How Do You Decide When to Buy a Game?
jumpstarted by Jonathan
There’s a well known pattern in the gaming hobby: buy a game you played and liked, excitedly start buying a few titles to bring to game night or a family event as the new world opens to you, build a collection in order to host a game night, become jaded/hit your limit/run out of money and slow game buying to a trickle. This has happened to friends whose game nights I attended. This has happened to friends who’ve come to my game nights. And this has happened to me. It happens a lot.
Why a pause? Well, sometimes it is a moment of reflection where you ask ‘‘Well…How did I get here? ’ Sometimes it is a partner asking why you have received boxes every day the past week while knowing the answer. Sometimes it is the slight deflation when your family tells you they want to play a game they already know the rules to.
I’ve been puzzling about the right question to ask when considering getting a game (buy, trade, take for free off the sidewalk) because I think I’ve been asking the wrong question.
The goal of this article is to help you ask the right question from the start and not become a board game hoarder.
“If someone comes over and asks for game X, I want to be able to bring it out, provided I don’t consider it execrable.” This means the question is might someone ask to play it? The answer is always Yes. Dumb question leads to too many meh games.
If that is the wrong question, what is the right question?
“Do I want to play this?” Another awful question – of course you do! Why are you holding it, looking at it on BGG, or reading reviews – carefully discrediting the negative ones?
“Can I flip it if I don’t like it?” is a fine question if you don’t value your time. I don’t enjoy going to the post office, finding people who want to buy old games, or spending time on the collection.
“Do I dislike games by this designer/publisher, but think this one might be different?” – c’mon – unless tons of reviewers have said this is an exception, you already know if you want the next Colovini or not. Don’t get fooled again.
“Will I be playing this game next year?” – If you take the long view, you can avoid the flash in the pan hotness. Yes, it is shiny now, but does it have legs? Honestly, most games don’t, but at the moment you are holding the box, you say ‘of course’ or at least ‘maybe’.
A good question
“Is there a better home for this game?” Think about things from the game’s perspective. It wants to be in rotation. It wants people to want to play it, not sit there just in case. If someone else would likely offer it a better home, leave it on the shelf or sidewalk.
A subsequent column will talk about the right question when weeding/letting games go. What do you ask yourself when adding or subtracting from your collection?
Mark Jackson: This has been complicated for me by “the changing of the guard”: moving to a new town (and new game group), no longer having a church group in our home on a regular basis (who loved party games), my boys growing older and more diverse in their gaming tastes…
…but I think you’ve got the right idea.
And there’s NEVER going to be a point where I’m remotely excited about the next Colovini game.
Along side your “better home” comment, I would add in the specific case of “will one of my gaming friends be more likely to buy this?” Unfortunately for me, I’m often the main game supplier of my gaming groups so if I want to play a title at all, I more than likely have to bite the bullet and buy it…
In the past, I have attempted to hold off on purchasing when I have another, preferred game of that type, but it is far too easy for me to convince myself a particularly sparkly game has its own, entirely unique style. (However, this is the key method I use when trying to cull my collection.)
One of the hardest things for me to judge is I am looking at somewhat of a niche game. I may not be entirely sure whether it’s for me or not, but waiting to pull the trigger on one of these slightly more obscure games can cause it to go out of circulation before I get around to a purchase. This used to be a big problem when many/most German games didn’t make it over to the shores of the US, but that particular case is no longer a problem.
Finally, size does come into play. I’ve always got my storage space almost filled up and so I’m slightly more likely to buy a smallish box than a huge one.
Mary Prasad: We have far too many games so we now try to play games first (usually at game conventions) then only buy games we will want to play again and again. This usually means the games are more of the “I love it” or “I really like it” variety – leaving off most of the “I like it” or below rated games to play at conventions or at friends’ homes if desired.
Andrea “Liga” Ligabue: Probably I don’t know the right question since I’m getting every day new games and now games are occupying every space in my house and I’m not able to give a game away, not even the worst. So, “There is still space for a new game ?” is not the right question, not for me.
There are game bought that after a single session I discovered are trash … so probably the right question could be “Reading the rules (or just playing the game) does it really thrilled you ?”. I used this question with success concerning kickstarter projects. I decided not to pre order games I’m not really excited about.
Essen trip is for me a good exercise because me and Caterina (my daughter) have to narrow our selection to fit the 2 suitcases. There is a real and impassable space issue to account of. The right question would be “We really need this game ?” but, unlucky, we only ask ourselves “We will be able to find this game easily once back in Modena ?”.
I’m without hope … I’m an hoarder.
Joe Huber: There’s really only one question I ask – Do I _currently_ need (want) to control my ability to play this game? If the answer is yes, it stays in my collection. If no, it goes. This means that I let go of lots of games I’m happy to play, but that keeps my collection at a practical size (i.e., it fits in the space I have available – typically, around 300 games).
Having said that, some of the questions Jonathan asks play into my unified question. I really don’t worry about being able to bring a game out for others; I welcome everyone to bring games when I host, and I consider other aspects of hosting more important than having a particular game of recent interest. Whether I want to play the game obviously directly folds into my question, but even more importantly the question of future intent to play is critical. If I don’t care if it’s a decade before my next play, away it goes. Whether I can recover my investment does play into my _purchase_ decisions, but has no real impact upon my decision to keep a game. Likewise, past history with a designer plays into the acquisition decision. And the question of a better home for a game is really more of a question for me once a game is already leaving.
Greg S: I usually ask myself a few questions:
1) If I have not played the game, does it sound like a game I would enjoy. Does it involve mechanisms that I tend to enjoy? Have other people whose opinion closely mirror my own played it and enjoyed it?
2) If I have played the game, was it fun and exciting? Is it something I can picture myself playing many times over the next few years?
3) Will my wife enjoy the game? I am always looking for fun 2-player games my wife will enjoy.
I tend to sell a lot of games, thereby helping to keep my game collection from expanding beyond control. Thus, I don’t mind taking an occasional chance on a game I have played if it sounds like something I would enjoy. If I ultimately don’t enjoy it, it will hit the “for sale” shelf.