sure. I know about the country."
He was like: "Usually when I play Americans and tell them I'm from Romania, they ask if I can see the Colosseum from my house."
mezike's Avatar
mezike replied the topic: #326401 10 Sep 2021 04:51

n815e wrote: How have those of you who have moved to non-English speaking countries fared in finding people to play with?

Not so great tbh :dry:

Dubai - absolutely nothing going on except some expat kids playing Warhammer at the cities (then) only hobby store, although this was back before gaming websites were a thing and even widespread internet was still something of a new-fangled novelty. Monopoly was a huge deal, copies of it were everywhere and on the shelves in some of the most unlikely places, to the point it was almost a literal translation for "game".

Hungary - very lively scene in Budapest, unfortunately I was in a fairly remote location at the other end of the country so couldn't find anyone to game with, or at least anyone with enough English given that my handle on the native tongue is poor.

Cyprus - I found a single willing partner and together we made enough noise for a handful of others to come creeping out to join us. Pretty much all the action was in Nicosia and, again, I was too far away from it. Enjoyed a couple of game nights and I'm pleased to see that there remains a core group that are still connecting with game nights and even math trades nearly a decade later.

France - over the past few years I've been sporadically spending a few days at a time in Paris where there is an active gaming scene, but not one that is easy to find on English-speaking media (i.e. you won't get anywhere looking for clubs or meets on BGG). I tried but admittedly not very hard as I was always preoccupied with work and wanting to get back home as quickly as possible. I should have made more effort learning French I guess!
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #326405 10 Sep 2021 09:40

mezike wrote: Dubai - absolutely nothing going on except some expat kids playing Warhammer at the cities (then) only hobby store, although this was back before gaming websites were a thing and even widespread internet was still something of a new-fangled novelty. Monopoly was a huge deal, copies of it were everywhere and on the shelves in some of the most unlikely places, to the point it was almost a literal translation for "game".

Monopoly was actually a plot point in Comrade Detective.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #326407 10 Sep 2021 10:23
Oh, and we just found out for sure that we'll be moving to Kenya next year, so I guess I'll be able to report on the scene in Nairobi then, Covid-permitting.
DarthJoJo's Avatar
DarthJoJo replied the topic: #326418 10 Sep 2021 17:47
Of my current collection , I could probably lose a third without blinking. Another third I need some more plays to decide or are pretty good but not getting played. So, if my calculations are correct, I could be pretty happy with somewhere between a third and a half of what I own without regrets.

Two things hold me back from a fire sale, though. One, I don’t want to go to the trouble of selling. If I could donate to the library or something, they’d be gone this weekend. Two, my oldest son is almost six. He’s really enjoying simplified Carcassonne right now. Hope springs eternal that in another five years he and his brothers might want to play Imperial Assault or SEAL Team Flix or K2 or whatever. So, since space isn’t an issue for me, I hold on to them, waiting and hoping and preparing.