In this Pub Q&A, we tackle buying games. How we decide when to buy and what to buy. What some of our limiting factors are and where we buy from. Let us know in the comments how you go about buying your games!
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I’m probably the pickiest meeple in the pub when it comes to buying games. Each purchase for me has to have a purpose. “A purchase for a purpose.” Ha! I don’t like having multiple games that fill the same niche. That can be anything from mechanisms to the number of players to the category or genre it fits into. When I look at my shelf I’d rather pick the game I want to play more than have multiple options. I know this probably isn’t the norm in our hobby but I also don’t get as much playable free time as many others do. As such I have very strict criteria for buying games to make sure the games I have hit the table more frequently.
The first and foremost question I always ask myself is “Can I play this with my family?” The whole reason I got into board gaming was to interact with my wife and kids more during fun time. I wanted a more social gaming experience rather than the solitude of PC and console gaming. Because of this, I tend to own medium to light weight games since they are easier to teach as well as to remember. Not to say that I don’t own complicated games but I do limit those purchases.
The next set of questions I ask myself have to do with the mechanisms of the game. Are the mechanisms something I would enjoy playing? Is the game itself good? Would it add something unique to my collection? Or is it too similar to a game I already own? If so, would it replace that game? Is it worth having on its own value? As my shelf begins to saturate I find that I become pickier in what I add to it. I really dislike having two games that are too similar in gameplay.
The last thing I ask myself is how often will this be played? What circumstances will it hit the table? Who is my target audience? How many players can it play? Does it scale well within those number of players? How many games do I have with that player count already? I noticed not too long ago that I had way too many games for two players. While it was neat to have a variety they never seem to hit the table as often and as such I’ve put a halt on two player purchases. However, I do find it beneficial to have similar games for different circumstances.
For example, I love me some Lords of Waterdeep but it’s a fairly simple worker placement game and as such can be outshined by many others like it. Agricola, for instance, is a game that, is in my opinion, a much better game. Following my rules above I would normally replace Waterdeep with Agricola. In this instance, though, I find that both of these are good in different situations. I can play Waterdeep with my family and/or more casual gamer friends but I can also play Agricola in my heavier board game circles.
Finally, once I’ve made the decision that I want a game added into my collection I always scout out prices. If I don’t think a game is worth the money I will usually put it on my want list and see if it drops in price later. I tend to solely use Amazon as I have prime which gives me free shipping but there are many other board game stores online that you can buy from. It’s also great to buy from your FLGS to support your community.
I have never felt like I wouldn’t buy a game I liked because someone I knew already owned it. That’s an abrupt way to launch into describing my buying habits but it’s a comment that’s been made in more than one gaming circle. I get it, for the situation where a game is okay and you don’t mind playing it when the owner comes around. But we’re talking about a game you like and would like to get others to play it as well. Owning the game gives you the opportunity to bust it out whenever you deem appropriate.
As I dig deeper into the hobby, I’ve realized that my approach has changed a bit. Before, I wanted to round out my collection and keep buying until it felt complete. I still like collecting games, but now I’m at a place where I enjoy considering my guests and attempt to anticipate their preferences, which is double fun when they are new to the hobby and you get to expose them to a favorite. That’s really hard to do without a library representing the best of game mechanics and genres.
So before, I bought games because I wanted a “complete collection,” whatever that means. Today, I’m buying games mainly for the opportunity to craft a game night. Sure, I still get the stuff I really like and want to play. But that’s not how I prioritize my spending habits. Instead, I’ve been focused on who I’ve spent more consistent time with around the table and what games have added to the camaraderie.
And this doesn’t mean I’ve just been hitting up the gateway games at Target or B&N. I’m fortunate to have a healthy mix of game time with heavy gamers as well as the newly initiated. That makes for very polar gaming experiences, but I’ve noticed that the pace of the gatherings has less to do with experience in gaming and more to do with our mutual interaction with each other and engagement with the decisions of the game.
That may sound rather boring to you, but that’s where I am in the hobby right now. Aside from that, I guess I have to have some money to buy them, too. So there’s that.
Now days I spend a considerable amount of time researching and ranking the games I want to buy. This is due to a growing collection with less space, tighter money and less time due to a growing family, and just plain being pickier since I know better what I like. My wish list resides in a Google Sheet where I keep bits of information about each game I’m interested in. I rank them in the sheet so, when the money comes available, I know which I want to get first. Sounds like a lot of work, I know. But it is fun for me and it keeps my buying in check.
I look at my buying process as a kind of pre-culling. My collection is at the point that I have some games I don’t want anymore. By doing my research and making sure the game has lots going for it before I purchase, my culling percentage will go down (hopefully).
What about a game catches my interest and makes me look into it, you ask? Usually, for me, it is the theme and interesting mechanisms that first grab me. Once I am looking at a game the artwork and components factor into it. Since I am buying fewer games these days I am looking for the whole package – interesting theme and mechanisms and beautiful artwork and components. This is why Scythe and Star Wars Rebellion were instant back or buy. They really do represent the whole package to me. If a game doesn’t have these things it must have off-the-charts good mechanisms for me to buy it.
When I actually do buy games I check their prices on several different sites: Amazon, Cool Stuff Inc., Fun Again, and Miniature Market. If I am purchasing multiple games and have enough money that order usually comes from Cool Stuff due to their great prices and free shipping on orders over $100. If it is a one-off purchase Amazon is usually my go to. When I am at my FLGS I do check their selection out and try to buy from there if they have a game I am looking for. Gotta support the locals!