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Building A Game Collection

Build Your Game Collection Love Letter

Part One: Pace Yourself

I am running out of room.

I have tried paring down the Arkham Horror campaign blister packs into custom-made wooden storage boxes. I have tried some Tetris-like organisation of all my Ascendancy expansion miniatures into just the Ferengi box, an achievable task until the Vulcan and Andorians joined the fray. All of my Nightvault miniatures are in a display cabinet, a little too close for comfort.

And yet I am still running out of room. The problem is not so much my organisation, or even choice of shelving. If I’m absolutely honest it’s the collection itself. I have too many games I never play for myriad reasons. Too many games that are effectively carbon copies of each other with a different IP slapped on top. Too many panic-bought expansions cluttering the shelves.

Building a tight, well-thought-out games collection is, I suspect, only something you can learn by building a terrible one. In that sense I therefore feel authoritative in helping you to build yours, largely by following the core rule of “don’t do anything I did” and building on that. Over the next few blogs, I’ll try and outline some core principles that will help you start your own game collection, and hopefully avoid some all-too-common pitfalls.

I thought I’d kick off with perhaps the most important factor in keeping your hoard of games varied, re-playable and realistic: pacing.

How Much Time Ya Got?

While balanced mechanics, game genre, number of players, delightfully licensed fictional universes and build quality are all factors we’ll cover down the line, pacing is key. By this I mean that a solid collection should, in theory, be able to provide you with a game no matter how much or little time you have: one 15-minute quickie waiting for a plane to board vs a six-hour afternoon session with refreshments provided, and everything in between.

Here are a few examples from my own shelves, alongside rough average timings (let’s assume I’m playing with two or three people here).

Up to 15 minutes: Love Letter, Monopoly Deal, Sushi Go, Jenga, UNO

Up to 30 minutes: Bohnanza, 7 Wonders, Fluxx

Up to 45 minutes: Taluva, Magic: The Gathering, Pandemic, Dixit, Villianous, Unearth

Up to one hour: Duelosaur Island, Parks, L5R CCG

Up to 90 mins: Wingspan, Warhammer Underworlds, Lords of Waterdeep, Arkham Horror LGC

90 mins plus: Firefly, Star Trek Ascendancy, Mice & Mystics, D&D, V:TM etc etc

Also, bear in mind that those times are based on setup as well as play length (the very fast games require little setup, whereas in Arkham Horror LGC it pretty much adds a half hour). I’m obviously bracing for emails telling me to take my MTG games more seriously, but you take my point.

Inevitably, you’ll find yourself leaning towards the longer games: they’re ultimately more satisfying to play and tend to contain more immersive worlds and mechanics. All I’m saying is you’ll regret neglecting your fast-play collection when it’s late, you’re yet to cook dinner and you’re too tired to start setting up 100 miniatures. Plus it’s pretty fair to say that Mansions of Madness doesn’t travel too lightly.

Do You Have Homework?

I’ve mentioned setup there, but it’s worth remembering that some games can be demanding of your time outside of the moment. Anything involving character creation and upgrade, deck-construction, roleplaying etc is going to need your attention on a relatively regular basis if you want to play them ‘properly’ and invest in the time you’re spending. Best intentions are all well and good, but over committing will ultimately lead to unplayed games with dusty boxes clogging up your game collection, so make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Twiddling Thumbs

I think about round-speed a lot these days. This is not only how long a game will take to play, but how much time I’ll spend staring into the abyss while my friend decides which ship upgrade they’ll be buying.

Admittedly, this is therefore something of a holistic/abstract concept when building a game collection, but it’s worth keeping in the back of your mind. D&D is constantly engaging for instance – you need to stay present with the other players and the DM throughout. If you’re waiting for a procrastinating pal to finish their turn in Star Wars Rebellion or Star Trek Ascendancy, however, you might want to put the kettle on. Can you tell I’m looking forward to Pendulum?

It’s About Time

Pacing really can make or break your enjoyment of a game, or others’ enthusiasm for playing it with you. Many a time have I been shot down trying to instigate a ‘casual hand of Doomtown’ and had to grudgingly concede that Love Letter might be a better shout for the assembled group. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself waiting for afternoons to devote to a full Game of Thrones five-hour session that never come. Therefore, it’s best to make sure you have something suitable for every occasion in your game collection.

What's In Your Game Collection?

Feel free to chip in with your own recommendations for shorter games, not least because there are surprisingly few outside of the mainstream. Next time, we’ll talk style vs. substance.