The Daily Worker Placement

Saturday, July 13, 2024

How To Succeed in Culling Without Really Trying

by | published Wednesday, April 5, 2023
Shelves full of boardgames.

Board game hobbyists have too many games. It’s an easy trap to fall into, what with free shipping offers, clearancing out titles to unbelievable pricing, the marketing machine getting stronger and stronger by the day, print cycles and Kickstarter exclusives leading to fear of missing out… There’s no lack of reasons as to why people buy and hoard games at such an alarming rate.

If you’re at all like me, though, you often feel overwhelmed and crushed by your collection. There have been points where my collection has ballooned to be 41 Kallax cubes (plus games on top of each and every shelf, two to three titles deep) worth of games. Even at the height of my game playing where I’d get to play two to three times a week in person with friends and/or my partner, I could never get through that many new titles.

That would always lead me to getting rid of a bunch of titles. For me this process has always been a simple one. Easy in, easy out. Heck, even my old group used to make fun of me for how quick I’d get rid of titles. So today I wanted to give out some tips on how you can more effectively cull your own collection to keep it small, keep it focused, and let it bring you joy instead of anxiety.

1.) Look for the Obvious Candidates

Box art for "Let's Be Safe" boardgame

As someone that does this process often, this step is one of the simplest for me, but I know this can be overwhelming for someone that has never gotten rid of games before. This step is quite simple: make sure you can see all of your titles, and separate out the garbage. This isn’t a complicated step. This isn’t where we’re having deep internal conversations about if we should keep Great Western Trail and Great Western Trail: Argentina.

This is the step where we ask ourselves: “Is the copy of Blockbuster I got for $0.23 at Target really ever going to get played? Is Fast & Furious: Highway Heist worth replaying? My group and I finished our playthrough of Gloomhaven, can I just get rid of this now?”

All of this is not to imply that this step is easy. Parts of this process will not be easy for some people to swallow. Admitting that you got caught up in the hype machine, or got caught up in good pricing, can hurt. It can feel pretty crappy to know you were fooled by marketing. The sooner you admit to yourself that you need to get your collection down to a reasonable number, and that there are obvious titles you can get rid of, the faster this can be done. 

Even though it is important to be honest to speed up the process, I’m also here to tell you to take your time. Oftentimes I will separate my collection into two halves: “The Keeps” and “The Cutting Room Floor”, and then let them sit for a few days. I don’t want to rush to any decisions, and yet I don’t want to keep anything I shouldn’t. Trying to get this process done too quickly will leave crap behind you shouldn’t keep, and will make you cull something you’ll regret.

2.) Determine Your End Volume of Titles

A Kallax bookshelf full of boardgames in someone's home.

This is one of my favorite steps. We all cull for different reasons, whether it’s for space, to have a certain number of titles, to reduce the amount of time deciding on what to play, etc. All of those reasons are completely valid! What’s important, though, is that you make a firm decision on your end goal. 

I personally have found the most success in making it about space first, then “no crap” second. The reason I think about it this way is because I do limit myself to 16 Kallax squares nowadays, so obviously space is much tighter than it used to be (for me). But, if I only considered space, I’d be more prone to keeping smaller trick takers or party games, genres I like but don’t love, over heavier Euros, a genre I love but often come in bigger boxes.

Also, there’s a reason this is step two: no collection needs crap. Even if you have room, even if it fits inside your goal, you don’t need to keep titles you will never play, or titles you don’t want to play again. I have plenty of room on my shelves right now, but when I finally play, say, Woodcraft, if I don’t like it, it’s going onto the sell pile right away. If I do not feel the need to give the game a second chance, why would I put it back on my shelf? If I would dodge playing it every time someone asks, who does it benefit by keeping the game?

3.) Determine Duplicate Genres and Designers

Box art for the new editions of Great Western Trail and expansions/sequels.

Ok, now we’re in it. Now we’re starting to get into tougher questions. If you have gotten to this point in a cull, and the first two steps didn’t get you where you needed to be, now it’s time to start looking at your collection in greater detail. 

