I have a problem. I honestly think most people reading this site have a problem. We all own too many games. I have brought this topic up in nearly every article I have written on the site, whether it’s from a “capitalism is bad” perspective, or from a “we buy but don’t play” one. And I’m going to be doing something about it, hopefully once and for all, for my own collection.
I don’t get to play as consistently as I used to. Ever since moving I’ve lost my group and have yet to find or establish a new one. I have my partner and one of their siblings, as I’ve talked about before, and we play quite a bit together. However, we’re pretty stuck in our ways: why play something else when Acquire is there? This is a slight exaggeration, but not too far off: we play it probably 80-90% of the time we play games together.
Outside of Acquire, we dip deeper into my collection occasionally, but I’ve also run into a new issue: my writing for this site and others have led me to start getting review copies for games pretty consistently. This is a great privilege and honor, no doubt, but it really takes away from the time we could be playing other games, games I know that I love.
So grabbing that mentality of “I want to play the games I love and not games I like”, I wanted to greatly downsize my collection. As a hard starting line, I am reducing my collection from 16 Kallax cubes down to 9 cubes (to make a 3 x 3 square, with the aim to buy a new shelf). And, both as that sweet, sweet content and to provide help to those wanting to reduce themselves, I figured I’d document it. So let’s see what we’re working with.
(The Adventure Begins.)
Here’s our starting point. I did move the games around before I took this photo as I wanted to make room up top for my next acquisition that’s in the mail, Final Girl Seasons 1 & 2. And the bottom right cube is empty because, uh, well, I am quite forgetful and started culling before I took this photo and didn’t wanna move the games back.
My main thought from the start was to find the non-negotiables, titles that I refuse to let leave my collection right now. Titles like Age of Steam, Dominant Species, and Brass: Lancashire ain’t moving. From there, take every game off the shelf and ask “how much do I want to play this, and is there an alternative way to play this (and does that matter)?”
With that, here’s where we ended up:
(The Results. Ignore the bottom right corner there, that’s stuff I’m holding for a friend and didn’t wanna sell it. I promise. Don’t be upset.)
Let’s dissect the two main categories of games that I got rid of.
These are the titles that I held onto “because I had to”. I don’t know if others feel this urge as strongly as I do, but there are just some titles that I had a strong urge to keep… because I have to? Take 1830 for example. If you like 18xx games, you’re supposed to love, cherish, and worship 1830. But I just… don’t? A large part of it is because I don’t have 5-6 players to play with, but even outside of that, it’s been iterated on a ton, and in my opinion, the other iterations fit my taste and table size better.
Then there’s Power Grid. Power Grid is my second favorite game of all time. I have every single expansion for the game. The base game with the USA map is perfect. It doesn’t need new content to make it as special as it is. But because I love it so much, I felt a compulsive need to acquire and keep everything that’s ever been made for it. Not any longer.
The other major category is games with amazing online implementations. I adore all games pictured here, but I don’t see them getting to the table with my family, and I don’t see them being prioritized over other games in my collection when I find a consistent group of gamers in my area. They exist online, are easy to find players for, so why should I take up my limited in-person gaming time with titles I could play just about any time?
Of course not every game I culled from this experiment fits neatly into those categories. There were some games that I got rid of because I never see myself being the “champion” of to pitch at a con, games like 1841 or Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition. Some games I got rid of because their rules overheads are too much for me to tackle on my own and teach to others, like Pax Renaissance. And some are a mix of all categories: I don’t need to own 18Chesapeake if I don’t have the group, it can be played online, and I’m not going to pitch it to be played at a con.
So what are my biggest lessons here? First, once the process starts, it’s not hard to keep going. Even since the last picture I took I’m down to 7 cubes. Just focus on the games that you want to play, that you have played and liked, and that bring you the most joy to play. If you keep those emotions in mind, then shedding the weight almost becomes addictive. I’m finally getting to a place where I actually know how to play most of the games in my collection, instead of like, maybe half. There’s nothing more refreshing than knowing that I do know how to play the games I have instead of feeling dread if someone starts to eye a title I’m barely familiar with.
Second, and here’s the like, most obvious lesson in the world: I’ve played my favorite games more! The amount of enjoyment I’ve gotten out of recent sessions has skyrocketed because I’m experimenting with newer titles less, and my opponents are getting more familiar with the titles as well, leading to tighter competitions. It’s so cool to have a little rivalry going in Ra with my family. It’s so much fun to be able to set up a Lacuna tournament with tons of trash talking. These are the experiences lost when you’re drowning in titles.
The only counterargument I want to address here preemptively is about the quantity itself. Each board gamer will have a different collection size, budget, play frequency, etc., so don’t think that I am proposing everyone get down to my size. Matter of fact, I don’t care if anyone gets rid of any games from reading this. My biggest point through all of this is to ensure that people are playing the titles that they truly want to be playing, and not mediocrity that emulates greatness. If you love and need 500 games, then I envy your time and energy.
And don’t think I’m perfect, either: in order to feel more well-rounded for end of year rankings, I just ordered like, 6 more games to play. I do plan on getting rid of them if I need to, though, so don’t worry there.
As a final send-off, I want to talk about the space that this culling has created for me, both physical and mental. I’m planning on getting back into tabletop RPGs, as I want to start exploring and honing my writing skills in a more productive way. So those spare cubes will soon be filled with RPG books.
Unless, well, I heard Tabletop Merchant has some good deals this week…