Why I Spent $1500 on Board Games in 240 Days
My girlfriend asked me how much money I spent on board games this year. So I added it up. And it got me thinking.
Growing up, all of my friends had a set of Monopoly in their family's closet. Some of them had the other family game classics like Candyland or Connect Four. I can trace my board game obsession back to the summers I spent in a small, musty trailer with my friends in a remote, wooded corner of Pennsylvania. Being mischievous and imaginative nine-year olds, we weren’t satisfied playing the game as instructed and instead invented “Black Market Monopoly,” a variant in which you could cheat any way you wanted to, as long as you didn't get caught. This broke the monotony of Monopoly. The “no rules” ruling meant we could quietly pass the dice if we landed on someone's property unnoticed, and form "alliances" in which we would grant each other safe passage through our illegally constructed chain of hotels. It was a dirty game but also the most fun we could have when the sun went down, hundreds of miles from a Nintendo 64 and a copy of Super Smash Bros.
We got older and Xbox Live gave us a virtual place to hang out after school. The battlegrounds of Halo and Call of Duty served as colorful backdrops for us to test our skills against each other. I wondered how we ever survived a weekend in a trailer in the woods, playing a game so bad we had to break the rules to have fun.
We were seniors in high school when we first settled Catan's hexagonal lands. It gave us such a tactile sense of exploration and growth. This wasn’t about challenging each other’s reaction time, or combo knowledge. This was about negotiation, planning, resource management. This was a mature game. Settlers of Catan embodied what made Black Market Monopoly so fun but in a new game that encouraged cutting deals or placing embargoes. This kind of physical and social interaction with the pieces and the people we were playing with was so new to me. This was the beginning.
We all went to college. Our Xbox Live subscriptions expired, never to be renewed. This was a new chapter in our lives after all, full of more serious commitments.
The summer after my first year of college, my friend Kevin gathered us all to his house to play a game. King of Tokyo, a game where players control giant monsters fighting each other for control of Tokyo, was the wacky and exciting tabletop brawl that kept us coming back for more. The art was so charming, so colorful; it demanded my attention. The characters were like something you'd see on a Saturday morning cartoon as a kid.
It was a profoundly nostalgic experience for me, reuniting with our friends after our first year of college, gathered around a table where catching-up took the foreground of the evening. The idea of “play” was a notion that seemed to only apply to kids toys or video games, activities reserved for children. But in that moment I learned that was wrong. Games could be this beautiful intermediary, a shared experience with friends or strangers. It was these moments, these feelings, these memories that had me hooked. So began the descent.
It started off slowly. I bought my own copy of King of Tokyo to play with my roommates. We played it every weekend until we quickly became hungry for something else. I went to PAX East in 2015 and picked up a game called Codenames on a whim. Then, Sushi Go! because it had cute art and I was looking for something fun to play with my girlfriend. Then, X-Wing, Taboo, Stockpile. I rapidly and unwittingly became the tastemaker and curator, among my friends. Each week I'd come home with something new and not-Monopoly for them to try. I felt an urgency to introduce them to new games. So they could feel the same inexplicable magic I felt those summer nights playing King of Tokyo. It felt really good.
It quickly became an addiction. I was obsessed with the “mental chewing gum” of learning new mechanics and figuring out how to navigate them. It was never about winning. Just a never-ending thirst to try more, more, more. I'd spend hours on Boardgamegeek.com looking through their exhaustive catalog of games wishing I could try this one, or that one, and maybe that one. I'd read PDF's of rulebooks to learn how different games worked and if they'd be a good fit for my friends. If I found something particularly interesting I'd just order it on Amazon. In two days I'd have a shiny box filled with new challenges at my door. And then another one two days after that.
My girlfriend’s question had been nagging me. How much have I actually spent on board games? The reality shocked me. My earliest board game purchase within the last 365 days was on July 18. (Some games on this upcoming list were bought at local game shops so I just used the MSRP.)
July 18 - 2 Core Sets for Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game: $53.61
August 4 - Stockpile: $49.96
August 16 -Viticulture: Essential Edition: $44.49
September 8 - Tiny Epic Galaxies: $22.87
September 13 - Captain Sonar: $52.86
September 20 - Kemet: $64.41, Junk Art: $58.91
September 21 - Blood Rage: $57.99
October 2 - Dead Last: $20.53, Chinatown: $32.99, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: $33.49
October 4 - Food Chain Magnate: $121.45
OCtober 10 - Viticulture Tuscany Expansion: $30.10
October 16 - Paperback: $36.95
October 24 - Mysterium: $36.64, Clank!: $49.99
November 1 - Istanbul: $34.97
November 6 - Scythe: $66.50
November 15 - Patchwork: $25.99
December 1 - Scythe Invaders From Afar Expansion: $26.38
December 7 - Feudum (Kickstarter) - $108.00
December 12 - Codenames Pictures: $11.50, Imagine The Animated Guessing Game: $14.38
December 14 - Sushi Go! Party Edition: $25.99
December 26 - Go Cuckoo!: $18.99
December 30 - Isle of Skye: $28.13
January 2 - Flamme Rouge: $39.99
January 5 - Alien Frontiers Relaunch (Kickstarter): $77.00
January 14 - Troyes and Troyes: The Ladies Expansion: $84.98
January 18 - Terraforming Mars: $53.50
January 25 - Santorini: $33.99
February 14 - Pitch Deck (Kickstarter): $25.00
March 10 - Onitama: $25.00, Joking Hazard $25.00, Schotten Totten: $15.00
Grand Total: $1507.53
This was all within 240 Days. I was buying at least one game every week. I was worried that if my collection didn't have breadth my friends would get bored. I needed to have the best economic games, the best deduction games, the best war games. In my fervent research I discovered that these games were considered some of the best. I was afraid at every point during those 240 days that I would miss my opportunity for ever owning some of the best games in the world, and thereby missing the chance to share them with my friends. Aggressively expanding my collection came from a fear of missing out.
I'm very grateful to have been able to afford making so many purchases in such a short amount of time. Looking back it feels really dumb, and I should have been saving a lot of that money. Was it really worth spending $1507.53?
I think so. I don't regret the memories I've made enjoying these games with my friends. I don't regret making new friends through this medium. I don't regret bringing families and friends closer together, gathered around a table.
In some ways, I'd say that board gaming has made me less cynical. For a long time I thought it would be hard making friends in a new place because I liked what I liked and it would be hard to find people who enjoy the same movies, or games, or whatever, that I did. But through board gaming, I've learned to wear my love for the hobby on my sleeve.
Family reunions, my most dreaded times of the year, have since changed into genuinely fun times connecting with cousins, aunts, and uncles who I would have never engaged with otherwise. I discovered that they too want to find new ways to have fun with each other. What a thought!
I've met people who, upon finding out I'm really into board games, express a genuine curiosity. And I have had a lot of fun telling them that there's so much out there for them to enjoy. There's a game for every person. A person for every game. And it's always awesome meeting a fellow board gamer when you least expect it. Many of those people have become great friends.
I think I clung too dearly to those early memories of playing board games, hanging out back home during my college years. I tried too hard to create more of those memories. I thought the solution was more games, because more games meant more playing .
So after taking the time to reflect on the past year, my first year of "designer" board gaming, I've learned a few things. I've learned to slow down. I've learned that it's not always about what you're playing, but who you're playing with. I've learned to look forward to the time I can spend with others enjoying what I have, instead of worrying about what I could be missing.
I was wrong to think that board gaming is about collecting the “best” games. For me, It’s about the shared experience of playing with others, and talking about it. That’s why I started this website; to create a place for people to read and write about their love for games.