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Monday, May 20, 2024

The Six Stages of Board Game Collecting

by | published Monday, December 11, 2017

It began as a small collection. Bit by bit, it became obvious that one can only dip their toes into the board game hobby for so long. Eventually you took the plunge: an investment in dedicated board game shelving. No more stashing games in the closet and under the bed! You now bear the mark of a true gamer: an entire wall covered in board games. But how did we get here?

STAGE 1: They Belong in a Museum!

Games are arranged with the care of a curator, and your personal organizational style flourishes. Maybe games are sorted by publisher or theme, or even more whimsical categories such as box color. Most importantly, each shelf has enough space to let the games breathe, with the occasional box even facing forward to show of its beautiful cover. But after reviewing that first shelfie, it looks like that one shelf over there could fit another game…

Look upon my works! The perfect collection of two-player games nestled in this IKEA cube

STAGE 2: If the Box Fits

Box size trumps all. Organizational preferences are shattered, and similar box sizes are forced together. As smaller games arrive, they are added to the top of the smallest available stack. You won’t let it get too crowded, but short stacks seem so inefficient, and there are just too many good games coming out these days. Golden age, am I right?

OK, so these break the two-player theme of the cube, but it’d be silly to stack these tiny boxes atop Ticket to Ride. This is a much better home for them.

STAGE 3: Squeezing the Margins

That nice slice of vertical real estate once allowed for easy removal of games. You could fit an entire hand in there! But the collection is growing, and any given game doesn’t get played that often. Besides, that space could fit an entire full-sized game.

The virus is spreading


STAGE 4: Bottoms Up

That box art is oh-so-beautiful, but thankfully, the game’s name is still printed on the bottom. Suddenly, Pandemic looks not much bigger than a Kosmos two-player game. This is fine!

OK, so maybe we lost the player count and game length in some cases, but the names really say it all, don’t they?

STAGE 5: Cardboard Casualties

When every inch of space is almost filled, it’s time for outside-the-box thinking. Did you know you can fit the entire game of Splendor into two small deckboxes?

The most dedicated board gamers have been known to eschew the deck box in favor of an exacto knife, trimming boxes down to a smaller footprint

STAGE 6: Layers

Shelves have now been organized into strata, with most recently-played games prominently displayed, and others pushed back into hidden layers of shame. You haven’t seen Alien Frontiers since 2012, but that’s OK, it’ll just take a minute to dig it out of storage…


  • Matt M.

    Matt has been writing about board games since 2009, having contributed to MTV, Wired, the Escapist, and many other notable sites. Nowadays, Matt enjoys playing games with his daughter, gaming on the competitive X-Wing circuit, and taking in the occasional video game. Twice per year, Matt helps run the Tabletop department at Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) East and South. You can follow his musings on Twitter @MattMorganMDP.

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5 thoughts on “The Six Stages of Board Game Collecting

  1. Zopie says:

    Ha! Ha! Just like my shelves! I keep rearranging…do I want them by theme, payer count, or game type? Vehicle or horizontal?

    Right now a mixture of both. Solo play and 2 player are separate and then by theme. Yes some games are hidden behind others in my deep IKEA shelving!

  2. BSer says:

    Step 7: Move
    Move to a larger home, start again at step 1

  3. Stage 7: Sell em off! Tired of having unplayed games and no more shelf space, the collector then brings the games to local conventions and sells games, or puts them online for sales and auctions. This allows those earlier in the cycle to accelerate their own processes!

    Stage 8: Ignorance is Bliss. After years of trying to keep up with the cult of the new, the collector realizes that so many of the games they have bought just aren’t meeting their expectations. So, they get disillusioned with Kickstarter, Essen and Gencon feeds, and work on a new policy of trying games before buying them.

    Sometimes they succeed, but they still end up buying a few without trying them; most of these end up going into the Sale Bag for the next convention.

    Stage 9: I don’t know what this yet, as I’m at Stage 8.

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