Like so many people, my circumstances changed a lot over lockdown. For me, my mental health is very important and over the last year, it has been particularly fragile. Like so many of our bloggers, board games are more than just a hobby to me. They’re a release. They’re a moment of calm in a world of chaos. They are an escape.
The problem is board gaming is an expensive hobby, for many people prohibitively so. The reason for this is because board games are expensive to make, so have to be priced accordingly to make any profit. However, I do believe it is possible to invest in the hobby without breaking the bank… all you have to remember is to BUDGET.
B is for “Buy damaged goods”
Even though I am nearly two years into the hobby, I still get excited when a new game lands on my doorstep. If I have paid full price for a game, I want to trust that it will be in perfect condition when it arrives. I’m also at peace with the fact that over time, games do get damaged. I have Catan cards with tea stains on them, so now they look like a 10-year-old’s history project. My Everdell tree has a bit of fraying at the top from my sister’s ham-fisted attempt at constructing it. So if games get worn over time, maybe there’s no harm in buying an imperfect one? Zatu’s outlet has games with various levels of damage as a cheaper alternative to paying the full retail price.
U is for “Use reviews”
Last year I posted a cautionary tale about researching a board game before buying it. Even though reviews are ultimately subjective, they do often contain information about the game too. There are some games that have high ratings on Zatu, but I simply don’t think are for me. If you think a game sounds good, try finding playthrough videos online to see if they’re still interesting to you, easy to teach and have high replayability.
D is for “Don’t dismiss a game because it’s cheap”
I once had a discussion with my fellow bloggers about games being better the more complex they are. It simply isn’t the case. Games like Qwirkle and Azul are very simple to learn, but I have so much fun playing them. I also think there’s an assumption that games are better the more expensive they are too. People assume expense and experience are in some way linked.
Honestly, I’ve never found that to be the case either.
My perfect example of this is The Red Cathedral. It is probably one of the cheapest board games I own, but it is also one of my favourites (at the time of writing I’m prepared to say it’s my favourite but I’m fickle so that does change on a daily basis). The small box is literally bulging with content, and honestly, it’s one that my family and I keep coming back to. Card games such as The Mind, Cockroach Poker and Coup are also great fun and don’t burn a hole in the pocket either.
G is for “Get rid”
When your board game collection starts to fill, you might find some games are taken off the shelf less and less. Some may even not get played at all. If that is the case, there is absolutely no harm in selling those games once they have served their purpose.
I know that sounds ruthless, but surely it’s a better alternative to hoarding? For example, mum will often be given mugs for her birthday or Christmas. It has gotten to the point now where she has over two hundred of them. There are lots of chipped, stained and tatty mugs in the cupboard so I’ve suggested culling some of the damaged ones.
“No” she always replies. “They were gifts.”
This is why our family home has about 170 mugs wrapped up in various boxes unused, possibly never to be used. In my mind, there’s no point keeping something you get no enjoyment from, especially if there’s no sentimental value attached (one of the mugs is an Only Fools and Horses mug. My mum hates Only Fools and Horses, yet she won’t part with the mug). There’s nothing wrong with culling games that you don’t play, especially if it gives you a bit extra cash to buy games you’re more likely to enjoy.
E is for “Embrace the community”
As I mentioned in the feature for LGBTQ+ history month, I was lucky enough to find a group of people who welcomed me with open arms into their gaming group. It meant I could actively take part in this fantastic hobby and not have to worry about spending money. It also meant I could avoid buying games if I knew someone else already had them and vice versa.
Hopefully, as lockdown restrictions start to ease, people can start having board game evenings again, whether they be at home, at the local board game café, or even in a park or outdoor space. Board games really do offer a cheap and fun way to socialise with others.
T is for “Try before you buy”
As well as looking at reviews and watching playthrough videos, you can often find ways of playing games before purchasing the physical version. Most best-selling games have apps, but a significant number of games can also be found on Tabletopia, Tabletop Simulator or Board Game Arena. You may also find publishers using these sites to beta test their games before putting them out on general release. It is a really useful way of learning the mechanics of a game before fully committing to purchasing them.
So those are my tips for being a board gamer on a budget. Whilst I respect the craftsmanship that goes into board game production, it shouldn’t be a hobby that breaks the bank. Hopefully, some of these tips will allow you to enjoy everything that’s great about the hobby without burning a hole in your pocket.
Oh, and whoever keeps buying mugs for my family… I hope you’re reading this and will now stop doing so. It’s a waste of your money and our space.