Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Re-assessing Buying Board Games

Forget about "The Cult of the New." Forget about saving money. Forget about lack of time. Forget about #10x10in20-whatever. Forget about gathering friends to play with. This article about re-considering board game purchases is about NONE of that.

I'll tell you what it IS about. And it's the new core to which I'm basing all my purchases at this point - at least until the end of the year. One simple question, that's all.

Will I enjoy it?

A Little History

Since my rekindled love of "board games other than Monopoly" in late 2011-early 2012 to today, I've been on a roller-coaster of board game acquisitions. I've made more frequent trips to my FLGS, logged more time into, and focused strongly at Kickstarter as an oozing source of new board game projects. I've made a lot of purchases early on, researched my share online, and backed a lot of new games. Soon, my collection amassed larger than I anticipated.

Then came the gradual realization - not many people around me share my new-found passion. I tried to put my best foot forward, showing people that not all board games involve paper money and placing wooden letter tiles. I did my best making everyone feel welcome, and not confusing people with complicated rules. I've organized many game nights, most of which fell through because of scheduling conflicts. Each unsuccessful attempt brought my excitement level down a notch.

"Maybe it's not me," I though, "maybe it's the games." So, I focused on games catered to my friends' taste, getting games that I'd normally wouldn't consider. Nope. "What if I brought games as a side thing to a party?" Nope. "Maybe some quick, short games during lunch break." Nope. "What if I talked about ga-" Nope.

Scrolling Through My "What Ifs"...

...And it occurs to me how many games I've come close to actually purchasing. All the games that were the rage a year ago from BGGCon, all the starred Kickstarter projects I never funded. I remembered how close I was to buying them, and yet I didn't. That feeling of being left out of the loop, long gone. The flicker of memories that people enjoyed the game so brief, and faded quickly.

Visits to my FLGS, surrounded by so much product that I don't own, rarely has me leaving with anything purchased. But I find an odd comfort in reading and re-reading the back of game boxes as if it was my first time, every time. I linger, a bit longer than I should, but not long enough, and soon I'm on my way home, empty-handed. My wallet's safe for another day.

I've seen and read many reviews, saw people's first-hand accounts of how awesome the game is, how it's a "must have" on your shelf. How it's a real steal at that Kickstarter price, how it'll attract people new to the hobby, how easy it plays, how it has solo mode. Yet, all of that seems irrelevant to me.

Outside The Noise

Because here's the heart of it all. That one question. "Will I enjoy it?"

"Oh, it has the best and unique mechanic never before explored in this hobby!" "The stories this game will generate are astounding!" "It's so simple to play, but very complicated to master!" "There is so much player interaction!" "There's a sale going on at [online site], and it's a steal!" "You are nuts if you don't back this Kickstarter project!" "You are crazy if you don't own this game!" "Game of the Year, must buy!"

But...will I enjoy it?

To be fair, there's also the same share of negative ranting as well. And not all of it sounds like some bullies ganging up on you. But the question remains vigilant: will I enjoy it?

"You'll love it if you love bluffing games." "You'll love it if you love heavy euros." "If you love [similar game], you'll love this one even more!" "Take [one game], combine it with [another game], and you get this game!" If you love miniatures, you'll love this." "If you love this designer, you'll enjoy this game."

These are better responses, but still...will I enjoy it? Mind you, this is not just MY question to myself, but it's THE question people say to themselves. And the best answer? The only answer...

That Depends.

Because, really, it does. My purchases have been dwindled down to games which I find appealing, that actually makes me want to play board games more. Whether I could afford it or not, whether I have friends nearby to play it with or not, whether it has a solo variant or not...that doesn't matter so much as will I enjoy it? Because without that, I shouldn't bother. It would become another cardboard box on the pile, another game shelved and forgotten.

It irks me personally when I see people post "cull" tweets, to thin out their board game collection. Absolutely nothing against them, since most of them play these games enough to learn that they haven't left a big enough impression to remain in their possession. I just can't personally justify myself to follow into that same path. My collection is not grand enough to cull what I don't find enjoyable anymore because, truthfully, I still find all of them enjoyable or have yet to be enjoyed.

This insight has only been recent. I still have games in my collection that don't follow this ideal, games that were just padded on because I wanted to obtain more games. But nowadays, there's a rigorous methodology to my purchase procedure. Which depends on what I'll enjoy. And everyone's tastes are their own. I CAN say that you'll enjoy this game because of certain mechanics or theme or playtime or genre...but those are just facts. It's really up to YOU whether you'll enjoy it. As it is to me.

My collection is my own, and it's what fits for me. I can't buy because I hope to play with others, or because everyone else is buying it, or even if it's because it's on sale. What matters the most is "will I enjoy it?" Because if I do - if I truly do - then I can confidently buy them for my collection. And getting others to play? Well, it's a lot easier when you enjoy the game you're teaching, right?

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