If you have been in this hobby long enough to see your collection grow beyond the initial shelf space you gave it, you have considered it: culling. That dreaded word. Or maybe not so dreaded, depending on who you are. Truth is, we all approach it differently which brings us to this article. This is the Pub’s collective insights into why or if we cull and how we do it – how we select the games to cull and how we move them out of our collection.
This is a difficult topic for all of us, right? Get rid of this marvelous work I’ve put my hard earned money into? Surely not. The truth is we should all cull our collection every so often. Think of it this way. In a deck building game such as Dominion, your deck only gets better as you get rid of the lesser cards. That’s what we’re aiming to do here. Let’s make our collection better.
“But I love all my games. These are great games.” This may very well be true and you may not need to cull just yet. Let’s look at a few reasons I get rid of games.
- First and foremost, if a game is not getting the playtime it deserves it’s probably headed to the chopping block. Generally, this means there are games I want to play more. There are exceptions of course. Xia is a game I love but it’s not the easiest to just throw down on the table. Having a couple of games that rarely hit the table is okay, just don’t collect too many of them.
- That brings me to my next reason. Try to limit the number of games that do the same thing. You may love Worker Placement but having 20 games on your shelf with that mechanism is probably too many. I know this reason is hard for collectors but games that are too similar tend to collect dust. You’ll have your favorites and I would keep those.
- Limited shelf space is another concern. You can’t just go buy another shelf when one fills up…well I guess you could but at some point, you will run out of room. This is where following reason #2 comes in handy.
- Over time games will become obsolete as newer, better games are released. I call these replacement games. These are games that are similar in mechanisms or give the same feel as another game in your collection. The Guardians Explore is the newest for me to do this. I really like Dominion but Guardians does so much more that I want. It has great theme, drafting, and worker placement. I knew that when I went to my shelf I would always want to play it more. A lot of times the older game isn’t necessarily bad, it may just be that you’ve played the heck out of it and are ready for something new.
- Lastly, and possibly the easiest reason, are the games that fall flat. Which ones were huge disappointments? These are the ones that you read about which had a lot of hype or the ones that had all of your favorite mechanisms or a unique theme. Maybe it just didn’t fit right with your family and/or gaming group. Regardless the reason it was a letdown. Many times we’ll want to keep these on our shelves to give them a second chance. The thing is you probably won’t or if you do you still won’t like it. There are so many games out there these days you don’t have to stash the duds.
So how do you go about getting rid of games? Usually, I will try to trade them for a replacement game or a game that fills a niche I don’t have. If not I’ll either sell it for cheap or give it away to family, friends, or charity. Board Game Geek or The Board Game Group Buy, Trade, and Sell on Facebook are two good places for trading and selling. I also prefer giving to the Salvation Army for charity.
One last thing now that you’ve successfully culled your collection. This does not give you free reign to go on a spending spree. Make smart choices following the same rules for buying games as for culling games. This will keep your shelf more active and with less dust.
I honestly never thought I’d cull games from my collection. In the early days I didn’t really know what I wanted so I either bought games I had already played or I was experimenting with what I might like. At that point, I liked pretty much anything so they stayed in my small cabinet of games. I still wasn’t considering culling games.
Then I started listening to podcasts and reading more board game media. I bought into the hype train – whatever the board game media people were excited about, so was I. And I bought many of these games. It was wonderful to experience so many great games but even in that pile of games, there were some highly lauded titles that didn’t appeal to me all that much. These games sat in my, now, larger game shelf collecting dust while I played my favorites. Still not culling.
Fast forward a few more years and many more hasty purchases and my collection is getting large (for me) at around 100 games – more games than I had any hope to play regularly especially since I had also added 4 children to my family. Add to that my ever refining taste in games and all of a sudden culling seemed like a good option so I started. I decided 100 games was my cap and that I wanted each of those game to be one I loved.
That’s what brought me here. Now how do I decide what to cull. I stick to three basic questions to decide what to keep and cull.
- Am I really excited to get this game to the table?
