Cardboard Money – Quelling the Cardboard Junkie

(This is an editorial opinion piece on my own experiences with retail therapy as a tabletop hobbyist and in no way is a criticism on anyone else’s purchasing habits)

It’s hard some days not to imagine my wallet filled with cardboard coins, metal tokens and paper money all yearning to be spent on gathering more resources and rewards. Each turn, new items are dealt into the marketplace, each looking more valuable in my set collection strategy but I need to be cautious with my currency and not leap to every deal that seems enticing, or my people will starve when I need to feed them at the end of the round…

There are very few hobbies where enthusiasts constantly joke about selling off their first born children to buy the new hotness or chuckle about a shopping list comprising of simply instant noodles to ensure the backing of the next Kickstarter at the top pledge level. Your fellow board gamers are a passionate lot who are always keen to bring the next new game to the table to sacrifice to the cult of the new and enjoy eternal pleasure in its glow. We pre-order against the lessons we’ve learned with video game releases like No Man’s Sky and go from zero to full froth (Thanks Secret Cabal) in mere tweets announcing the new game from Eric Lang. As my own personal collection has grown, and as I find myself almost buying games at a rate faster than I am getting value from each purchase, I need to reflect on how I can curb my purchases and equalise the value/cost ratio of my collection.

So fellow gamers, should you ever have had such thoughts or heard the echoing screams of your bank account grow too loud to ignore, here are a few things to consider before you enter your credit card details or march off to your FLGS.

Do I really need another “Insert Game Genre” in my collection?

I adore worker placement games. It’s the competition for spaces, the mitigation of luck and the way that it makes my brain tingle each time I manage to get the actions I need ahead of the competition for victory points. Almost every time one is announced, I’m yearning to play it and often am willing to adopt it without knowing any of its bad habits or personality shortcomings. Sometimes you need to take a step back from its open arms and ask what it adds to your collection.

Does it have substantial variation in mechanics over games that I already have? Is the theme one that elevates the game to a unique experience? Have I had enough of the game in my collection that is of the same genre? When was the last time I played this game type? Answering all of these questions may help dissuade you from having too similar games in your house, giving you the complications of dating twins, or having 3 spatulas in the house. Nobody needs that. (you’ve never seen me cook then, apparently – Ed)

Paul will buy this game so I can play it!

If you’ve got a steady board gaming group, or a thriving local community that you’re a part of, chances are that you’ll get to play the new hotness soon at someone’s house or at a local meetup. Let other people take the plunge and the risk and let yourself reap the benefits. Benefits can include; having them host game night and getting people together to play the game, watching them unpack the box and set the game up & having them explain the rules. If the game isn’t as great as you’d hoped then you’ve dodged a bullet, and if it’s an absolute gem you can still pick it up! If it’s in your regular gaming group or with a close friend, you can also borrow it pretty much when ever you want and it’s a real shame for two people in your group to bicker over who should bring their copy to game night! A real shame, and embarrassing for both of them. (unless it’s Roll for the Galaxy – Ed)

Expansions Vs The Rigid Credit Line

Expansions are such wonderful things to buy. Not only do they enhance a game you already love, but they are cheaper than a full game, making them the best bargain buys of the hobby, right? You’d like to think so but often it’s not actually the case. The completionist curse of the collector will never evade this train of thought and should just look to become a kidney donor to Fantasy Flight Games, however for many of us the lure of expansions can be greater than yield.

Have you played and explored the base game sufficiently that you need to breathe new life into it for you to be able to enjoy it with renewed exuberance? Does the expansion fix shortcomings in the base game and bedazzle the game to crown it the king it has always deserved to be? Do you really need that 6th player or do you even have a 6th friend for games night? If I haven’t played a game at least 10 times I tend to leave the expansion until the game needs a new coat of paint, or desperately needs that pool for the hot summer days.

All Smash Up Expansions

Familiarity Breeds Better Boardgames?

It’s something we’re especially acutely aware of when it comes to reviewing games under a time constraint, but many truly great games only reveal their greatness through a good spit ‘n polishing. Play a game ten times and two likely outcomes present themselves; either the game’s staying power will become apparent, or that attractive luster will will prove a fool’s gold. What lesson are we teaching designers when we flit from game to game like a fickle magpie? That if they don’t hook us immediately, they’ll lose us?

Opinionated Gamers ran a well researched feature a few years back analysing whether or not boardgames were actually getting better, and their ultimate conclusion as you might have already surmised, is that a great game is timeless and that many of them attained that status because they stood up to repeated plays year after year.

Balance Your Books & Collection

Board game purchases, when done frequently, are an expense like anything else and you have to treat it as such. Give yourself an allowance for doing chores around the house and feel the excitement of a 10 year old again when you’ve earned enough cash to order Mansions of Madness! Went to work every day this month? Finished up that garden work? Cleaned out the garage? Just survived the month? Take your budgeted allowance and order the new hotness or save it up a couple of months so you can get the deluxe edition.

Speaking of cleaning out, sometimes its okay to let games go. When your collection gets over a certain number of titles and you only have so many gaming days per month, you’re often ignoring older friends. Let them go and make new friends and free up that space in your heart (shelf) to welcome new friends in. It’s cheaper hosting a dinner party for a family of 25 than it is for a family of 73 and Aunt Mildred will be up set when you haven’t spoken to her in 3 years or introduced the new love of your life to her.

It’s amusing that every time a new member joins the cult of cardboard, we warn them of the perils of indulgence, but simply cannot heed our own words of advice when it comes to dumping our paper money stack to acquire new properties. For those already consumed by madness there is little hope, but for those of you that can heed this warning, remember there is a way to bring a little weight back to your wallet and the chance to be able to finally feed your family at the end of the round.