By Luke Muench
Whenever I suggest someone consider delving into the rich and varied hobby of board gaming, the one factor that deters most is the seeming large cost that comes with it. Board games range from $10 to well over $100, each title customizable to an absurd level. From upgraded components to various expansion packs, any one game can change a $30 affair to something far more extensive and costly. Yet, even if we assume that someone isn’t ready to “bling” out their games, each game tends to be available for, on average, a $50 or $60 price tag in my experience. And when you already aren’t sure where you should start, this can become a deal-breaker quickly.
We live in a day and age when board gaming is on the rise, yet there are very few resources made explicitly for people just getting into the hobby. So, for those of us who do take the leap, it's important in our starting days, months, even years that we find a way to make it manageable monetarily. Fortunately, this is a subject I consistently explore in my YouTube show, Budget Board Gamer.
So whether you’re new to the game or a veteran of the hobby, I thought I’d share some advice to make things easier on your wallet. No matter who you are, saving a couple bucks is never a bad thing, and while this subject does cater to newer members of the board gaming craze, I think the following can be helpful to anyone throwing cash at their unwieldy and ever-growing collection.
1. Be Selective
As of writing this, there are 92,094 board games registered on BoardGameGeek.com, the internet’s central hub for all things board gaming. So if you’re going to be picking out a game for yourself, make sure it’s one you REALLY want to play. Is the theme something that excites you? How much strategy are you looking for? How much luck should play into who wins? How nice are the components? These are all factors that need to be heavily weighed and considered, and some of this will come with time and experience. Don’t expect that the first few games you get will be your favorites. My first, Small World, now adorns my apartment wall as an art piece, a reminder of where I started this journey and how far I’ve come. So pick something that you think looks mind-blowingly cool, just make sure to-
2. Do Your Research
There are a lot of factors to consider when looking at any game, and you won’t have the answers to most of them by simply looking at the box. BoardGameGeek.com is a fantastic research tool and should not be wasted on you. Find a game’s page, see what people are saying about it, what game mechanics it contains, a handful of price quotes. But don’t stop there; find some recent reviews to see how the game has held up over time. If you’re going to spend the money for it and the time to play it, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from it well before the box arrives on your doorstep.
3. BGG Rank, BGG Spank
When I first started getting games, I was pretty attached to the BoardGameGeek ranking system, scouring the top 500 games every few days to see if there was anything I missed, if any games had risen or fallen, what titles jumped out at me on a given day. While seemingly helpful, this can be a big waste of time. BGG’s list is about the overall ranking, not about the best games for you. It can be easy to see positive ratings and be swept away by the idea of a complex and involved game like Terra Mystica. But, more often than not, the most complex games are the most expensive due to how many components are involved. And without having experienced the game at least once beforehand, you could be dropping a ton of money on a game that you may not even enjoy. Rather than focusing on the games everyone else is talking about, look for games that you know you like, then use resources like the BGG forum, geeklists, or the countless videos and articles on the internet to find games that scratch a similar itch. So yes, a game’s rank can help to indicate an overall quality of a product to the masses, but it shouldn’t be a number that you rely on to measure if a game will be good for you.
4. Dealing With It
There are deals for anything on the internet if you go looking for them, and board gaming is no exception. Various websites will hold big clearance sales when they become overstocked, with a sale showing up on my newsfeed and email every couple of days. In a day and age when you can get just about anything you set your mind to, make sure it’s for the best price you can find.
5. Stay Informed
I’ve set up my Facebook, Twitter, and email to bombard me with notices regarding sales, contests, and more to help me be aware of what new things are headed to store shelves and how cheap I can get them for. While I’m not saying to make your accounts become a pile of ads, consider following or subscribing to those publishers that produce games that really appeal to you. It could save you a lot of time and money in the long-run.
6. Support Your FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store)
To some, this will seem to contradict my previous points; going to a store to pay full price for my games? How will that save me money? In order to compete with online giants like Amazon and Cool Stuff Inc, local retailers have come up with various reasons as to why you should stop in. Many have back rooms of games for people to freely play, allowing you to try out a ton of games before you buy them. Some will even give you a discount if you attend an event featuring the game before purchasing. Most have some sort of loyalty program, providing better discounts the more you support the store. And for those who are newer to board gaming, having someone there to walk you through what games are worth your time and money is well worth the price of the game itself. Sure, not every store will be staffed with good, honest folk, but any worth its snuff will have someone who can direct you to a selection of options worth considering.
7. Giveaway Galore
Now, I’m not trying to say you should rely on giveaways and the promises of free stuff to actively build your collection. More often than not, those contests won’t be featuring games that you have any interest in. All the same, there’s no harm in entering these contests; most of these contests are free, and you’ll educate yourself on the types of games being released in the process. There’s a list of such giveaways on BoardGameGeek.com, but some Facebook pages specialize in informing its followers of such deals and events.
8. PnP (Print and Play)
Some publishers, in the hopes of allowing more budding gamers to grow, have provided their works online as PDFs. Those interested can print off the necessary cards or components and, using card sleeves and dice, can experience some fantastic games for relatively cheap. No, these won’t be the prettiest things to look at, but it helps inform players as to what they like, allowing you to grow your collection early for little to no money down. And if you end up liking the game enough, you can always go out and buy your own retail copy down the road.
Here are four of my favorite Print and Play games worth checking out:
Tiny Epic Kingdoms:
Deep Space D-6:
...And Then We Held Hands:
Elevenses for One:
9. Your Board Gaming Buddy
At the end of the day, you won’t be able to afford every game you’ve ever wanted to play, and it’s a rookie mistake to buy everything you want to try. Fortunately, this hobby is rife with people with huge game collections just looking to hang out and play. Whether it’s through your FLGS, conventions, meetup.com, or word of mouth, you should be able to find someone with knowledge, experience, and a wealth of games to play. Now, I’m not saying you should go looking for these people just to leech off their games; go to make friends, to hang out, to hopefully join or establish a gaming group (After all, games are only as good as the people playing them). As long as your friendship is mutual and everyone is respectful of one another, there’s no reason not to use your friends as a resource to learn more of what you do or don’t like.
There you have it; 9 solid pieces of Budget Board Gamer advice - your wallet and I thank you for reading. That said, if you are hunting for deals, just keep an eye out for sales or use price trackers like camelcamelcamel.com. Like anything else, stores sometimes buy too much stock and end up selling games at sometimes steep discounts. In no particular order, the following are board games that sell for $40 - $80 retail that I’ve managed to find for $30 or less over the last few years - happy hunting!
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
King of New York
Machine of Death
The Big Book of Madness
Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis and Clark
Kingdom Builder: Big Box
Board gaming is something you invest in, in every sense of the word, so I hope this article helped alleviate some of the struggle I know all too well. If you liked this article and want to see more like it, please comment below and let us know what subjects you’d like us to cover in the future. From the size of your collection to the size of your boxes, Budget Board Gamer and the Cardboard Herald will have you covered.
Luke Muench is a freelance writer and the founder & host of the youtube series Budget Board Gamer.