- Does this game fit a social situation that my collection is lacking? (number of players, type of environment, etc.)
- Is this a game that fits my family – does my wife like it or will it work well with my kids?
Games that fail to fit any of these questions go into the culling zone. Honestly, this is where I am worst in the culling process. I am great at singling out games to go, but actually sending them out the door is a process and I am still looking for the best ways to do it.
This post is called Where Games Go to Die and this is the flip side to that – this is the afterlife for games – they can have a whole nother life after they are culled, happy in a collection where they fit.
Here are the paths I have used to move games to their afterlife:
- eBay – This is how I get rid of games that I know there is good demand for. I usually use Buy It Now. Shipping is a pain. Don’t forget the cut that eBay and PayPal take.
- Sell/Give to friends or locals – This is a good option since it means that the game is still somewhere close if you ever do want to play again. I try to make these really great deals – $5-10 per game. Or I just give it to a friend. Who doesn’t love the spreading joy by giving.
Here are some ways I want to try:
- Social media – list the games in a popular social media of your choice and sell it to the other gamers out there who have been looking for it. Again, shipping. Blech but necessary.
- Give to charity – I’d love to find a local library, club, or school that can put these games to use but I haven’t sought this avenue out yet.
As hard as it is to cull games, it is necessary for me. I have limited space, time, and money and I want my collection to fit me the best it can. This refining process is good for me as it helps me know what games or what things about games most appeal to me. This results in less buying (a good thing for me right now) which leads to less culling.
I’m going to start out by saying that culling my collection is, generally speaking, hard for me to do. I tend to be a collector as well as a player of games. I bought each and every game for a reason, so it’s hard to let one go. However, as my game collection has grown in size over the years I’ve come to realize that while I love my board games, I don’t want them to take up any more room in my house than I’ve already set aside for them. It may sound silly, but in my head I tend to look at my collection as if I’m a gallery owner and I’m curating an art collection. From time to time I look for games that are out of sorts with the collection as a whole or that don’t get played anymore. The questions I ask myself are:
- How long has it been since I’ve played this? (I make a lot of exceptions to this, as not every game is something that can hit the table often due to the length, theme, or the interests of my gaming partners)
- How much do I really like this game? Is there a mechanic in it that sets it apart or some other aspect that makes it stand out?
- Do I have an audience for this game? Will the Pub Meeple crew or my other gaming buddies like it? Do my kids like it? Other family members?
Looking at my collection with a curator’s eye helps me to build the best collection of games I can within my budget and the shelf space I have available. I will often cull a game I actually like but can never find an audience for in order to replace it with something I can get to the table more or is just a better game overall. Personally, I don’t mind having a whole shelf of euro style games, but don’t really see the need for more than a couple card drafting or dungeon crawler games in my collection.
When it comes to actually culling the games, here are a few sources for selling and/or trading games that I have used myself:
- BGG trades. This is one of my favorite ways of culling games as both participants get a new game and are only out the cost of shipping (which is not insignificant but is far cheaper than buying a new game.
- Math trades on BGG. The are a little complicated to understand at first as you are not directly trading with other users. Instead the administrators are using a computer algorithm to match participants wants and available trades up. You can find more info here.
- Buy and Sell groups on Facebook. I’ve sold and traded on one of these groups and had a good experience doing so. My recommendation for trades is to suggest to the other participant that you use the BGG trade system so that you both have the opportunity to give and get feedback.
- Friends and Family. If you give a game to a family member or a close friend, that game will (hopefully) stay in your gaming circle and be available later if you get the itch to play it. Not to mention that you’ll probably make somebody’s day.
Another key aspect of culling for me is that it gives me another excuse to spend time with and around my games. If I’m looking at my collection with a critical eye, I’m seeing everything I have and reminding myself of games that need some love or that I know a good friend will love to play. I might also talk myself out of buying the new hotness because I have quite a few games that I have not gotten to the table yet or realize that I really like a certain designer and start to look out for their future projects. There’s also a chance that I’ll realize that I no longer like a certain mechanic or style of game and start to make room for the next great game I add to my collection.