The easiest way to explain this process is for me to pull specific examples from my past, so here goes!

Reiner Knizia. Even if you don’t know him, you know him. He’s designed some perennial classics like Ra, Samurai, and Tigris & Euphrates. He’s also done at least two spin-offs of each of those games, in addition to the publisher rethemes that have come out over the years. Besides that, nearly all of his games are abstractions and combinations of specific gameplay elements. At their core, Ra, Medici, and Modern Art are all auction games, but the way in which the auction blocks are built and the ways that the auctions are held make each game fun and unique enough for me to keep. However, if you’re not a big auction games person, I’d recommend keeping just one of these, if any at all! If you’re a Ra superfan, I think it’s still worth taking the time to have the conversation with yourself on if you should keep it and Priests of Ra.

Another example of a good way to pair down some titles is with strikingly similar games. I love Camel Up and bought Ready Set Bet to try it. Is Ready Set Bet a better game? Turns out, not for me, so it went. At one point, I owned nearly all of the Pax series. However, last time I did a cull, I got rid of all but Pax Pamir: Second Edition and Pax Porfiriana since I felt those two captured the two most distinct versions of the series. 

Just take a closer look at your collection and find those duplicates. And always remember that this is your collection. If you want to keep every Lacerda game because you enjoy them all even though they’re all similar, that’s great!! If you only want to keep game #4 in a series, then keep it and get rid of the rest! Just be sure to take the time to think about this instead of just keeping them to hoard.

4.) Admit to Yourself Who You Are

A graphic depicting meditation.

The last cull I did was probably the deepest. After moving away from my old game group, I had no one to play any games with in real life, other than my partner. I still keep a lot of my games, and I still have some 3+ only games, but I have definitely reshaped my collection since then. One of the toughest conversations I had with myself about what to keep is how this move will affect what games I can play. 

I used to love certain types of wargames. I’ve never been a hex and counter person, but I love CDGs like Twilight Struggle, the COIN Series, and Flashpoint: South China Sea. But I lost my wargaming partner. Sure, I can still play with him online, but I can’t in person. And that’s where I’m at with these wargames anyway: I’m either playing them online, or at a convention where I don’t need to own a copy. Then I think about what if a new group suddenly appeared to me, and I could play any games I wanted to: would I choose a war game? The answer to that was, probably never, so they all went.

Another interesting lesson I learned about myself from this recent cull is that I hate lying. I cannot lie well, and I hate it as a mechanic in games. I don’t necessarily mean white lying about information, but more the bold face lying of “I won’t attack you” and then I definitely do that. Dune is such a masterpiece and so much fun, but I will always be held back because I can’t backstab or break alliances. Honestly the only game I kept where that’s possible is Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition, but that’s more because there’s so much going on in that game there’s ways to engage and disengage with others without having to backstab.

I no longer own co-op, Ameritrash, or dungeon crawling games. I don’t seek out titles “to fill out the collection” or because I think so-and-so will enjoy it. My collection is uniquely mine, and I love each and every game within it. 

This place, this happiness and pride I experience when I look at my collection, is where I want everyone to be. I know so many people, even those with 20 games, who will say something like “I don’t know why I still own that.” Get rid of it! Sell it, donate it, pawn it off to a friend… whatever method is easiest, just get it out of your life. If it is not bringing you joy, then it is detracting from it. 

Here’s my true final tip to help this process: before you start this process, play your favorite game. Be reminded of what you’re here to do. Remember the best this hobby has to offer, and remember that it’s all about playing games. Sure collecting can be fun, but nothing beats playing the games themselves! If you focus on that type of happiness, culling will be easy.

Good luck, and send me your postings so I can buy more games for cheap.


  • Bailey D

    Bailey is a long-time board gamer, short-time writer. She’s been playing board games all her life, “hobby” board games for a decade, and “crusty grognard cardboard war simulators” for the last two or three years. When she’s not obsessing over the next indie 18xx release, she can often be found refreshing online games stores and publishers’ sites for new releases. Her top games include Age of Steam, Power Grid, the COIN Series, and Camel Up.

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