I recently saw a post on one of the various online board game groups that I’m a member of that got me thinking. It was “Shelfie” (A photo or series of photos of one’s board game collection) that’s fairly common in those spaces, but the caption read “My next game not (not counting expansions) will be my 500th game. What does my collection need?” And I was a bit taken aback by it. Here was someone with so many board games that they could play a different one every day of the year, and still have 25% of their collection unplayed, looking for what more should be added to it. It got me thinking about the buying and accumulation habits for those of us who consider ourselves to be board game enthusiasts.

My Shelfie (not pictured, my other 4 shelves)

What does a game in your collection represent? What does it mean to you? Is it a trophy? A physical representation of the times you engaged with that game? Is an unplayed game a promise of a joyful experience? How often do we find ourselves buying games to fill a space where we feel lacking? When we are thirsting for a quick hit of dopamine and our compulsion is to engage in a little retail therapy? Maybe you had a hard week at work, and you feel like a little pick-me-up is in order? Maybe you’re missing your gaming buddies, and you’re preparing for the next time you host, so you pick up the hot new game that everyone will be excited to play.

Is collecting bad for your hobby? With so many games to choose from, does the analysis paralysis set in before a single piece hits your table? Does the obligation of playing one of your unplayed games prevent you from playing one of your favourites? A bit part of this question comes down to how you find joy in board games. Personally, I love discovery. I love playing new (to me) games, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t regret the fact that I haven’t played Galaxy Trucker in over 2 years.

Something else to consider is the size of your collective collections. Sure, I own ~100 games myself, but my three friends who I play games with regularly own between 80 – 200 games each. I know I want to get my games played, but so does everyone else. And every time someone acquires a new game, and advocates to the group to play this new box, it means there are 500 other games that are getting passed over.

My unplayed games as of Jan, 2023

One way we’ve tried to address our perceived shortfall, is to gather for Cabin-Con (2021) (2022), a 3-day gaming retreat. The first Cabin-Con we played entirely new games, and blasted our way through 50% of Clank Legacy. The second one saw us only play our ‘greatest hits’. No new games, only ones we already knew how to play (but new expansions were fair game). I’m not sure how we’ll approach the third one, but I suspect it’ll end up being a hybrid of the two.

Of course, there’s no clear answer that works for everyone. Myself, I play games once a week with a core group of people, and maybe one or two on the weekend, either solo or with my partner. Others may have multiple game groups weekly and can support having such a large collection. Others may struggle to get a single game played each month! Someone with limited disposable income might need to save for months to buy a new game, while others don’t have that restriction on their lives. We’re all different people with different situations. What really matters is that we find joy in our hobby, and that we encourage each other to engage in healthy spending habits!