Today I do not want to talk about any game in particular, but more about board game collecting. You see, I have been very reflective about what a board game collection is these past few weeks. When I returned home from Essen last October, my suitcase overflowing with the latest cardboard wonders, I resolved to take a hiatus from purchasing new games. After all, I had just added a bumper crop to my collection, and I wanted to make sure I would get the most out of these latest purchases. However, it wasn’t just the extreme influx of games that inspired this self imposed break, and this was not the first time I had to take a step back and reflect on the wall of cardboard, and how to manage my collection
As with any hobby, when you are passionate about it, the excitement and anticipation of the hobby often outstrips the time you have to participate in it. When I first started playing board games, they were an escape. Consequently, whenever I needed a distraction from the stresses of everyday, I would research a new board game, and seek out a new target to add to my collection. As a result, I quickly ended up with more board games than I reasonably had time to play. In the hobby, folks joke about this as a sort of “acquisition disorder.” It first hit me a few years ago when I came home one day with a fresh walmart book shelf under my arm my previous shelves overflowing. I realized at that time that I needed to do something to keep this mania in check.
So I resolved to never have more board games than I had shelf space. Having just acquired a new bookcase, this would prove to be easy… at first. Sure enough those shelves filled over the months that followed, that particular time in life being one in which escapism into this hobby was often my best refuge. But when the time came, and the shelves were full, I stuck to my resolution. Even now, as I upgraded those shelves in January, I did not expand their capacity. Having some kind of limit, even if it is largely arbitrary, has kept the collection from going out of control. So what happens when I run out of space?
Board games, unlike many collections, like spoons or stamps, are valuable to me based on their use. After all, they are made to be played, and are not art in a museum. Nothing makes me happier than a game beginning to look worn from frequent play. Browsing new games always makes me reflect on the collection that I have. With so many games to choose from, what could a new game possibly offer? With each game that enters the library, another will most certainly get played less. And if this is the case, perhaps they can be let go, to make room for something new.
As I have mentioned before, my board games are not just a wall of cardboard, but one of nostalgia. Each game box reminds me of the great times I have had when that particular game has hit the table. But if a game has fallen out of favor, and is just collecting dust, is it worth keeping around just for that nostalgic reminder? Alternatively, if a game has never found a place, or hit the table due to being too complex, or requiring the right group, do you hold on to it in the hopes that it will have its day in the sun? All of this is further complicated by the fantastic collections of games that my friends each have, many of which also deserve a play on game night.
So it is time for cardboard survival of the fittest. These next few weeks I am blowing the dust off some old games and asking them to earn their place in the Cardboard Empire. Some don’t even make it to the trial, but are immediately relegated the trade/sell pile. A few are from my earlier days in the hobby and just don’t grab my attention like they used to. Sometimes when I test one of these games they remind me why they are a part of my collection in the first place.
For the games that don’t make the cut, there are many options. I give a few of them away to friends with an interest, or kids who might like the game. There are after school programs that always appreciate an expanding library. The board game community has also organized its own kind of auction system at boardgamegeek.com, and the website also allows users to list games for trade. One man’s trade pile is another’s treasure, and I have had great luck in the past swapping games that I was less than fond of for something a bit more up my alley. A little curation goes a long way. After all, every empire has its borders, and one corner of my living room is all I ever want this one to conquer.